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March 03, 2010

A Con Staffer’s Perspective on Webcomics

Posted in: Business,Oni Speaks,Webcomics

con

I’ve had several years as a touring webcomic and several years working as con staff. I’m like that chick on She-Ra with the face that rotates. If any of you have the opportunity to staff a con, I highly recommend it. Oh sure, you will likely work a ton of hours and go insane, but the benefits far outweigh the craziness.

When I began staffing cons, I gained a different perspective on the industry. I was able to see my work as staffers saw it. Here are some tips I can give you that will make you much more attractive to conventions:

- Location: Make sure you have an “About” page on your comic’s page that is easy to find. Make sure your location (at least by state) is listed and that this is easy also to find. Why? Many cons have small budgets, especially when it comes to webcomics. If the comic lives close by I am more likely to invite them because they are probably more likely to be able to come. If I am really tired, I may be put off if I can’t find a location listed at all and decide to come back later. I might forget to come back later. Make who you are, what you do, and where you are from easy to find.

- Con Invite Manners: Always reply to con invites within a few days. Even if you can’t go say something positive about the event. It’s just good manners. Con Staff often feel very close to their events. Their con is the same as your webcomic. It is their creative baby. Make them feel wanted. They work just as hard as you.

One con staffer probably staffs anywhere between 2-6 different cons in a year or two of varying size. We all know each other. The big cons know the little cons and vice-versa. You do not want one of us telling another con that you are a douchebag that never replies to emails or replies as if you don’t care about the person’s event. Even if the event is not for you, man up and say something nice.

The best business people know that posting a link to the event and publicly thanking them for inviting you doesn’t cost you anything, and it’s a great way to spread some good will. For example you could reply with this:

“I’m sorry, I can’t make it this year because XX. It’s a shame because this looks really cool! If you’d like, I can post a link to it to drive some traffic your way. Good luck!”

Then follow up with this on your next blog post:

“Hey guys, I was just contacted by XX from XX Con (Insert a clickable link). I can’t go, but you should really check it out. They are doing some pretty cool stuff!”

If someone did all this and posted a link to the event I was working on, I’d file them in the back of my head as a real stand-up person that I could think of the next time I have something good to throw their way. This person knows how to market to their fans and is clearly a value-add to an event.

- Train Your Fans to Listen to You: Just like the previous point – if you are always telling your fans to click on things that you post they will get used to looking toward your blogs for their information. This gives you more power to drive traffic. Even small comics can have a more powerful ability to drive traffic than a comic with a larger fanbase. I’ve seen it many times. Years ago when I just started out and was an unknown I still had a huge posse gathering to see me at cons. A much larger comic approached me and asked me how I “did it”. I was rather shocked because…this person was not unknown. A quick look at his website showed a neglected blog that barely posted a sentence each time it updated. How I “did it” was I talked to people on my blog and let people get to know me.

If you communicate regularly and well to your fans, your value as an internet personality is much higher than someone who never says much. Your blog is just as important as your comic. If you want to be attractive to events, you need to train your audience to listen to you. What good is a webcomic guest who can’t get anyone to buy a ticket?

So, Oni – What Does it Take to Get Invited to a Con?

The honest truth? It isn’t always talent. The best and brightest are not always rewarded if no one knows who they are. The people who get con invites often fall into one of these categories:

1. They have a ton of traffic.
2. They are friends with or dating someone who has a ton of traffic.
3. They have contacted the con and asked them if they could please come.
4. They paid to get into a convention’s Artist’s Alley and made friends with the staff who got them invited next year.
5. Someone who has decision-making power at the con is specifically a fan of theirs.

It’s not about your skill as an artist or writer, but these things are factors. The biggest factor is either your traffic or your charisma because these will get you on the radar of the people making the decisions. When I started doing this, I didn’t have any friends in the industry or a magical “in” to get me on anyone’s radar, but I got in and I did and am doing well. If you aren’t already famous, your best bet is to be nice, don’t give up, and make friends with as many people as you can. It would be much easier if all we had to do is sit, draw, and post the comic but that’s not how it works for most of us. I had the hard road just like most people. Your ability to network and do good business is almost more important than how skilled you are.

Own it, rock it, and never give up!


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