In the aftermath of one convention, and about to embark on another one, I thought it was a good time to share a few things I've learned over the years about surviving conventions.
- Prepare Ahead of Time. No one likes going in to a presentation with their speech unwritten, right? It's just the same when you find yourself packing your stapler and paper cutter to take along to a convention. Although sometimes this is hard to avoid (cut to me tying ribbons around Bonnie N. Collide triple packs at this year's Stumptown), at least try to get all your books packed and ready to sell out of the box at the show. The last thing you want to worry about along with packing, traveling, jet-lag, and set-up, is having to assemble your books as well. And at the very least, it saves you dirty looks from your tablemate as you constantly wiggle the table with the loud KA-CHUNK of your stapler.
- Pack Your Goods Among Pillows. Having a devil-may-care approach to your packing is all fine and dandy until you get to the show and realize certain customers aren't interested in books with the corners all bent and prints all folded and ripped. I try to avoid this by wrapping my books in plastic wrap, bubble wrap, and adding scarves for cushion. It's not a fool-proof system, but at least it tries to account for various weather conditions. Whatever your method, realize that if you're flying, the luggage you've stored all your books in will be beaten, ravaged, squished, jostled, thrown into immovable objects, and left out to get drenched in the rain. So remember that your goal at this convention will be trying to sell books. Not the most durable creatures.
- Sprinkle Happy Traditions Into Your Traveling. I'm not a big fan of flying, but I am a fan of my flying foods - in other words, foods that I almost only get at airports or on planes. For me, these are Bloody Marys and bagels. True, I could eat both of these things every day for the duration of my life and be very content. However, if I restrict them only to travel days, I remain excited every time I get to eat/drink them again. Plus, I stay a little thinner. (Now, this rule does not extend to when I visit New Orleans, in which case I drink only Bloody Mary's at every meal).
- Care and Feeding When Dragging Along Your Significant Other. At one point or another, some of us have managed to trick our significant others into going with us to conventions. "Look, Honey! You've always wanted to go to Austin - now here's our chance!" Although this makes the trip infinitely more fun for us comickers behind the con table, we must remember that it is hour after hour of thankless torture for them. They are doing this solely out of love, and will never (unless they're comickers themselves) understand our constant drive/need/ambition/delusion to want to create and sell comics in the first place. For them, it is a lost weekend spent sitting and amusing themselves until the battery on their iPhone wears out. Sprinkled amongst awkward comickers mixers, hurried introductions of who's who "OMG it's so-and-so who wrote that comic I was obsessed with and told you all about 14 months ago!!", and relentless whining/screaming with excitement about your profit or loss that day. So my advice is - take care of your significant others. Remember that they're there to actually experience the city they're in, not just its convention hall. Make sure to carve out some time to spend with them alone, and not at a restaurant you're picking just so you can overhear the conversation of your favorite comicker at the next table over.
- Choose Tablemates/Hotelmates Wisely. This one won't take you that long to figure out - it kind of happens organically. It only takes a couple times of sitting next to someone all day who does nothing but criticize everything about comics and the industry (while desperately trying to sell theirs) or sharing a hotel room with someone who never, ever lets you have the bathroom before you realize you might want to pick people you gel with. I lucked out and met amazing people the first couple of shows I went to who happened to share my love of quoting Christina Applegate movies, dancing embarrassingly when bored, and choosing (sometimes) to stay in and watch movies in the hotel room even though there was comic shmoozing to be had.
- Beware the Alter Ego. This is an extension of #5 - there is something to be watchful of in comickers you've just met and have decided to maybe table with. Sure, they're awesome and funny in social situations, and you get along with them swimmingly one-on-one. BUT! Get them behind a table and they are no holds barred don't look at anyone's crap but mine SELLING MACHINES. They will stop at nothing to get a sale, and this includes stepping in front of you to interrupt your conversation with a potential customer to hand them their book. Beware of these people. They will do it every time, no matter how nice they are once the con whistle blows at the end of each day. As soon as they punch in at that convention, it's ON.