Otakon was great this year, but it was particularly special for me personally. For the last year or so I've been quietly updating my comic, Kawaiikochan Gaming no Korner. It's a cute moe-style videogame comic written mostly in a psuedo-language inspired by bad translations. I've been talking about doing a book for a long time, and I finally went ahead and started on it. You can buy a copy here. Obviously I would love for you to do this.
When Otakon opened up applications for Artist's Alley, I couldn't resist the idea of being a non-artist selling the book at a big con. I had one day to decide, and plenty of time to get it done in. So I said what the hell, and I went for it.
I am really glad I did. Not only was the book itself more successful than I could have hoped, hawking my stuff at a table was an interesting experience in and of itself.
It was novel, of course: I'm no trained artist and on top of that, I only kind of knew what to do at the table. I was seeing those “fence” setups that all the artists had and thinking “oh, right. That's what I'm supposed to be doing.” My entire setup was contained in the box that my book order had shipped in: a big pile of books, two piles of flyers, a tablet stand to hold one flyer up... and that was it. My good friends Niki and Laura drew cute little price tags on note paper for me. I used a 3DSXL case to sort out the money.
After a few hours and just a few copies sold (to people I knew personally), I was slightly worried. Was this the wrong place for this kind of thing? Were we a little too small for it?
Well, the table didn't do well with passers-by at all, but existing readers made up for all that. I was already nearly cleaned out by the end of the first day, to the point where I started tweeting "COME GET IT NOW" warnings. I meant it, okay?
Aside from copies I'd been personally contacted to hold on to for people, we sold out of books almost immediately after setting up shop on the second day. I regret not bringing... about one and a half times what I did, I think. I stopped by on Sunday to get rid of ten prints, but this was a formality and I just wanted to be available for a few hours for the people who had missed out.
(My neighbors told me about all the times that disappointed fans had come by, and that after I sold out, Otakon staff tried to say my table was for sale.)
This was obviously the most gratifying and ego-boosting thing, and I wasn't ready for the degree to which people gushed to me at all. You guys are all so damn kind. Thanks so much: meeting people and seeing with my own eyes how much they enjoy the comic really made the entire trip worthwhile. I must be doing something right. I'll work harder.
Despite selling out to the fans, the Kawaiikochan table was basically a flop with passers-by. Only one person who wasn't already acquainted with the comics bought a print, as I recall, and understandably nobody actually picked up the $10 book just from flipping through it.
To a degree this is expected-- the material is really weird and there is a “you must be this nerdy to ride” element-- but even the items I brought to the table didn't fully express what the comic was about. This isn't an angle I had really thought about until I was actually sitting there. There was the book, there was the con guide and pitch flyer, which I gave out for free, and then there were the prints, which were just simple images of the characters.
I laid out my table like this at first: imagine this from my point of view behind the table.
Prints – Prints – Book – Flyer – Flyer on stand.
I alternated the convention guide and the comic pitch up on the stand, but I always kept both out.
When I saw people pass the table from the left, they would typically look down at the flyers, which bear huge images of the title characters, and look right back up and move along.
When I saw people pass the table from the right, on the other hand, they were often stopped by the text-heavy flyers and led to read them. As you can imagine, most people were completely befuddled and continued on their way. However, when you get it, you get it, and it was really gratifying to see realization dawn on the occassional passerby's face. Like the girl who came to a dead stop and just started laughing.
So I swapped the position of the flyers and the prints.
Prints – Flyer – Book – Prints – Flyer on stand.
This more reliably slowed passers-by, but it didn't actually bring about any sales. I've already thought about this and decided on a solution for next time, but I won't say because I like these things to be surprises.
One more thing: the “pitch” side of the flyer has Majide describing the comic as “the new Homestuck” with a mischievous smirk. My readers found this very funny. A lot of people on the convention floor did not.: you could see their expressions drop when their eyes hit a certain point on the page. It was a reminder: it's true that not every reader will understand the comic, and it's also true that not every reader will understand its underlying sense of humor, even if they do fully get the T/L notes and all that. I imagine some people found that gag presumptuous, blasphemous maybe.
One of my very first potential customers picked up the flyer-- “feel free to take one!” I told him-- and read it up and down, front and back. He glared at me-- perhaps for the Homestuck joke, perhaps for the whole thing-- and very pointedly put the flyer back down. Another passer-by didn't get the joke and hated Homestuck and just the word broke the deal for him. I thought it was interesting that a joke meant to catch eyes actually backfired somewhat.
Anyway, that's about all from the table! The rest of the weekend was fantastic as well. Masao Maryuama's panel was heartbreaking, Seki Tomokazu's Q&A was hilarious, Yoko Kanno's concert left me awestruck. It's always a pleasure to hang out with the usual gang, and I wouldn't have guessed, after all these years, that the bar across the street from the BCC was actually really great.