It's been a month since the MoCCA Comic Art Festival, and I have yet to put up anything publicly about the weekend. I guess it's taken awhile to process, and only now I have something really to say about it. Be forewarned, some of my observations may verge on cynical/depressive, but I think it's somewhat healthy to acknowledge some cons along with the pros of the convention.
Financially, the show was a disaster. I didn't come close to making back my table, let alone the money that I invested in producing books and swag for the show. But overall, I had a good time. It was my first chance to spend some quality time in New York since moving to the East coast, and I got to meet a few artists whose work I really admire. And I passed out a lot of promo cards for my webcomic and website, so hopefully this garnered some readership and will have some returns down the road.
And yet, I still have no idea what people look for when attending a convention. My tablemate had a small mini-comic about a cat that she was selling for $2, and she made a killing. People would come up, look at it, and literally become giddy right at the table because it was about a cat, and they had a cat, and they could relate to it. I'm not knocking it, it was a great comic and it deserved to be picked up by as many people as possible. But the lesson I took away was that you have to have something, whether a character or concept, that is simple enough for people to pick up and get immediately. That comic that you've been slaving over for months (or years) probably isn't going to cut it, and people are most likely going to stay away from long winded series unless they can get into it with a stand alone story. At the end of the day, people are still fanboys or fangirls. They may not be looking for Spider-Man or Iron Man material, but they still want something that they are familiar with.
Probably the best advice I got was from David Malki!, he of Wondermark fame. First, he said that you should become really good at what you're making. Master it, keep at it, and it will eventually find its audience. Second, he said to wait before producing books or merchandise until people start asking for them. This way, you'll have some chance at selling your product, and you won't be stuck with an enormous bill. I honest to god wish I had heard this before the convention, because sure enough, I had a collection of my webcomic and t-shirts at my table, and the majority of them are now sitting in boxes in my apartment. Granted, I'll have this stuff for future conventions, but there's no guarantee I'll sell them there either. Sadly, it's now sort of expected that you have merchandise along with a webcomic, even before the comic itself has had enough time to gestate. In any case, David's advice was enormously helpful, and while our chat was brief, I'm glad I approached him and asked for his advice.
My one regret is not approaching more cartoonists at the convention, some of whom I had met years before. Granted, being an exhibitor at these things can sometimes prevent this, but in some ways I still feel isolated within the comics world, and sometimes I feel even more so after conventions. More and more I realize that I need to nurture the relationships I have within the larger comics community. I can't expect friendships and professional relationships to form overnight, especially when I'm only seeing these people maybe once or twice a year, if I'm fortunate enough, and so I need to take advantage of the opportunities as much as possible.
So, there you have it, my thoughts on MoCCA. Some good, some bad. Onto to the next one...
Oh, and Kate Beaton is awesome. She makes comics about history. READ THEM. Hark! A Vagrant