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Selling Yourself to Conventions
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Kallisti



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
Posts: 709
Location: Der Interwebs

PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2010 7:41 am    Post subject: Selling Yourself to Conventions Reply with quote

I've been to a lot of conventions; first as a regular convention attendee, then as head sherpa and booth guy for Michael Poe (Exploitation Now and Errant Story) so that he's free to go to panels and roam about the con. Now, I've started attending conventions occasionally on my own, specifically being there as Adam Smithee: Guy Who Has A Comic and Does Funny Panels.

Now... I, as a person (especially as a panelist) am at least marginally awesome. My panels are funny, often to the point of almost being a stand-up routine, and try and be at least moderately informative without being too preachy. In addition to webcomic-related stuff, I also do several things regarding giant robots (usually a hit at anime conventions) and am working on my own live MST3K-style "riffing of a movie" thing.

Here's the thing though - my comic sorta sucks. I mean, it's funny (I hope), but the art's not fantastic (though I will admit I've gotten better over the years, it's only going to get so good due to the vision and hand control issues I have) and I've got a luke-warm readership that consists mostly of other people who also have webcomics.

The sad truth is that all the conventions I've done so far have been based almost entirely on nepotism or favoritism of the convention staff, and have had little to do with any actual sort of 'demand' for me to be there by actual con-goers. While this is ok to get me started, I don't see it as being a sustainable model, especially if I'd like to occasionally move up from mere panelist to actual 'guest' status. Also, it'd be nice for people (other than a select member or two in the staff) to actually want me at a convention.

So here's my dilemma - how does one pitch themselves, not just as a creator of a couple of sub-par webcomics, but also as a badass funny panelist and a good person to invite to conventions (and hopefully comp some of my expenses, like gas and hotel)? Has anybody had any luck in this field?

I've been thinking about putting together some sort of 'Panelist Resume', but I don't have any clue where to actually start on this sort of thing, or how to get people interested in me. And what sort of protocol is there on being a panelist/guest - do you contact conventions you're interested in and let them know you'd like to attend in some function, or is that considered too forward and taboo?
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smbhax.com
No! Don't post it there!


Joined: 10 Apr 2009
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Location: Seattle

PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2010 8:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting! Kind of jealous you got some panel gigs. :D

I guess the cut-throat way of going about this would be to remove all view counting type of stuff from your site so nobody has much of a clue about your readership, then kind of act like a big shot and let people assume that you are.
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jaygee
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Joined: 26 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2010 10:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmm, tricky. Here are some strategies that people have employed before and which seem to have worked (at least sort of).

1. Write a book, e.g. with the title "Even more cash for cartoonists".
2. Become the webcomic universes' most prolific critic.
3. Develop a business model how to to make money from webcomics whilst simultaneously accusing everyone elses model of being flawed.
4. Buy a domain, set up a paywall and tell people you are the oracle of webcomic success.
5. Hint that it was you who invented the concept of the Infinite Canvas and taught Scott McCloud how to use it.
6. Be controversial. Period.
7. Start reviewing and re-reviewing popular webcomics.
8. Contradict everyone. Even if you agree. It's not personal. It's simply business.
9. Start antagonising Big Guns. Try to get sued by Marvel or DC. You might end up in the poor house but you gonna be the hero of the webcomic world.
10. Team up with a writer, a penciller, an inker and a colourist (tick appropriately) and create the most successful webcomic in living memory.

Just kidding, mate Laughing

Seriously, it's a bit of a vicious cycle. Organizers want "famous" people on their panels to get visitor numbers up. To be "famous" you need to either have a product that sells (whether it is your comic, your blog or whatever) or you sort of "are" the product but still you need to have something to offer to comickers and to the organizers that is more than just being a nice and entertaining person. Otherwise you won't get invited as a guest.

Unfortunately, like in show biz, you gotta be a celeb first before you can start turning yourself into a brand.
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Kallisti



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PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2010 12:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am completely fine with small conventions... or, to steal a line from Hollywood, "there are no small conventions, just small guests".

