Selling the course
I’m sitting down to write this after having exhibited London Horror Comic at the UK Web & Mini Comix Thing 2009, a comic convention, where I spent seven hours selling issues one and two.
I managed a personal best of selling 56 comics which brings my average to around eight comics an hour – without having to drop my pants.
Given that an average conversation with a customer lasts five minutes it’s a fairly good spread of my time, though I’m not sure whether I’m ready to sell snow to Eskimos quite yet.
Selling is a strange beast. When you publish your own comic, the bulk of your time is spent convincing other people to sell your comics. You send letters to retailers and distributors trying to get them to sell your comic on your behalf.
But when you attend a convention the responsibility of making sure your book sells falls on your shoulders. You find out out how much you truly love comics. It’s like being dragged along to a film your partner wants to see but you don’t – you find out if the relationship is going to last.
Selling is a scary and thrilling experience for me. It marks the final stage in creating a comic. It’s a sort of mental finish line I cross as a creator to convince myself that I’ve done the job as best as I can.
For me, a comic isn’t finished until it’s in the reader’s hands. A fully drawn and coloured page that no one looks at is the same as a half drawn page that everyone looks at it.
Being able to sell is an important aspect of creating your own comic book. You might be the world’s best artist or hottest writer, but when it comes time to push a product, just how much do you really care about comics? Do you care enough to get oversized black and white laminated prints made and drag along an easel for miles in the rain to display them on, just so you are visible in a room of hundreds? Do you care to enough to greet the 99th customer with the same gusto you greeted the first one? Do you care enough to humble your pride when a guy stops at your table just to inform you that he hates horror? (yes, that did happen)
Making your own comic requires gumption, but selling your own comics requires sheer bloody mindedness. To sell is noble. I can’t understand why people call it whoring.
‘Whoring’ is one of those kitsch words often seen alongside ‘pimping’ and ‘shameless plug.’ It’s an upfront apology laced with humour that creators use to steal the thunder of anyone who might dare accuse them of wanting to make a living wage from an honest endeavour. I’ve used such phrases in forums myself when I began selling the London Horror Comic.
It might just be me, but I sometimes get the feeling that actively selling a comic is sometimes frowned upon. When was the last time you went to a convention, or better yet, a comic shop and had people try and sell you a comic?
I enjoy a relaxed shopping experience as much as the next guy, but I’m always on the look out for good work. Pitch to me. Store clerks good stick post-it note style reviews on titles they feel are worthy of greater attention. They could sift through industry magazines and maybe make a cuttings wall of reviews that month. A fresh-faced customer walking in can see at a glance what’s hot and hip, beyond the £24.99 sketch variant of a comic released only last week. When you take your comics to the counter, the clerk ringing up your purchase could sift through your books and make a recommendation beyond ‘we have issue fifty ONE in.”
The need for creators and stores to sell is accentuated by the recession. If life in the 2000s has taught us anything it’s that we are not promised tomorrow. No one owes us a living and we have to make the best of the opportunity at hand.
I don’t just like comics, I love them. You might think you love comics because you buy a lot of them (and if the London Horror Comic is among your standing order, I love you, natch), but try cold selling a good comic to someone you don’t know. Suffer the fucking slings and arrows of people not getting the joke or passing you by to pick up “UnderPants Man” and go on selling with shameless confidence. You’ll know how far your love goes.
If you do decide to self publish your own comic, recognise that no one is going to care more about your comic than you do.
You are the beginning and end of your own comic book – nothing starts without you, nothing ends until you say that it’s over.
Get out of the bloody house and be proud to be seen on street corners selling your work.
You just might come up a winner.