I’ve occasionally made mention of the other blog site I write on, I think most recently back just after Long Beach Comic-Con 2010 when I felt like I had so much to cover that I outsourced my review of The Walking Dead premiere over that way. Most of the time The Satellite Show remains the place where I talk about things I don’t feel are terribly related to Zombie Ranch, but on occasion there’s overlap. I’m a geek, and I like to talk about geek things. Sometimes I like to talk about those things in a place with much less of the PG-13ish limits I impose upon myself here. I can be quite the potty mouth when I get worked up. Heck, even when I’m not worked up.
Anyhow, if you don’t mind a little harsh language and are any sort of person who sells, or intends to sell their creator creations at a Comic-Con, or are just interested in that sort of thing in general, I highly encourage you to click on over and give my latest rant a read. The tl;dr version is that I think the “hard sell” approach has no business at a Comic Convention, and in fact commits murder/suicide on the whole atmosphere.
So how do you sell? You sell by having a nice, well organized, visible display area. You sell by having a selection of items to fit people’s budgets. Most of all, you sell by allowing people the freedom to walk by you without a second glance.
Does that sound absolutely insane from a sales standpoint? Maybe. Dawn and I are still relative noobs at all this, but because of that I’m probably approaching things from the mindset of myself as an attendee. I like to be able to browse without being hassled, especially at a place where I feel like I should be having fun, finding fun things, and talking to fun people. Getting the feeling from someone like I shouldn’t be breathing their air, much less looking at their stuff unless I buy something is a complete buzzkill. Also, there’s a lot of different kinds of comics out there, particularly nowadays in this brave new world of webcomics and Print-On-Demand that enable independent efforts on a scale previously undreamt of. Am I interested in all of them? No. And so, given that, isn’t it patently unfair to expect that everyone passing by will be interested in mine? Sure, there’s a case to be made for “Try it, you might like it”, but that makes comics seem uncomfortably close to your mom telling you to eat your broccoli.
There are people who will walk by you without a glance. There are people who will walk by you with a glance. There are people who will, in fact, try your broccoli (for example, paging through your sample comic… you do have a sample comic out, right?) and then decide they don’t like its taste. I think it’s important, if not crucial, not to take any of these outcomes personally. I strive for that “no obligation” feel, even if it’s a slow day. Maybe even especially if it’s a slow day, because those are the times I’m happy for visitors who might want to just indulge in some geek chat to pass the time.
How well does the no hassle approach work? Well, let’s put it this way: Zombie Ranch is a webcomic, where every last page is available for free, at any time, to anyone with a browser and an Internet connection. I tell this to people right up front if they’re giving signals of interest: “We’ve been publishing as a weekly webcomic for over a year, but we also have our first print issue there for $5 if you’re interested. If not, we’re online… feel free to grab a postcard with our URL and come check us out there…”
I think that’s a nice way to let them know that if they’re just browsing, that’s a-okay by me. Really, all I ever expected was to pass out those postcards, but we’ve been selling a fair amount of the print comics. Not so much through the online channels, but in person, people I’ve never met before end up buying… sometimes right away, sometimes later on in the day, or the next day. Maybe even the next convention. Are they liking the taste of the broccoli that is Zombie Ranch? Or are they returning because they had the freedom to walk away without any awkward feelings? Or both?
Let’s face it, charging even $3.99 for a comic on a store shelf when you’re a self-published relative unknown is dicey at best. But if you get to meet the creators personally and have a good vibe off of them, well, hell, I know I’ve bought stuff at conventions for that reason. But that good vibe is important… if you seem presumptive of someone’s money, or desperate for it, I think people pick up on that, and that’s when things can get uncomfortable.
Or maybe I’m completely misreading the whole thing. But hey, people are buying a $5 print issue or even a $20 special edition, even knowing they could get it all for free online, and they’re doing so with a smile.
That’s gotta count for something.