This is a modified excerpt from a book I’m working on called The Business of Independent Comic Book Publishing. It is the first of a four part series on how independent publishers can make the most of comic book conventions. As always, this isn’t the final word. Comments and insights are welcome.
Comic book conventions (or cons) are private events with a primary focus on the business and culture of comics. They offer unique marketing opportunities for independent publishers because they provide a venue where you can directly interact with an enthusiastic target market in ways that are often problematic for film, theater, and television. At the same time, conventions give you a chance to:
Connect with potential talent
Experience comics as a fan
Find out about industry trends
Get inspiration from the latest releases
Increase your professional intelligence
Learn more about your competitors and your genre
Network with other publishers and professionals from other media
Sell your comics
Test your ideas
In my experience, conventions are a whirlwind of activity that often leave participants exhausted in the afterglow. They are also a reminder of why we love comics in the first place. As an independent publisher, making the most of your convention experience requires planning up front, time management during the event and efficient follow up in the days and weeks after. This chapter will mainly look at conventions from a marketing angle, but we’ll also explore the other potential benefits of adding convention attendance to your publishing plans.
Which Conventions Should You Attend?
The website Convention Scene maintains an ongoing list of comic book conventions in various parts of the world. The following is their list for Summer 2019- Summer 2020 for the US and Canada.
One look at more than 100 cons on this list and you’ll quickly realize that you do not have the time or the resources to attend all the cons. It wouldn’t make sense hit every show even if you could, because you’re only trying to connect with your target market and your potential market, not every fan of comics or comic adjacent material.
The key is to develop a set of criteria to allow you to pick and choose the right con for your publishing goals. Different cons have different sizes, areas of emphasis, and uses for independent publishers. Depending on what your goals are, the time and money you have available, what stage your team is in the development of the book, and your other marketing efforts, some shows will be a better fit than others.
When you're starting out, starting small and building your way up is a valid tactic. It does you no good to try and fight your way into San Diego Comic Con before you get your feet wet in smaller shows. Once you’ve mastered the local shows, then you can level up into regional, national, international, interplanetary and interdimensional events.
Another type of convention to consider is one that focuses more on your potential market, even if it is not a traditional comic con. There are cons for many different types of fan. If your goal is to connect with readers that your competition might miss, or to encourage new people to read comics, then why not take your space opera book to a science fiction con, or your historical serial killer graphic novel to a horror con? You can expand your vision by targeting a specialized book festival, or target niche specific shows like Flame Con for LGBTQ readers or Wakanda-Con for Afrofuturism fans. Film, television and video games use comic cons on a regular basis to market their stories. You can use the large number and variety of conventions to pick and choose the best events for your book.
Once you decide which shows to attend, the next major question is as old as convention tradition… to table or not to table. We’ll take a look at that decision next week.
Have fun with your comic.
If you have questions about the business or legal aspects of your comic book publishing and you'd like a free consultation, please contact me and we can set something up that fits in with your schedule.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE AN ISSUE WITH YOUR COMIC PROPERTY, DISCUSS IT WITH A QUALIFIED CONTRACT ATTORNEY OR CONTACT C3 FOR A FREE CONSULTATION