Comic Con updates, Torchbearer announcements and lessons learned from Baltimore.
After a long silence, in part due to Snidely’s success at restraining and kidnapping attempts and, well, growing another business concurrently, we’re back!
Now, where should we start?
Several weeks ago, we were at BaltimoreCon, where we released our first trade, compiling issues 1 – 3. It was a blast! Aside from the wonderful people that we met on the floor and at the Harveys, we were enthused by the reception the Torchbearer trade had among fans and professionals alike! I particularly like issues 1-3 because it really highlights that whole “corporate espionage” aspect of our pitch and, frankly, you can tell that the writer got a grasp for writing comics by issue 3. (Ptss… everything gets better after issue 4. And I mean everything).
We do have some pics and interviews from the show here:
For you comic book creators, we’ll get back to some of the lessons learned at BaltimoreCon in a bit.
With the trade out, we’ve started thinking about our next steps as a company. Specifically, establishing a schedule of when to print the trades and at what cons to expect what. As right now the trade can only be purchased at comic cons, properly advertising their availability becomes kind of a big thing for us. We feel knowing our schedule becomes more important for fans, as they can plan out confidently when to expect new content at our booths.
That said, as our print schedule runs every 6 months (at least for the first 12 issues), our schedule will be as follows:
– In the fall, we’ll have a “soft launch” for our trade at BaltimoreCon, followed by wide release at NYCC
– In the spring, we’ll have a soft launch for our next trade at Asbury Park Con followed by a wide release at C2E2.
This way, we ensure that fans from all over can have access to fresh, printed content at least twice a year.
Naturally, you can get digital copies of Torchbearer at your marketplace of your choice. And speaking of marketplaces…
COMIXOLOGY FANS!!! Torchbearer #3 has been utterly and absolutely confirmed for next Wednesday, September 25, 2013 sometime between 9 and 10 AM. It’s been a long and winding road that has gotten us this far, and we thank you for your patience.
Let’s see… what else? Oh! Torchbearer 5 is almost done with inks and we’ve started coloring the approved inks, and the first draft of Torchbearer 6 was done today. Huzzah!
And last, but not least, our lessons from BaltimoreCon.
This year, BaltimoreCon was our first con where we had a selection of items to sell. We had the trade, some remaining issue #1 from our 1000-issue print run from last year, 6 new posters and, lastly, the Torchbearer #1 t-shirts that have followed us from NYCC 2012. We sold the posters as part of a bundle that included the #1 issue and the trade. We also had a bundle that included the T-shirt as well for, I think, 6 dollars more. We also invested in 1100 flyers. Why 1100? Because 100 of them had a free print promotion (after listening to the pitch), and we thought it would be interesting to mix them up with the rest of the flyers. All flyers had on their backs a map with a path outlined to our booth, which was probably the most successful thing we’ve released (for the time being).
So, how did we fare?
Not bad, surprisingly. Out of a projected 20,000 attendance, we reached 0.29% of the population. While that number may seem small, it did allow us to recoup all of our costs (hotel + table + transportation) and net a small profit. Most starting exhibitors base their success on whether they can recoup their costs in just exhibiting at the con itself (also known as “making table”), so we’re doing pretty good in terms of that metric. With that factoid, the next question to ask is:
What are some of the things we did right?
First, pitching and engaging with attendees is paramount. I am utterly convinced now that if you don’t engage with your audience, you cannot expect to make sales. Once they’re engaged, you have to appeal to them; you have to justify in their eyes why you’re interesting and why they should invest their hard earned money in you (and your comic). If you haven’t already, distill the core of your comic into 20 seconds. If you can’t get someone interested in 20 seconds, there’s no way you’ll get them interested in 5 minutes (the time it would take to read your comic at a leisurely pace) or in waiting weeks on end for the next issue to come out.
Second, build comic con relationships. After your third con, you’ll realize that you’ll be seeing the same people over and over. We creators like to be fans and appreciate when other creators recognize your stuff. Don’t be afraid (respectfully, of course) to reach out to people, get to know them, if you’re a fan of them (say, Brad Guigar for example), tell them how much you love their webcomics (like Evil Inc. or Courting Disaster, for one). If it so happen that they ask to see your works, great! Like all businesses, it’s all about relationships and you never know where they may lead: so foster them.
Third, promote at the con. Flyers handed out while people are waiting are a great way to get people interested in your product. They’re what are known as a “captive audience” (add link here) and ultimately these may lead to more unexpected sales. More importantly, be ready to take advantage of any and all opportunities to promote yourself at blogs, magazines, newspapers, anyone interested in you and your works.
What are some of the things we did wrong?
Not advertise enough before the con. We dropped the ball in this regard before the con. We should have been blasting our twitter page, facebook and other places trying to build up some momentum before the con. We did run a small ad campaign on Facebook the week before, but it was so small even Facebook itself ignored it.
Not advertise enough at the con. We had 1100 flyers, but given that it was just the two of us (Victoria, our production manager and myself), there was little we could do in 2 days. This may be due to the relative size of Baltimore as opposed to all of the other cons we’ve attended, but even so we should have been more proactive in bringing traffic from other parts of the con into our corner of artist alley.
I think that for those exhibitors who are able to cover their comic con expenses, but are looking for another milestone to achieve, they should strive to reach out to the 1%. By that, I mean try and secure a number of sales that comes close to 1% of the attendance at a comic con. It’s an ambitious milestone, but a significant one that would indicate your works have or are gathering both an audience and momentum.
Personally, I feel that’s our next step. Once we achieve it, I’ll feel extremely comfortable moving Torchbearer to a monthly publication at comic book stores near you.
That’s it for now.
See you next week.