Standing behind the table at Rose City Comic Con this weekend was my High Fidelity moment. I had finally bridged the gap from critic to creator. With the sale of the first copy of my creator-owned book, Paris in the 20th Century, I became a part of the industry I have loved and admired for thirty years.
Friday night was the kick-off party hosted by Things From Another World and Dark Horse Comics. It was a rollicking good time with food, beverages, a DJ, and hundreds of happy fans and pros. I met up with my table-mate, Keri, who had gone to the convention center earlier to set up our space with our other table-mate, Vaughn. I got the low-down on the arrangement, our location, and the delicate balance between having too much and not enough on the table. Somehow I lucked out and just had to show up and bring my smile and sales pitch the next morning! We chatted, danced, laughed nervously, and crossed our fingers that we would sell at least one book over the weekend.
Saturday morning arrived and I was up before dawn, nervously pacing. I was full of energy was ready to go go go! I thought a bout going out for a run, but figured I should save my legs for the ten-hours I would be standing on the con floor. I loaded up my bag with snacks, drinks, and charging cables for electronics and then paced some more. Due to badge allocations, I could not get on the floor before the show opened, so I had to wait until the doors opened at ten.
While I was waiting in the lobby, I caught up with some friends and got some words of encouragement from Pete and Rebecca Woods. I must have looked nervous because they assured me that everything would be just fine.
When the doors opened I bolted for the table. Vaughn and Keri were there, patiently waiting. Vaughn was sharpening his pencils to start the first of many large-scale sketches he would do over the course of the weekend, and Keri was doodling what would become Harley Quinn holding a Portal gun. I dropped my bag behind the table and waited for the crowds to arrive.
It wasn’t that people were ignoring us. It was more like people did not know who we were and what we were doing. I had never given
much thought to the destination shopping aspect of comic cons, but after watching people queue up at Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DecConnick’s table long before they arrived I began to give it more thought. People came to the show with creators and comics in mind. There were people they wanted to see and books they wanted to buy. These were creators who had years of experience and books which had taken time to find an audience.
And here we were, veritable babes in the woods. We had our one little self-published book, some prints, and a bright pink table cloth. People rushed by with their checklists and long-boxes and I wanted to shout, “Wait! Stop! Take a look at our book too!”
Eventually people started to filter by and stop to take a look. We chatted. We pitched. We sold to family and friends. And then it happened. A complete stranger bought a copy of our book. Our book! Keri and I stood there dumbfounded as the man tried to give us money. We couldn’t believe that it was actually happening!
We quickly snapped out of it, made change, signed his book, and wished him well. We waited for him to turn the corner before breaking into our happy dance.
The rest of the day went along in much the same manner. We chatted with the curious. We tinkered with our display. We tried to figure out some of the more questionable and obscure cosplay that walked past the table. We set up a BINGO game to track some of the more interesting sights.
But he time the con closed at 7pm, we were all a little loopy. While I am sure that some pros hit the bars and were out all night whooping it up, this little band of self-publishers went home and passed out. I vaguely remember giving my credit card to my room mate and asking him to take my kids out for dinner. I was passed out by the time he got home.
Sunday morning came a lot sooner than expected. The nervous energy was back, but it was confined to my brain. My body was explaining to me that it did not like the idea of going back and standing on concrete floors for another seven hours. (I had made a conscious decision not to sit during the con in order to present a more energetic and positive demeanor).
I got to the table to find Keri and Vaughn already there, raring to go for another day. I slid in behind them and we waited for day two to begin.
Day two went much the same as day one, punctuated by visits from friends, students, and my parents. We also had a woman come to our table who had purchased out book the day before, read it that night, and was back to tell us that she enjoyed it! Our fist review!
We pushed hard for the rest of the day and managed to move a few more books. Keri sold two commissions as well as her Harley Quinn sketch, and Vaughn made plenty of people happy with his sketches. As the lights went down, a cheer erupted from the con faithful. The second annual Rose City Comic Con was in the bag.
That night we all sat around the table at my house, eating curry and swapping con stories. Our friends, families, and spouses laughed at our stories and forgave our mental lapses as two days of convention selling had fried our brains. As I slipped into bed, I did so with a smile on my face. I had finally crossed the threshold. I had moved from fan to creator. From one side of the table to the other. From one con experience to another.
I cannot wait to do it again!