My First Experience Tabling as a Pro

The Queen Margaret Union at Glasgow University

Next month, I’ll be attending the New York Comic Con.  While it would be exciting  enough going as a fan – and to be honest, a big part of me is still thinking of it like a fan, wondering what creators will be there and what books I can buy – it’s all the more amazing in that I’ll be attending as a pro.  It still feels a bit surreal, to be honest, and I can’t quite get my head around it.  Rather than that mega-event being my first experience tabling as a pro, I thought it might be useful to attend a couple of local events first.  So, this coming weekend I have a table at the Glasgow Comic & Toy Fair, representing GLoW and selling copies of my comic, The Standard.  And, more short notice, I got invited to attend a special Freshers’ Week comic event at Glasgow University last Friday.  I thought I’d write up a little blog covering my experiences on the day.

I hadn’t really thought much about it leading up to the event.  A couple of days before it, I e-mailed Gary Chudleigh – co-founder of Obscure Reference Comics, writer of cool comic series Villainous, who I would be sharing a table with – about things I might need.  He gave me some helpful tips about inventory, some of which I’d already considered, others I hadn’t: Sharpies for signing books, a point of sale clearly denoting the prices while also showing some art from the book, plastic pockets for putting comics in once sold, and lots of change.  I also found out Gary would be late to the show, and I’d be on my own for the first half.

Setting up at the venue.

Get-in for the event was at 11am.  Being my usual tardy self, I arrived around 11:30.  We were in the main function hall of the Queen Margaret Union: I can recall from my student days this was a pretty desirable chunk of real estate, and its the same venue next week’s Glasgow Comic & Toy Fair will be held at.  There were no exhibitors here today, though, just fellow indy comic creators.  The cool thing about getting involved in the Glasgow small press scene over this year is that I actually knew most of the pros enough to at least say a quick hello as I entered.

I was a bit intimidated by how massive my table seemed, especially with no Gary to fill out the other half.  I only had a couple of comics – The Standard #1 and The Standard #2 – and as generously as I spread them around, my offerings still seemed pretty thin in comparison to the rich back catalogues ofered by the Khaki Shorts or Team Girl Comic crews.  But as I organised everything, I did still feel a little swelling of pride and excitement at being able to present something I’d written for sale.

My table - lookie, it's my stuff!

The doors opened for customers at 12pm.  Unfortunately, there weren’t really many.  As it turns out, the university had not marketed the event at all in thei Freshers’ promotional material, so we didn’t actually have any audience of people interested in comics.  In fact, save for people who knew the pros tabling and had come along to visit/support them, the only folks who showed up were students who stumbled in by accident while looking for free booze or club coupons.  It’s quite disheartening when the first person that comes to your table says, “I don’t recognise any of these comics.  Do you have any Spider-Man?”  With how quiet the show was, I actually spent a lot of time catching up on my comics reading.

I still managed to make a few sales over the course of the day, though, so all things considered, I’d say I did pretty well.  I got some good practice working on my pitch – the guys at the table next to me must have been sick of hearing it by the end of the day – and I got to refine it a little based on what people seemed to react to: the idea of a superhero as a “sleazy reality TV star” seemed to get everyone’s ears pricked up.  Another good idea came from Gary, about having a copy of the comic set aside for people to thumb through.  This worked very well for me, as if my pitching left people cold, then a glimpse of Jonathan Rector’s stunning artwork was often enough to reel them in.

Things picked up once Gary showed up.  He also managed to make a few sales of Villainous.  And I also have to thank Luke Halsall, who came along and sat at our table for a bit, and in that time did a bit of aggressive salesmanship that helped us both out a good deal.

Me (left) and Gary Chudleigh (right) shilling our wares.

In terms of things I’d like to take onboard for my next con, one thing I was totally unprepared for was the interest in making comics.  I had about 4 or 5 different people asking me about writing comics, and if there were any communities in Glasgow that they could be a part of.  Of course there is, I’m a member of one: the Glasgow League of Writers.  And I… have no info on them.  I don’t even have paper on me to write info down.  Cue much, “Erm… do you have a piece of paper on you?  I can….uh….write down this Twitter handle, and….uh…. yeah.”  Next time, I’m gonna try and have some leaflets/preview booklets ready to hand out to people, with samples of work from GLoW as well as contact details.

At 4pm, it was all over, and we packed up and headed home.  Overall, it was a quiet show, but I expect the upcoming Glasgow Comic & Toy Fair to be much more busy.  And I still had a good experience tabling.  Maybe a quiet show was what I needed to ease me into the groove.  Most importantly, I managed to get some experience tabling as a pro at a comic event for the first time.  I’m glad it won’t be the last.

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