Steam Crow is a publishers/novelty/poster/art company we’ve noticed at shows before because of their great display and attractive merchandise. They are not an outright comics publisher, as they concentrate on buttons, prints, art and so on but they do publish some books. Their style is distinctive — a cute/horror/steampunk kind of mashup . They’ve just posted selling tips from San Diego that EVERYONE SHOULD READ, as it contains solid advice about making sales at the show — despite being across the aisle from a giant movie booth. Although their product line makes this a bit different from a comic-only booth, the reality is that selling ancillary merchandise is a major revenue stream for most comics publishers these days, small and large, and these observations are valuable for just about everyone. A sample:

Tips for sales success
It’s difficult to suggest a “one size fits all” plan, as everybody’s audience and product mix is different. The worst thing that you can do is just try to copy someone else’s model. It pays to be unique… so keep that in the forefront of that skull of yours.
• Don’t roll into SDCC just trying to earn back your table costs; develop a strategy to make a profit right away.
• Make product lines or sets, so you can sell more than just 1.
• Develop products that have a very focused appeal. Don’t try to be everything to everyone.
• Have many different price points – $1 to $100 would be ideal. You should have the most choices at $20 level; we concentrate our efforts there.
• Work on your Con products and plan all year long. You won’t be able to bust out a successful con 3 weeks before the show.
• Be unique. Be unique in your brand. Be unique in your approach. Be unique in your product offerings.
• Go big. Get out of the Small Press area as soon as you 1) have ample product and 2) you have some audience to support it. We started from zero.
• Follow your passion. You can’t fake your stuff based on sales. Make what you’re passionate about.
• Don’t disappear for the rest of the year. Use social media, blogging and such to connect to your followers all year long. You already knew that, though.

Much, much more in the link.


  1. “Overall, we had about a 20% increase in sales from 2010; probably our slowest SDCC growth on record… but it’s still growth.”


  2. For me, exhibiting at a comic book convention is a business operation and not a hobby or a lark. The goal is to make money, not just get my books into people’s hands. And that means going in with a sales plan that evolves from show to show and results in better sales each year. I’d never heard of this company until I read this article on THE BEAT, but it’s a great read. I’m very impressed.

  3. Taken from the article:

    Right on about Square not processing orders, but I have an issue with the article:

    ” Ripping to get rich
    If you want to make a whole lot of money at the con, do this:
    Make prints/t-shirts based on a famous property that you don’t own. Dr. Who is hot this year. Next year, who knows.
    Mashup 2 hot properties – the flavor of the minute. It’s funny, at least for a moment.”

    Are you recommending violating other people’s copyright and trademarks to profit your own booth sales? I love the fact you are taking advantage of property in the public domain, but selling products of other people or corporation’s IP is just not cool.

    Otherwise, nice read.

  4. I’m not suggesting it at all. You’re absolutely right, it’s not cool.

    Read the next few lines in the article along with the bulleted list explaining why it’s a bad idea:

    “But I wouldn’t recommend it; it’s a short-term gain with no brand-building…”

  5. Daniel:

    Point taken. Your booth was fun and very intriguing as I checked it out a few times. You have the courage to admit that’s its short term gain, and that’s great. The challenge I have is that point I mentioned taint what was a great article of hard work and determination mired by a questionable short cut.

    You do great stuff, and I love your mash-ups. Stick to those, brother. My overall point is no one needs Dr Who to sell their art when they have an excellent take on the public domain HP Lovecraft in their booth and on their website ;) ( )

    Next year, I’ll make a point to introduce myself while checking out your new mash-ups.

    Rock on!

  6. Some great points being made. I especially like Steam Crow’s reference to differentiating yourself from other exhibitors.

    And being passionate about your work!!

    Oh, and selling products that are at different price points. Not everyone can spend $50 at your booth, but a variety of interesting smaller items might actually sell faster, and have better markups.

    Might I suggest, for the really ambitious, that you attend other trade shows as a visitor, and see what is being done in those venues.

    There are many modular booth display systems out there that are affordable and will add professionalism to your branding.

  7. I have watched Daniel And Dawna since their very first show. And right from the get-go they were blowing everyone away with what a tight, smart operation they ran.