In fact, I think I rather like small conventions more than the big ones. Since I'm not really in this for the money, my sales aren't hurt by having fewer people at the con, and those who are there are more likely to meet and be charmed by me (which means they might buy stuff anyway). There's a much more intimate feeling from a 2000 person convention than you get from a monster like Dragon*Con or one of the Comic Cons, and a lot better chance that you'll be invited back if they liked you.

I also lean towards the smaller cons for entirely selfish reasons - the smaller the con, the bigger the guest I am by relative comparison. For instance, at Penguicon this last year, a whole bunch of famous comics showed up - Short Packed, Schlock Mercenary, Something Positive, and a few others. Completely eclipsed almost any of the other webcomic people... and they tried a hostile takeover of a panel Kez and I were doing.
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smbhax.com
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2010 1:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jaygee wrote:
5. Hint that it was you who invented the concept of the Infinite Canvas and taught Scott McCloud how to use it.

Ooh, I like this one. *takes notes*

Kallisti wrote:
For instance, at Penguicon this last year, a whole bunch of famous comics showed up - Short Packed, Schlock Mercenary, Something Positive, and a few others. Completely eclipsed almost any of the other webcomic people... and they tried a hostile takeover of a panel Kez and I were doing.

Panel pirates! :o
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Kallisti



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2010 1:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just so.

To be fair, we had a controversial (See: 6. Be controversial. Period.) panel name, "Your Webcomic Sucks"... the panel was supposed to be about dealing with criticism, flaming, and trolls in the world of webcomics, as well as coming to terms with the fact that sometimes, yes, your webcomic does suck.

Unfortunately, as it was related to me later on at the con, apparently one of the big time webcomickers... and I'm not going to name names here (cough*howard*cough*taylor*cough)... completely misunderstood what the panel was about, thinking that we the panelists were going to be bashing other people's webcomics.

So instead of actually asking one of the people involved in the panel what it was about or if we knew what we were doing, he rallied the troops and assaulted the panel about 20 minutes into it, guns blazing and ready to lecture we small, meek, responsible webcomickers on how we were wrong and he was right. Also, to their credit, everybody except the 'him' in question backed off almost as soon as they realized what was going on.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2010 3:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So did it come to fisticuffs with the ringleader?
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mooncity
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2010 3:21 pm    Post subject: Re: Selling Yourself to Conventions Reply with quote

Kallisti wrote:

Now... I, as a person (especially as a panelist) am at least marginally awesome. My panels are funny, often to the point of almost being a stand-up routine, and try and be at least moderately informative without being too preachy.


True, dat.

Kallisti wrote:
For instance, at Penguicon this last year, a whole bunch of famous comics showed up - Short Packed, Schlock Mercenary, Something Positive, and a few others. Completely eclipsed almost any of the other webcomic people... and they tried a hostile takeover of a panel Kez and I were doing.


Well, mostly just the ONE guy. The other guys weren't really assjackers-- er, I mean, hijackers. But the ONE guy, yeah, a panel pirate for sure.
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Clint Wolf



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PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2010 5:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, you have a hell of a lot more panel experience than me, since my first one ever is at the end of this month... and it's not like they approached us about doing one, I started bugging them about it early on and we'd already paid to be exhibitors.

From people I've talked to, sometimes you might at least be able to get a guest badge if someone who already has a panel there wants to have you be part of the panel... so maybe you could find out which of your friends and contacts are going to be in the programming and offer your services as a moderator?

Also, there's a certain amount of communication between convention staffers as well, so if you're in with "Convention X", maybe they'd put in the good word for you to "Convention Y". I don't think it matters what kind of business you're in, a good referral from a trusted source is worth its weight in gold.

Just thoughts. I figure they don't comp travel expenses except with people that are very established, but you might at least be able to attend the Con for free. Heck, my wife and I had only been doing our comic for about six months and San Diego approved our Professional applications, which is going to save us $600 over the course of the next few years.
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n9uxu



Joined: 28 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kallisti wrote:

Unfortunately, as it was related to me later on at the con, apparently one of the big time webcomickers... and I'm not going to name names here (cough*howard*cough*taylor*cough)... completely misunderstood what the panel was about, thinking that we the panelists were going to be bashing other people's webcomics.


