Who cares about comic conventions?
I love comic conventions, simply adore them. There’s something about the atmosphere that’s electric, like a static you can feel coursing around the small hair on your arms. The costumes, the collectibles, the celebrities—fantasy in action. Of course, there are plenty of people who don’t find enjoyment in such events, and that’s okay, I suppose.
They’re just weird, and weird is okay. 🙂
Comic conventions are like nirvana to those who are kids at heart, lucid dreamers, the last of the Bohemians. I’ve always been a collector of nostalgia—video games, toys, action figures, comic books, horror movies—so I had been to some so-called local “conventions” before. These typically turned out to be high-end flea markets with little draw to them. Not that there’s anything wrong with flea markets, mind you. I love me some flea markets. However, we could make it through the entire floor of these events in a matter of minutes with little to show for our time. On top of that, we were out the ticket price for entry. Disappointing.
In 2014, when I heard a show called Fanboy Expo was coming back to town, the news had me pretty pumped. The event was started in 2012 by a Las Vegas promoter, a super guy named David Heynen. The 2014 event was booked in the heart of downtown Knoxville at the Knoxville Convention Center, an A+ location. Naturally, I just had to go and see what all the fuss was about.
I remember walking into Fanboy for the first time. It was as if I had stepped back into my childhood. There were alleyways and avenues of toys, collectibles, games and gear they had seemingly pulled from the reaches of my adolescent toy box, and I was completely in love (flat broke by the end of it, but in love). On top of this, the celebrity guest list wasn’t anything to sneeze at either. From that point on, I attended Fanboy every time it came, usually in both the summer and fall of each year, June and October.
So, you may ask yourself—what does an author do at a comic convention? In 2016, Fiction Factory Inc. had the privilege of attending the convention as a Publishing Vendor/Author for the first time, so I’ve had the opportunity of experiencing both sides, so to speak. I’ve been both the patron walking the floor and the face behind the booth, and both perspectives have wicked benefits.
Your booth is like your ringside seat, the place where you’ll see it all happen, and at Fanboy, there is always plenty to see. During our first onsite as a vendor, my nerves were on edge. I wanted it all to be perfect. I had taken part in some book signings and all, but nothing close to this type of venue. It was so large, and there was so much to consider—signage, point of purchase options, merchandise, you name it. I remember we had just finished prepping our table when a man strolled up to where we sat. He seemed to be acquainted with an artist who sat at the table next to us. It took a moment or two before I realized that before me stood none other than William Forsythe. There he stood, this man I had seen in movies such as Cloak & Dagger (1984), The Rock (1996), Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (1999), and Halloween (2007). William turned to us, asked how we were, and then just…talked. He spoke to us as if we were simply hanging out, passing the day. It was at that moment that I knew I had to represent Fiction Factory Inc. at every Fanboy I possibly could.
As an author at these events, you get many different types of folks approaching you. I’m not a freak-out salesperson (which may be my downfall). I don’t stand at my booth and yell out to people to steal their attention. I also don’t wait on someone to approach a neighboring booth to snatch them and drown them in unwanted pitches of my novels. It’s not that I’m shy by any means, mind you. I could very well guilt someone into buying my books, but chances are that person would complete a purchase to shut me up long enough to toss it in the trash when out of eyesight. Then, they would tell their friends of that rude author dude who just won’t take “no” for an answer. Their friends would avoid walking by my booth altogether, and that would be the end of it.
Rather, I try to build a visually welcoming booth that interests passersby, one that will pique their curiosity enough to come over to us and see what we are. I’ll do a light pitch, asking what the customer’s interests may be while gauging their awareness. If nothing else, I will hand them a business card and bookmark to check out later. I’ve learned that in doing this, you can generate discussion and sincere interest in what you represent. You’re not just a company, but also a person.
At Fanboy, I’ve talked to folks about how I do what I do. We’ve talked about my approach to writing. I’ve met numerous inspiring authors who want to gain experience and one day have their own books for sharing. At these events, for me it’s not about turning profit—it’s about connection. I sell my books at cost in hopes to share as many copies as I can. If you can get copies into the hands of new readers, they will come back to read more.
That is success, and that is what the Fanboy Expo has represented for me, a place to foster connections with like-minded individuals, those who dream simply for the sake of dreaming.
October will be here before you know it, and FFI will be there. We hope to see you!