Free Comic Book Day 2016 (Epilogue)
So my first ever Free Comic Book Day has come and gone and I have had some time to go over it a thousand times in my head. First and foremost, the day was significantly larger and more impressive than I had ever imagined. The festivities and pageantry that I saw was simply amazing. I am so incredibly grateful to the shops that included me and gave me a forum upon which to promote my work for the very first time. If you're just now tuning in, I put together a small "tour" for Free Comic Book Day stopping by three shops in an effort to spread some brand recognition around. It was my first attempt to promote my book and build some marketing momentum. As with any first, I learned a ton and here I'll lay out my reflections on the rights / wrongs of my booth display (pictured below).
As you can see I have a pretty basic setup. Custom tablecloth emblazoned with the Tapestry Comics logo along with matching large branded T-shirt. On top of the table is a stack of my ashcans, a full length copy of my book for perusal, a picture frame highlighting my upcoming children's book The Puny Wars, and a giant Nerf brand sword. Behind me is a large format poster for my key future release Bayeux.
1) Empty Table: I understand that this is very early marketing for my project. I have two books on deck and nothing for sale. Having things for sale would definitely help but it's no excuse for this barren display. More things on the table bring more attention and offer more talking points. I'm sure it would also be good to be cautious to avoid an overly cluttered table but this is unacceptable. Potential solutions could have been more printouts/example art from both books or even display examples of the actual Bayeux Tapestry from which my book derives. I actually referenced it via google on my phone for some visitors. Having a physical copy on hand would have been great and potentially could have brought more traffic to my table out of curiosity.
2) Perfect the Pitch: This may be potentially embarrassing but I wasn't prepared for the sheer number of people who came up to my table and without a word just looked at me and waited for me to tell them about my work. This of course produced various ways of pitching my book, some being better than others. I would adjust my pitch mid stream reading the facial expressions presented by my audience. My stumbling and bumbling probably did more harm than the actual words I was tripping over. When I worked for Bose (famous for their speakers & headphones) I had some scripted pitches that in my youth, I felt made the selling experience fake. Now that I'm older and I'm trying to sell my own work, I see the value in a perfected pitch. It doesn't necessarily have to be scripted word for word but a confident and consistent outline of important and interesting points is essential. Working a table in a convention type setting, it's even more important to perfect an elevator pitch (One in which you could rattle off to a person you intercepted in an elevator). When a person stumbles upon your convention table, you may only have a brief time to get their interest/attention. Have a short pitch that at the very lease engages and captivates your audience the instant they stumble to your booth.
On a similar topic, I came across an interesting observation about using the word "history". Too often I would be describing the story in Bayeux and people would be really into it. The very second that I talked about it being historically accurate I lost them. One of the aspects that I love about the story surrounding the Norman invasion of England is it very well could be mistaken with a plot line from Game of Thrones..but it actually happened. The fact that it actually happened seems to turn some people off and this leads me to the whole point of Tapestry Comics.....History can be just as if not more riveting than fiction. My mission is to sell this point and I have now seen this obstacle in the flesh.
What I nailed:
1)Basic Presentation: The tablecloth and shirt were key to both look professional and lay a foundation for public brand recognition. I think I may have had an even harder time convincing people to be interested in my projects sitting on a generic table wearing street clothes. This could obviously be overcome with significant product displays but as I don't have significant product, this presentation helped fill some potential gaps.
2) Nerf Sword: I know it sounds goofy, but my Nerf sword was one of the best things that I could have brought. I originally packed it as it's my understanding that many playful things occur in convention type settings and I wanted to be prepared. While it was never used in such a way, tons of people came to my table originally just to wield the spectacular weapon. Not everybody wanting to play with the sword were interested in my work. But I guarantee more people looked at my work and talked to me than had that sword not been there.
OVERALL GRADE: C-
My booth worked. I made a lot of positive connections both in the local industry as well as with potential audience. My list in my needs improvement section was more important than the things that I actually nailed, but I'm not hanging my head over it. This was my first time doing anything like this and I learned a heck of a lot from it. My goal now is to fix these things and improve on them before the next one.
A Word About My Ashcan
My ashcan was originally printed with the goal of getting it into people's hands to show off the art and story of Bayeux as well as introduce people to Tapestry Comics. I printed 1,500 copies to distribute throughout the state via local shops as well as to have them available at my table. I didn't get to visit but a fraction of the stores on FCBD but I'm pretty dang sure that this didn't really happen. I see now after experiencing it that my little booklet was most assuredly lost among the vast offerings of full on comic books by the big producers. I believe that only a fraction of a fraction of my printed books got more than a cursory look (books that were picked up directly at my booth were the most effective). While the effect I paid for didn't occur, I don't think that they were necessarily a waste. These ashcans got me an in with the comic shops that I visited. It was a vehicle towards an introduction. I had a purpose to establish a relationship. I'm sure a significant number of shops have local creators come in trying to sell them their work. Instead, my ashcans provided a foot in the door and a handshake before I even try to sell anything. My ashcan is free promotional swag that acts as sweetener for any event. When My book is printed I can now go into a shop already having some sort of relationship established as opposed to trying to sell something to someone with whom there is 0 connection. At the end of the day, I'm glad I printed them (although I probably should have printed fewer copies).