Monday, August 02, 2004

Unwritten, no more. 

Over in the con report, Parker and I have decided to follow up last years advice for people visiting artists alley with a list of the unwritten rules for the exhibitors therein. Now that these rules are no longer unwritten, you lame bastards no longer have any excuse. Shape up, already. This list, we realize, is a work in progress, and we'd like to hear what you have to say on the subject. Use that little "comment" link at the end of the post and tell us where we've got it wrong. If we can all pull together and get this right, future generations will be sure to mumble their feigned gratitude.

Rule one:
Work from inside your designated area. Don't try to build your booth out into the aisle. Don't bring in a friend or family member to act as a barker. Sure, this sort of thing works, but it sets up an arms race that makes the con more unpleasant for everyone. Today you've got a barker. The next day everyone does. The day after that some dork brings a bullhorn. The result is something like the Tragedy of the Commons.

Rule two:
There are three types of people who you can pitch to.
One: Those who are already looking at you or your table.
Two: Those who are just looking around, and haven't fixed on anyone yet.
Three: Those who are lined waiting up for someone else, but have a lengthy wait ahead of them or are being ignored.

Every con, I hear stories about "those assholes across the aisle." "Every time someone would stop by my booth and flip through a book, they'd yell for him to come get something free." "He reached right over my table to hand her his flyer, just as I was answering her question about my comic."

Rule two-point-five:
The same applies with editors and other cartoonists. If another professional is talking to your neighbor, do not interrupt their conversation to make your pitch. Wait your goddamn turn. And if you're the one speaking with an in-demand person, and your neighbor is doing the right thing and waiting, do him a solid and make the intro, so he doesn't have to do it himself.

Rule three:
Help a brother out. You know who the menaces are. If you see your neighbor being harassed by some convention loon, interrupt. Pull out your cell phone, put it to your ear, say, "Hold on" loudly and hand it to your neighbor. "Sounds important, Bob. You better take this." Then apologize to the menace and suggest he stop by in a couple of hours when the "emergency" is taken care of.

Rule four:
Find out who your neighbor will be before the show opens. If you're like most cartoonists, there's someone in the business you don't like. If you bother to do a little work in advance, you can make the necessary arrangements before the doors open and avoid inconveniencing anyone else. The Wizard show organizers actually have a space on their exhibitor forms for listing your mortal enemies and anyone else you don't want to sit next to.

Rule five:
Put your stuff away. "I'm taking off. Watch my stuff" is fine if you're running off to the bathroom. Any longer than that is unfair to your neighbor. Put your stuff away and put up a sign saying when you expect to return.

Rule six:
You can try to help your neighbor make a sale, but for god's sake, be smart about it. Like Ricky Roma says: "You never open your mouth until you know what the shot is."

Rule seven:
If you've got a line at your booth or table, manage it. They're your fans. Don't let them block your neighbor's space.

This should all be obvious, but as strange as it may seem, there are people who work in comics who lack good social skills. It's an old lesson folks: the people you meet on the way up are the same ones you meet on the way down. hell, if you've got the typical comics career, you're going to spend the next few decades on a trampoline, meeting them over and over again.

Hiya Steve - i just read this by way of the Engine. Since I can't post in the creator's conference, I figured I'd reply here.
This is some great info you've compiled. Someone should make a permanent page for all the con advice you and Parker have put together.
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