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My first booth experience at Comic-Con

Not everyone has their first artist booth experience at one of the most crowded conventions to date: The San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC). I have been as an attendee before, and nearly had a panic attack due to the crowd. This isn’t like a good dance club, where a pulsing beat directs all thoughts into like-minded movement as you float blissfully through the bodies no matter how jam packed. Nope. Comic-Con is crazy. Its like putting your soul into a meatgrinder and trying to find the pieces scattering on the floor while hordes of ice-skaters slice off your fingers. That last one was a simile. Although… there might have been cosplay ice-skaters from that one manga…

But wait, there’s more! The waiting list for a booth in artist’s alley is a rumored 5 years. The wait will just get longer as SDCC gets bigger, and not just because more people want that exposure. Artist’s Alley used to be the heart and soul of the Con, but each year more and more tables get cut to make room for the expanding entertainment booths for movies and TV shows. Understandably there is some anger because despite these being valid and powerful story-telling mediums, it’s hurting the fan base that made SDCC the craze that it is. Its not called MOVIE-con yet…Nowadays so many good movies are based on their better comic, super heroes will always be a big draw, and the cross pollination of the artists/storyboards/writers is so excellent…in short….I just wish we could all get along.

So, I had never had a booth before, I knew the SDCC would be nuts, I was on the waiting list for a spot in Artist’s Alley for a year, and 2 weeks before the event I get a call for the spot, and I say YES!
I had 2 weeks for the following:

  • Get time off approved by work
  • Inventory for my graphic novel and my coloring book ordered, paid for and delivered on time
  • Design and print free give-aways
  • Get art prints printed, embossed, and signed
  • Get lucky and have friend offer 1/2 a hotel room because all are booked solid
  • Figure out how to set-up a booth and realizing all the things I need
  • Figure out how to cart around all my stuff

    And these are the things I realized when we got there that I did not prepare for and will next time:

  • Bringing way more business cards. Don’t believe the internet when it says “If you are an unknown artist 150 business cards are enough”. People love free things. I had to rush order more cards to the hotel because 150 were gone within 1.5 days. Overnight prints, they rock.
  • Next time, prepaid parking. You have to buy parking in the convention online MONTHS IN ADVANCE. I didn’t think it would be a problem since we were exhibitors, and there was nothing in my “exhibitor packet” that warned me. Nope. There is no magical parking for exhibitors – we have to figure out just like everyone else. When we got there we had nowhere to park except the $20-$30 a day places. My brilliant husband took care of moving the car around all day to save us money, or getting up at 5 AM to snag that good spot near the convention so we could unpack from the car. PS: the hotels don’t include parking – you have to pay extra if you have a car.
  • Bringing smaller things to the booth. Then, we won’t have to park so close to wheel them in, and maybe we can keep the car at the hotel next time. Granted, I only had 2 weeks to prepare before, and this time I’ll have smaller things at the ready – just in-case I get that call.
  • If you have a lot of stuff, set up early.  It was insane trying to wheel a dolly through the buzzing crowds lining up for that morning panel. But, see above about bringing smaller things 😉
  • The following is the best advice I got which I wish to share with you.

    I would like to take this moment to give a special shoutout to RONNIIIEEE and BRENDAAAAA

    These are the ones I tried and were indispensable.

    • Bring a minimum of 3 pairs of shoes. No matter how much you sit, and how comfortable your shoes are, your feet will need a different shape to smash into at different times of the day. 1. Booth morning/day, 2. booth evening/teardown, 3. night out on the town.
      Any chance you get, put your feet up.
    • There is no shame in naps.
    • Do the parties at night. Remember those naps? Take one at the hotel as soon as you finish the booth and get your ass out there to the parties. This is where the good stories and the great times happen. Everyone is beat – suck it up and find Joss Whedon at a bar, or go hang out at Trickster. Seriously, Trickster was amazing. Even if I don’t get into the Con, I am going to San Diego next year for Trickster.
    • Hydrate.

    The best parts were meeting cool people, meeting artists, talking with art lovers, the free stuff, and having a booth to hide behind when the crowds got crazy. It was amazing, but more overwhelming than anything I have ever done. However, if next year I luck out, I’m going to do it again. Once more I am on the waiting list and RUMOR has it, once you land a booth you have a better chance of getting in. Think about it like this: those of us in the booths got to sign up for the 2013 waiting list before they opened it up for the public. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

    For all you people who work booths more than once a year, you have my respect. I have no desire to do more than one. One is enough. Thanks.
    And now, for some photos!

    COMIC-CON 2012

    COMIC-CON 2012

    COMIC-CON 2012
    COMIC-CON 2012

    COMIC-CON 2012

    COMIC-CON 2012
    COMIC-CON 2012

    COMIC-CON 2012

    COMIC-CON 2012

    COMIC-CON 2012

    COMIC-CON 2012



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