Convention Report: NYCC 2014
No doubt by now you’ve seen the news that New York Comic Con (NYCC) has become the largest comic convention in the USA! Incredible news, and it would be this happens the same year I return to the show (having taken last year off, for my wedding). So let’s get into it!
I got up SUPER early in the morning (we’re talking 4am here) to catch a cab to the red-eye flight to LaGuardia. However, since I can never sleep the first night of a show (or sometimes even the night before a show), I was pumped. My wife, half asleep, even stumbled out of bed to wish me luck as I ran out the door in the morning.
The flight was easy going, and I enjoyed watching a movie (again, I can’t sleep on planes, trains, or automobiles) while watching the Onion editor next to me outline some ideas she was having for stories in the coming months. I didn’t snoop, I swear.
Upon landing, I hopped a bus to Pen Station and then hiked over to the convention center. After a brief snafu with the badges (which was thankfully quickly cleared up), I went back and set up the table. I was representing Reading with Pictures this weekend at the show, and we had some choice positioning by some of the other educational vendors. As soon as the door opened, the show was PACKED! Books were flying off the table (I didn’t bring a ton, since I was expecting a resupply on Saturday), and people were absolutely loving the new book.
The Reading with Pictures booth!
Josh Elder came by every so often, between his many panels and meetings throughout the day, as well as some of RWPs other friends and guest speakers. We let them put their stuff at our booth because, let’s face it, stuff gets heavy after a while.
My buddy Karl Custer (Uncle Yo) showed up not too late in the morning, and it was great to get to catch up with him. I haven’t seen the guy since the summer, but he was kind enough to let me crash at his place this weekend – and I always appreciate a place to lay my head when I do eventually get tired during a show.
I also received a fun surprise under the table – my new book, KILLER QUEEN, came out from Red Stylo Media. The editor had left me a gift package at the table, and while I couldn’t put it out (since it’s a mature readers book), I was able to tell people about it and sign any copies they had or wanted to buy.
Hanging out with Phil Chan, my good friend from the Digital Pimps
After the show floor ended, I packed up and headed out for a quick bite with Karl. We grabbed a sandwich not too far away from the con, and then headed back to the show for a late night panel one of his friends was hosting. After the panel, we headed out for a drink while waiting for his fiancé to get out of her class. The bar was also a Korean restaurant, so it had an interesting variety of drinks to chose from – plus some delicious dishes to sample, which we did after.
After dinner, we all headed back to their place and went straight to bed. It had been a great first day to the show – my best NYCC yet, sales wise – and the weekend was only going to get better!
We got up early and headed over to the convention center. Karl was kind enough to make us some sandwiches and grab us some food for breakfast, which is exactly what the belly wants at a show like this. We got over to the convention center a little tardy, but still able to set up before the doors opened (I had wanted to walk around a little before the show opened, but there were still two more days to do that).
I was mostly running the table by myself on Friday, and was starting to run out of most of the stock I had brought. Thursdays sales had been so much higher than anticipated, but that was okay – we still had plenty of information to give away for free once we sold out, until our resupply on Saturday.
Working the table at a show like NYCC, you run into all kinds of big wigs and celebrities – some of which aren’t the kind from TV. This year I started chatting with a guy about RWP and asked him questions. He worked for the United Nations, and he was on a committee for global educational reform. This was an incredible opportunity to talk to him about RWP’s mission and our products and resources. I also introduced him to Josh, and the two had a lengthy conversation that I think went very positively. Josh has been working as a comic ambassador for the US State Department, and has gone on several trips to other countries spreading the word about the role comics can play in education.
I was eventually joined at the table by previous RWP-intern Aliza joined me at the table. She moved from Chicago to New York a little while back, so it was great to get to catch up with her and hang out at the table for a bit. It was also nice to get a chance to leave the table for a while and stretch my legs, use the restroom, and just walk the floor.
The WETA booth had some amazing pieces in it…like Gollum!
Smaug is watching you (and occasionally sleeping). But seriously, the eye opened up every now and then
This guy was life sized! Seriously, look at the person standing next to him!
I walked through small press and our end of the convention center for about an hour or so, and then headed back to the table to keep selling. By this point I had basically sold out of everything I had brought with me, so Aliza and I were able to take turns handing out free stuff and promoting our panels, as well as asking everyone to come back tomorrow when we get our resupply.
At the end of the show we broke down and I headed to meet some friends for a quick bite of pizza ($2.75 for 2 slices and a pop – nice!), and then we headed over to a bar.
A nice view of the Empire State Building from the street
Karl eventually met up with us at the bar and we ordered some more food (after not eating all day, two slices of pizza wasn’t enough), and had a fun time. After a little while, though, we decided it was time to go home and get some sleep. Saturday is always the largest / longest day of the weekend.
Saturday morning, Karl and his fiancé took off for a wedding, and I was left in charge of their place (and feeding their cat). I got up a little earlier that usual and headed out to have a quick bite of breakfast at the convention center before the floor opened. It was nice to be able to sit and relax at the booth for a moment, and talk to some of my table neighbors while they set up.
A little before the floor opened I got a call from one of our volunteers who was showing up with our resupply of books. I helped them unload the car and carried some of the books in, set up the table, and then let them run things while I went for my first full walk of the floor – even making it over into Artist Alley.
