Well, hello again! Glad to see you've returned after our initial chat. I'm back to report about my experience as a guest at my first Wizard World Sacramento!
Before I jump into that, I'd like to mention that the Wizard World conventions have been a large part of my comic book career and experience with the industry as a whole.
Kevin Eastman, 1999
Waaaay back in 1999 my friend Samal and I jumped on a Greyhound to attend my first comic book convention: Wizard World Chicago (the largest major show in the area I lived at the time). The highlight of the event was meeting Kevin Eastman in the flesh (I was a major TMNT and Heavy Metal fan). The whole show was awesome, but how friendly, welcoming, and vibrant Kevin Eastman was left a huge impression on me. That was the type of creator I wanted to be.
Avri, Alex, & Samal, 2003
After getting my ducks in a row with Vampires Unlimited: Shades of Things to Come #1, I made my convention debut with Wizard World Chicago 2003. I was helped by my friends Samal, Ant Avri, and an ex-fiancée who will be unnamed and un-pictured for this piece.
That year was a fun and successful experience and so were the following shows I did after that (aided by the ever helpful Karen Evora). But you didn't come here for frolics down Amnesia Lane, did you? Of course not! (Well, hopefully a few of you enjoy a good frolic!) We're here to talk about my experience with Wizard World Sacramento 2014! So let's do that!
In a nutshell, Wizard World Sacramento was an amazing show put together by an efficient staff. This was hands down my most profitable show I've done in my exhibiting career thus far. That's my Cliff's Notes version of the show, so if you want a simple answer to if you should exhibit or attend Wizard World Sacramento next year I would STRONGLY suggest you do so.
If you'd like more details about my experience with the show, let's proceed…
We drove up to Sacramento on Thursday with intentions on setting up right as we got there. We arrived a bit later and a bit more tired than expected so we had to set up early Friday. Getting our wristbands, information packets, and setting up all went smoothly.
From the time the show opened at 3pm to closing at 8pm there was no downtime whatsoever. Usually at shows you can count on anywhere from 2 to 20 minutes where nobody walks through and you can snack or talk with your neighbors. Not here, not today! Constant foot traffic came through to accept flyers, make conversation, check out the books, and best of all, to buy things!
It was VERY inspiring as a creator to speak with people who came to the show with the high priority of discovering new indy works or to find out more about things they've heard of in passing. My heart grew two sizes to learn that people have heard of Lion Forge and are supporting those titles (not just The Chosen that I've worked on, but works like Roboy, Street Soldier, Wonderous, & more done by even more talented creators)!
I was also surprised how many people were drawn to Vampires Unlimited: Shades of Things to Come #1 and bought copies even when I informed them that it was my first published work and that it may or may not have aged well. For some that fact made it more appealing to see how my writing as grown over the years, how they could self publish their own ideas, and as a possible collector's item. Whatever the reason I was both humbled and grateful. After all the hardships that series has faced (a fire at my apartment complex with smoke damage, flooding and robbery at the studio of the artists who did the first few issues, and more Murphy's Law events than you can shake a stick at), it'll be worth it to see the completed TPB finally in print sometime later this year.
Another highlight was fans that brought over CGC people to witness their books being signed. The first time it happened it threw me for such a loop that I was actually nervous to touch the books to sign them. After a few times, I finally got used to it, but it was defiantly an experience!
This day was just as busy as Friday, if not more. As soon as the doors opened at 10am people poured in, more postcard flyers were passed out and more sales were made. This continued in a steady fashion until around 2pm. At that lull I was able to do a restroom break and make a quick run around the show.
During that time I was able to have a quick chat with friend and SUPER talented creator Jimmie as he showed off his Hello Kitty birthday cake. Thankfully my beautiful partner Denise was able to make sales at the booth while I was away.
Upon my return, I noticed an interesting phenomenon that happened with this show that I haven't experienced at any other. It's a general rule that if someone leaves your booth saying that they'll be back to buy something, they rarely do. Not at this show, not these two days. I forgot my Square card reader, so a few people had to rush off to the ATM to get cash… and they all actually returned! Some people borrowed money from family and friends to get the items they wanted. There was only one exception to this new phenomenon of people who didn't return.
Also appreciated were the amounts of people who bought one or two items on Friday and returned on Saturday to buy the rest of the series. Again, very humbling but great fuel to continue working to improve my craft and output.
Now for a quick Pro/Con segment: Pro- I eventually remembered to take pictures. Con- I didn't bring my camera battery charger, so after the camera died that's all she wrote. Pro- My cell phone probably takes better pictures than my camera anyway.
By the end of the day I ran out of postcard flyers and sold out of the first two Chaos Campus TPBs & tee shirts. I was disappointed I wasn't able to see any panels, but I had a good reason to miss them all. I also wasn't able to make any of the after show special events due to being so exhausted from the show itself!
Chris Hemsworth made the start of Sunday miserable for me (I say this with a playful grin now, but it was a real feeling at the time).
Trade secret: I've learned that my best way to get people to stop at my booth is a three pronged approach- 1. Always stand. You're more approachable and engaged this way. 2. Smile and speak to everyone who walks by. Again, approachable and engaged. 3. Hand over a postcard flyer. This gives people something physical to hold and see on their own terms in their own time. This also gives them an initial investment in your work and invites them to at least give a polite glance at your wares. This strategy works for me, but feel free to try variations yourself. Me personally, I need all three of these points to be effective.
As I mentioned in the Saturday section, we ran out of postcards! I had more postcards at the house, but I only brought a couple thousand to not have to lug more items there and then back home again. That was a big mistake that I paid for dearly.
So like the previous day, TONS of people poured into the show as soon as the doors opened at 10am. But these people weren't interested in buying comics… oh, noooo… they wanted them some Marvel's Mighty Thor in the flesh. So many people and so many missed opportunities. After such a great first few days, just standing there at my booth watching people flow away from my direction was depressing.
During that time, Wizard coordinator/wrangler Tony B. Kim stopped by and invited me to be a guest on his Multicultural Heroes panel. Of course I said yes!
Bring on a little more people watching, more photos taken, and a few people stopping by to check things out here and there. Then Wizard Artist Relations superstar Donna Chin came by to take me to the panel. As we waited for Terry Huddleston to arrive, I chatted with the smart, funny, and obviously beautiful cosplayer Jojo. The panel was underway and though Terry brought the most insightful and better thought out comments, I came in with my ad libs and sarcastic comments to get the crowd laughing. It was a fun experience and I hope we can all get together and do it again soon. I gave out some comics to those who asked questions and invited others to come by the table for free comics. A few took me up on that offer and even bought other items while they were there.
After that, things picked up some. Denise was able to sell some things while I was away and we got in a few more sales before the day was done. We didn't sell as much as the first two days, but it was still a great experience. I'm hoping they'll invite me back for next year because I can see Wizard World Sacramento as being a convention season highlight event every year!
Well, that's my time. Thank you for sharing this experience with me! I hope you check out the people linked in this article because they not only do phenomenal work, but they're also wonderful people.
Come back next month where I'll break down my experience with exhibiting at Wondercon Anaheim! See you then!
Los Angeles born and Midwest raised, B. Alex Thompson is a comic book writer, screenwriter, and letterer who has done work for Alias Enterprises, Approbation Comics, Arcana Studios, Lion Forge Comics, and Graphic Planet. Thompson is mostly known for his experimental humor/horror title Chaos Campus: Sorority Girls vs. Zombies which has over twenty-five issues released and more in the works. Discover more via www.AlexThompsonWriter.com and Tweet him directly @ApproBAT