S! P! X!
I hadn’t attended since 2007, and had NEVER tabled at the show, so this was a pretty intense year for me!
The weekend started out a little rough — when I went down to the floor with my awesome table-mate, Alisa Harris and all of our stuff, we discovered that our table had be moved clear across the room from where it appeared on the map. (Which both of us had helpfully posted to our blogs, of course.) Luckily the SPX staff were all extremely nice and apologetic about it — they put up a sign to direct people to the two tables that had been moved, and helpfully explained our new location to anyone who asked. Turns out I picked a good year to finally buy myself a banner — it made me much easier to spot from a distance, and Alisa could tell people to look out for it as well if folks were having trouble finding her.
Like just about everyone else, I was only able to see about half the folks I wanted to and bought a fraction of the books on my ideal shopping list. I really underestimated how much pressure I would feel to be at my table non-stop through the entire day — it seemed like every time I stepped away to use the bathroom or run (like, actually run) across the room to try and catch a friend at their table, I returned to discover that someone had come by looking for me.
In the past I’d mostly sold licensed books that I’d worked on at big, mainstream shows like NYCC or fan-culture-oriented venues like anime cons, and the people at my table were there to buy a book about Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation, not because they particularly cared about me as a creator. Which was totally fine! And a relief, in a lot of ways — it meant that when I had to step away, most folks were perfectly happy to buy a book from my husband if they wanted one.
In retrospect, it should have been obvious that SPX would be very different. People who take the time to show up at a “Comics Art Festival” are there to meet creators, talk to them in person about their books, and support their work directly. There’s this intense, irresistible need to make a physical exchange with the artists themselves, even if they aren’t people you particular know or follow. And I mean, I was just as swept up in this feeling as anyone else — there were tables that I went by two or three times over the course of the weekend as I tried to catch the creator in person, despite how pressed for time and energy I ended up being. And if the artist was someone I knew online and really wanted to meet, I started running by once an hour until I finally tracked them down.
I’d also never been to a con where EVERYTHING on my table was basically brand new. I have them up in my little online store now, but both Visiting NASA and A Stray in the Woods debuted at SPX, so I had no idea at all how people would react to them or what I could expect in terms of sales. TERRIFYING! Although it worked out just fine, in the end — I even managed to sell two copies of the Off Nominal minibook, which….wow, I had not expected, as it’s a self-published novella with no pictures at a comic book show?! (THANK YOU KIND STRANGERS. <3)
There’s been a lot of conversation on Tumblr and Twitter about how to present yourself at your table and how much you should interact with people on the floor, which is very helpful. But the advice can be so contradictory that after a certain point I have to just take a step back and trust my own instincts. Look busy by drawing in your sketchbook, but make sure you’re standing up and paying attention! Greet people as they approach your table, but don’t make them feel pressured! Don’t offer information that hasn’t been asked for, but explain your work so they know what they’re looking at! Be friendly and outgoing, but don’t talk to anyone or make eye contact! Hahaaaa I wish I was exaggerating — it’s enough to make me want to just put a “pay what you like” sign next to my books and hide under the table.
Looking back, I feel pretty okay about how I handled things, but in the future I think I’ll let myself sit and draw a little more. I’d been scolded so thoroughly by past internet essays that I stayed on my feet for basically the entire weekend, but that was exhausting! So I’m happy for an excuse to maybe take it down a couple notches, particularly when things are slow.
All of that said, the stress and effort and lower back pain were TOTALLY WORTH IT! Gosh, it was great to finally get to be in a room with all of these amazing people, to catch up with old buddies and introduce myself to newer Twitter friends.
But I somehow hadn’t really expected to be on the receiving end of that at all. And boy, it was intense! Fantastic, but INTENSE! Strangers had put me on their shopping lists! Kickstarter backers came to say hello! Lovely friends stopped to chat and bought books and made trades and were AMAZING!
And you know who else is amazing? The whole Table W17 crew, that’s who! Alisa Harris (who was charming and great company and has adorable fans) and Paul Tuttle Starr (who had his VERY FIRST ZINE on the table oh my god so proud) and Scott Price (my lovely husband who bought us food and watched the table and drove many many many hours). I felt extremely lucky to have all of them with me.
Now, if I can just read all of these books before MICE next weekend…. o____o
ETA: WOW I CAN’T BELIEVE I FORGOT TO MENTION the single-most unexpected and amazing thing that happened all weekend! Two very polite librarians from the Library of Congress asked me to donate both Visiting NASA and A Stray in the Woods to the collection! THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS! I’m so honored and overwhelmed, honestly, I can’t really get my head around it! THANK YOU, KIND LIBRARIANS!
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