To be fair this was about as much my fault as Howard's. It turns out moderators are really, really important things, and my moderator arrangements completely fell through (stupid President coming to Ann Arbor during Penguicon), so he was already fairly, fully pissed about that (and just about every other choice I'd made as head of the webcomics programming), so I'm sure that he thought he was saving the day, when he launched, but yeah... total pirate!
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jinxtigr



Joined: 30 Jul 2008
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 1:47 pm    Post subject: Re: Selling Yourself to Conventions Reply with quote

Kallisti wrote:
The sad truth is that all the conventions I've done so far have been based almost entirely on nepotism or favoritism of the convention staff, and have had little to do with any actual sort of 'demand' for me to be there by actual con-goers. While this is ok to get me started, I don't see it as being a sustainable model, especially if I'd like to occasionally move up from mere panelist to actual 'guest' status. Also, it'd be nice for people (other than a select member or two in the staff) to actually want me at a convention.


I don't see a problem. It sounds like you want to be the rogue panelist with a very popular comic, getting audience applause for hijacking stuff and being a pain in the butt to convention organizers. That is NOT how you build professional relationships. I think you're actually more likely to make 'guest' status doing what you're doing- and working on having better panels- than by making a better comic.

It sounds weird, but I'm serious. You know the concept that you have to get good enough to realize you're terrible and need to keep getting better? That there are a lot of people out there who are rank amateurs that think they crap gold because they have no clue how terrible they are? Working with people at something like a convention is a skill too, and there are people who think the conventions love them because they make sales, not realizing that they are dreaded.

Wouldn't you dread seeing Howard in the audience- even though he may be the nicest guy otherwise, and may see HIMSELF as a nice guy, with plenty of justification? But in the context of working with a convention and outside panelists, he was your nightmare and a bunch of people are commenting on how bad the situation was.

I've sat in on music recording panels at furry cons, run by people who weren't really that good at it... I bit my tongue a LOT and had to walk a real tightrope, wanting to chime in on stuff- but I wasn't going to get to over-rule much and had to content myself with little added points.

I could've picked up the phone and griped to Grammy winning/platinum-record-making engineer buddies but you know what? Those guys would not be friends if I needed to run to them for ego fluff. I'm not in their league but I'm close enough to know what's what.

As a panelist you may not be in the league of a Phil Foglio or Sergio Aragones (I think those are good examples of AAA list panelists in cartooning?) but you're close enough to know what's what, and this is a whole different skill from cartooning, don't be ashamed of it Smile
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Kallisti



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PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 2010 7:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

n9uxu wrote:
It turns out moderators are really, really important things, and my moderator arrangements completely fell through

You do remember that I WAS the Moderator at a couple of these panels, right? I can't be responsible for what Howard did when I wasn't there to keep him on the leash, but I at least sort of reigned him in by the time the humor panel came up.

I didn't take it that personally either. I mean, if Scott McCloud had been there as moderator, he probably would've told him that he was wrong about everything too. That's just the sort of guy he is, I suspect.
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RussSpruce



Joined: 20 May 2010
Posts: 80

PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 7:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh yeah, I remember going to one of your panels at Tora-Con. It was really funny and helpful when I needed some advice for starting up my own comic. I can't say for sure what you need to do from a webcomic author's pov, but from a fan's view, I would have to know that whatever it is you are telling me, you have to back it up! Otherwise, I'll listen to the other guy that has the numbers. It's one of the horrible sides of the internet...
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Kallisti



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 9:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, cool, another Tora-Con attendee. I'm glad to have been of some assistance, though by looking at your comic I'd say that you you really didn't need that much help.

Out of curiosity, were you at the Webcomics 101 or the How Not To? Neither were quite as epic as my Saturday Night panel about Giant Robots (which was not related to webcomics in any way) but I didn't get a lot of feedback and am curious which one you saw.
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RussSpruce



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PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Let's see.... I was a little late to Webcomics 101 (I don't go to RIT so I had to drive there and register) and saw all of How Not To panel. I had to go back home, so I missed the Giant Robot panel. I also took the time to go to the editing and publishing panels that were being offered, and those were also very helpful.
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