Artist Alley, for me, is a wonderland of creators and projects (usually created by friends of mine), and I can spend hours just going down a single isle of it saying hi to people I already know (or who I’d like to know). Trying to keep it quick, so I didn’t leave the volunteers at the table without any coverage, I only spent about 2-3 hours there this time. Surprisingly, not everyone was at their tables when I walked through. Perhaps some people had too late of a night on Friday?
After making the rounds in AA, I went back to the floor and said hi to some new publisher friends of mine. Around 2pm, Josh had a signing at the booth and I had volunteered to help bring people in and sell them the book so he could sign it. The publisher liked this idea (especially since I had sold through so many of them at the RWP table Thursday and Friday), and put me to work selling the book for the hour Josh was signing. Jim McClain was there, too, helping from the other side of the table to catch people’s eye and bring them in so I could pitch. We moved about a dozen copies of the book in the hour or so we were there, and had a fun time working another booth for a little while.
After the signing, I went back to the table and kept helping to sell copies of the book. Aliza had been moving them like crazy, and she had also moved some Mail Order Ninja books on top of it (a $30 hardcover, and a fantastic read).
After several hours, the floor finally closed and I packed up. Josh and I had dinner plans, and headed out to the restaurant. It was a fun night of good food, good drinks, and good company. We also got a surprise visit from some other comic friends of ours, including Chris Giarusso (G-Man), who I haven’t had a chance to hang out with outside of conventions before.
After dinner, Josh and I went out to grab drinks at a nearby bar and just download from the day. Talk about what we’d done and seen at the show, and what we wanted to accomplish tomorrow (and moving forward). I enjoy these strategy talks, as it helps keep things in perspective on where we are as an organization and where we want to go next.
After a while it was time to head home and feed the cat. The train was having some construction, so I had to go a stop down and take another train back (which, at the early morning hours after a long / exhausting weekend like this, seemed to take FOREVER). But I got home, fed the cat, and went immediately to bed. Tomorrow would be the final day of the show.
The final day of the show started with feeding the cat, dropping off Karl’s keys to the doorman, and hiking it out to the Javits for the final day of the show. I arrived at the show a little early for another quick breakfast, and then an opportunity to walk around the floor a bit before the show opened.
We received a text around opening from one of our volunteers saying they couldn’t make it in today, which was problematic because they were going to take all of the leftover stock (any unsold books) back and ship them back to us, since neither Josh nor myself had access to a car (and both of us were leaving from the convention straight for the airport to get home).
Before I could deal with this situation, however, I had a panel that morning for Reading with Pictures. The panelists included myself, Janet Lee, Ryan Dunlave, Fred Van Lente, and Jim McClain – and hosted by Josh Elder. It was a fantastic discussion about our stories and what inspired them, how they can be used in an educational setting (regardless of the free downloadable teacher’s guide), and why kids will love to read the stories whether they’re educational or not. After we did a large signing for the books we were selling, and then headed back to the table to set up for the rest of the day.
Now was the time to find a solution to the leftover inventory problem. Thankfully, I know some people who were attending the show and driving back home, and thankfully they did me a solid favor and were willing to take the boxes of books. Because we didn’t want to open those boxes, once we sold out of the books on the table we packed up – but not before I got a pleasant surprise from a fan who had visited the table earlier in the weekend.
She had asked if I was familiar with the show Orphan Black, a BBC series about clones. Of course I was, and she asked if I could commission some of the characters, which I could. She had then walked off and I hadn’t though she would return. Well, on Sunday about 2 hours before I was going to break down, she returned and commissioned not one, but several Orphan Black pieces.
One of several Orphan Black commissions I did – all for a single fan!
Another satisfied customer!
It took about an hour and some change, I was able table to knock out all of the commissions for her AND she said she may contact me for some more in the near future. Here’s hoping! They were a ton of fun to do!
After the commissions I broke down the table, packed up my stuff, and walked the floor to say my goodbyes. I stopped by the publishers I had met, the friends I already had, some new friends I had made, and anyone and everyone I could think of to say “safe travels,” and wish them well on the final hours of the show. I even stopped by some guys who’s Kickstarter I had helped promote – and they told me they did the book because they had attended some of the panels I give at other conventions! I love hearing this – it tells me my lectures and stories during panels really do help to motivate and inspire people to go out and tell their stories. And that’s what puts a smile on my face at the end of the day – inspiring others to be creative.
Hanging out with the Digital Pimp crew – Irv and Joe!
Taking a photo with the creators of Kirin Rise, one of the Kickstarters I helped promote over the summer. They successfully funded their first book!
I hailed a cab and traveled over to the airport, where I got through security much quicker than I anticipated, and then came the waiting game for my flight to arrive. While waiting I had a quick bite, and had a moment to reflect on the events of the weekend. The great friends I have and have made, the fantastic people in my life, the people who support the work or who find inspiration from it to make their own – all of these wonderful and amazing things came bubbling to the surface.
NYCC was an amazing weekend, and is now the largest comic convention in the country. And while historically it hasn’t been a huge sales show for me, this year proved the exception – with excellent sales, great attendees, amazing volunteers and staff running the event, and a lot of fun surprises and opportunities abounding from the weekend’s events.
I can’t wait to get back again next year!
A much-needed post-con drink at the airport