What Happened at Baltimore Comic-con

Last week I said I’d be at Baltimore Comic-con, exhibiting with Misako Rocks, and presenting a new workshop.

Here are my takeaways from the show:

1. Community matters.

The explicit purpose of a convention is to sell products and raise awareness about your brand. But for many of the artists and writers at the show, seeing their friends and exchanging ideas with peers is just as important.

I saw lots of old friends and met new people whom I’m sure I’ll see again.

It’s like fuel in the tank. It keeps you going.

2. People will sign up for your mailing list if you ask them.

Misako and I set up a mailing list signup on her website, and brought a laptop where people could sign up at her table. We also printed out a hard copy sign-up form as a backup.

Misako Rocks at Baltimore Comic-con 2019

Whenever someone would stop at Misako’s booth and admire her artwork, we’d explain her upcoming book project and who the target audience is. Then we would ask, “Do you want to join the mailing list?”

I was pretty surprised by how successful we were. Everyone’s email inbox is overloaded these days, and we were certainly not a “known quantity” at the show.

But almost everyone we asked said, “Sure!” and cheerfully gave us their name and email address.

This is incredibly valuable. I’ll do an article soon explaining how effective your email newsletter list can be.

3. You need to experiment to find the shows that work for you.

Baltimore Comic-con calls itself “America’s Greatest Comics Convention!”

Imagine a convention hall jam-packed full of vintage comics dealers and indie “action-adventure” publishers. That’s Baltimore.

Translation: it’s an awesome show for old-school superhero comics fans.

Misako, on the other hand, specializes in manga art aimed at middle school girls.

Not exactly the same audience.

Middle grade manga art by Misako Rocks versus variant cover by Jim Calefiore, Valiant Comics

The juxtaposition of these two pieces of art makes me smile. A bit of contrast, right?

So I knew Baltimore wouldn’t be full of our target audience. But I also knew that Baltimore has a long-running and vibrant kids comics section, and that it has a “family friendly” reputation. When my friend (the ridiculously awesome kids cartoonist) John Gallagher offered us a space at the show, I figured, “Why not give it a try?”

I’d say my expectations were fairly accurate. We weren’t inundated with potential fans, but every time a mom or dad passed by with a girl in tow, they invariably tugged at their parent’s hand and said, “Hey, look at this!”

In the future, we’ll be looking for opportunities at book and comics shows directly aimed at kids, like the Princeton Children’s Book Festival or the Comic-con for Kids in Philadelphia.

So when you’re picking a show to promote your work, think carefully about your target audience. Choose the shows that are most appealing to the type of people who love what you do.

4. I’m taking the “Insider Secrets: How to Build a Successful Career as a Creator” workshop online!

Baltimore was the first place I presented a new workshop, basically “Getting Started 101” for artists and writers. If it went well, I promised myself, I’d do it again as an online webinar.

One of the best ways to judge the effectiveness of a presentation is by how many people come up to the podium after it’s over and hang around to ask questions and keep talking.

By that measure, I’d say the Insider Secrets workshop was a success.

So that means I’m doing an online webinar. Stay tuned!