Earlier this week, 2019 Eisner judge Chris Arrant took to Twitter asking comic creators to share tabling tips they’ve learned while at conventions. As there are ever more and more cons, and more and more sales and business done there, tabling has become an art and a science. And here are a few of the great responses that have been shared so far.
A common tip that has been shared is in regards to the set up and operation of one’s table:
1) practice setting up your banner stand ahead of time so you don't decapitate your neighbors/yourself 2) keep your snacks close or random people will help themselves without asking 3) if you have kids throw a bag of legos under the table and they'll be set.
— ✨A M Y C H U✨ (@AmyChu) January 30, 2019
Try to have things at several price points so that everyone is able to afford to walk away with something. Comics on the low end to original art on the high end.
— tomfeister (@tomfeister) January 30, 2019
I am not a creator but I am at the booth selling for creators. You start selling when you set up your booth, so have a nice professional booth. Once people come up to your booth, you need to be able to sell your comic in 20 secs.
— Lisa Y. Wu (@TheWuReport) January 29, 2019
Not a pro, but as a fan, 1) have business cards that 2) are representative of your work and 3) if possible match your booth display. Lots of artists lost sales because I couldn’t remember the next day where they were or why I took their card in the first place.
— Katelyn Bruhn (@GoFlyAKate) January 30, 2019
Don’t be discouraged if your first tables aren’t massively profitable. Building up a fan base and experience takes time so be patient and believe in your voice and your work!
— Jorge Draws Comics (@JorgeSantiagoJr) January 30, 2019
3-pocket moneybelts on you and your staff. Keep the cashbox somewhere safe where it's far less likely to walk off than right there on the table. Disclaimer: Not a creator, just local comic con staff who's over the years seen far too many cashboxes go missing.
— NazisShouldExplodeAndDie (@SpookyEvilOne) January 30, 2019
As a fan, please make sure your name is clearly visible either on your banner or on the table. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve wandered artists alley looking for a creator to sign a book and walked right past them because I have no idea what they look like!
— David Rowe (@dprowe) January 30, 2019
One thing that helped me was displaying my prints, books, etc. vertically instead of just piling everything flat on my table. I invested in some display racks and noticed an increase in customers/sales. People ten feet away will only notice things facing them at eye level.
— Cedric Hohnstadt (@cedrichohnstadt) January 30, 2019
An open view of YOU on the other side of the table is important. The customer feels awkward trying to interact with you thru that tiny window you created behind your work. