Advice for Exhibiting at SPX
Hi everyone. I’m in pre-SPX anxiety mode (known in my journal as “StressPX”) and Rich basically dared me to write this, so.
Advice for First-Time Exhibitors at SPX!
I’ve been coming to SPX since 2005, and exhibiting since 2006. Here are a few tips, many of which may seem obvious, but some of which may be helpful.
- Plan out how you’ll have things arranged. You don’t have to have it exactly figured out, but have some idea of what goes in the front, in the back, on the left, right, etc. Plan things to make your table eye-catching: different heights, a nice tablecloth/banner, pre-made price signs so you’re not scribbling them on scrap paper as you set up.
- Have things like scissors, tape, rubber bands, safety pins. I don’t know, I always end up needing something. Bring tubes or envelopes if you’re selling prints. I sell catnip mice and I bring ziploc baggies to put them in for people so the catnip stays fresh.
- Have a business card or something people can take for free. Attendees are really wary of the hard sell, so when someone is standing at my table but starting to walk away but not sure but doesn’t want to engage me in a pitch, I say “take a card if you like!” and smile and they usually do and smile back and that feels nice. People don’t want to hear your spiel, they want to look at your stuff and they’ll ask questions if they have any.
- Here’s a thing I did for the first time last year and it was awesome: make a chart ahead of time of all the things you’ll have for sale and how much each costs. Mine was a table with about 12 boxes. (“Minicomic, $5” is all one, for example.) Then as people buy things, you can just check them off, and at the end of the day it’s super easy to run a total and see how much you made. This is especially good if you’re sharing a cashbox with anyone else. It also helps you track inventory and decide what your best sellers are when you plan for next year.
- Get a picture of yourself sitting behind your table with all your wares and text it to your mom. Moms love that shit.
WHAT TO WEAR AND DO AND EAT
- It gets cold in that exhibit hall. Bring layers. If you tend to run cold, bring a scarf in addition to a hoodie or sweater. The perfect temperature for flitting about and meeting cartoonists and buying things and carrying a backpack is COLD to a person sitting idly behind a table.
- Speaking of sitting idly: get up and move around when you can, or you’ll experience Con Time, where a minute lasts an hour and then suddenly two hours have gone by. Go visit your friends’ tables, or get up and stand outside and look at the sky (the “fake smoke break” is very calming).
- Drink a lot of water. A lot. No, drink even more than that. No, you’re still dehydrated—keep going. Okay. Okay NOW maybe you’re not dehydrated. Bring a refillable water bottle and refill as necessary. Today I learned that they’ll have water coolers for refilling, so BOOM. Easy.
- Bring some healthy-ish snacks if you can; there will be a lot of garbage available and it will be tempting, but if you eat garbage you’ll feel like garbage. I know that’s regular life advice, but basically treat your body as if you’re coming down with the flu. Go real easy. People will come around with delicious homemade cookies, which aren’t garbage, but are still a lot of sugar, so watch out. Also watch your caffeine intake. I’m saying pay a lot of attention to what goes inside your mouth.
- By the way, have you washed your hands? Wash your hands. You’re touching filthy, disgusting money. Wash them again.
- Wash them again.
- Don’t drink too much ha ha okay well not TOO much.
- Not everyone can go to dinner together all the time. If you wait for everyone, you’ll wait forever. Cut and run. Cap your group size or you’ll never find a restaurant.
- Try to have a funny, handsome husband to take with you so people will want to hang out with you (this may only apply to me)
- Don’t be afraid to give a mini-comic to someone you admire, but be quick and gracious and get out of there.
- Spend as much time as you can with your friends that you love and give them lots of hugs and when you leave be sure to tell them how much you love them. This one may also apply only to me but one time I didn’t tell Jess and Eric I loved them and I felt sad for like an hour afterward. This is some Last Lecture shit, I know, sorry. It’s true though.
IF YOU PANIC (YOU WILL PANIC)
- If you’re a cartoonist, you probably get anxiety. SPX is gonna give you a big ol’ puffertail. I learned long ago to reconcile the two facts that SPX is one of my favorite things ever but that I also will panic at least once during the weekend and want to die. Crowds, loud noise, bright lights, famous artists, money, trying to sell stuff you worked on in the solitude of your house to strangers—these things are terrifying when put all together. If you get nervous, you get nervous! Remember that it’s just a thing that’s happening, like allergies or rain. It’s not wrong and you aren’t failing. Go up to your hotel room if you can, or go somewhere quiet, and think some nice thoughts. Take deep breaths. Remember how much fun you’re having. Drink more water. Hide out for like 15 minutes and you’ll calm down.
- If you get scared, drink less, not more. You’ll want to cover by getting drunk, but hoo boy does that ever not work. If you’re worried you won’t look social, remember you’re a PROFESSIONAL. You think Jay-Z gets drunk on the job? No, he’s a business, man, and so are you. No one notices you’re not drinking anyway, they’re too busy worrying about their own shit, I promise.
- If someone gives or trades you a shitty mini-comic or postcard, and you know you’ll never look at it again, throw it away in your hotel room. People think that’s mean, but when I unpack after a con and find something in my suitcase that I’m just going to throw away anyway, it makes me super sad. Just toss that shit, they’ll never know. Be nice when they hand it to you, though. That’s the part they’ll know.
EDIT: I wrote more on minicomics here and here.
This is four times longer than it needs to be. I hope you learned something. I will now take questions, thank you.
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