Sunday, November 21, 2010

Status Update (or: Selling Comics at Reptile Shows)

Reconnected with my Red Flag Publishing partner-in-crimes against humility, James T. Hitchcock aka Biff Humble aka OB1 Shinobi. He's R.F.P.'s Editor in C.H.I.E.F. (Correctly Hustling Information, Education and Funnies). Jim also owns an exotic pet store and spends his weekends schlupping newts, hamsters and other critters and the accessories to keep them alive across the midwest. He wanted some copies of the new issue of Red Flags because I kept telling him to put up a display to test how the reptile show audience might respond to an indy horror comic. Heck, I wanted to test how ANY comic might fare outside of a comic book-only venue, where there've been stuck since news stand distribution, head shops and indy record stores died. It just so happens that we self-published our particular comic with all its limitations. It's an imperfect study which maybe will say more about the quality of our book or our salesmanship than the venue and audience.

I never understood why comics couldn't be made that appeal to other audiences outside the direct market and then marketed to them in other venues besides direct market comic books stores in strip malls behind windows covered with Magic the Gathering ads (and 10-20 bohemian shops one the coasts and a couple major Midwest cities that sell 90% of indy comics). But anyone who tries it is basically in for a one man battle against the indifference and ignorance of the world toward comics. But now more than ever it seems both possible (due to manga, webcomics, the recent GN boom and even popular superhero movies) and necessary (due to not only the Great Recession but also to the fragmenting of the market with DM shops doubling down on the Big 2 and "indy" comics now becoming slight departures from the Big 2 such as IDW and Boom Studios as opposed to Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly).

I don't know that I know yet much of anything but I did make some initial observations after attending half of one reptile show. We only sold and gave away a handful of books with a hastily made sign letting the people shopping for iguanas know about our self-published horror anthologies.

First, I couldn't help but notice the similarities and differences between a comic convention audience and reptile show attendees. Both are obviously different elements within a wide variety of "nerd culture" that would include video games, sci fi, horror movies, etc. I also didn't realize how much of the audience at a reptile show is a repeat crowd. I guess I forgot these things tend to be monthly affairs, more like a flea market than a convention. I wonder if the repeat nature of the business and the familiarity that ensues will help sales. Jim seems to have a large customer base and made a lot of contacts here. I guess we might get the same thing if I can ever afford to hit some comic conventions.

Here's some art as a thanks for listening to my musing...

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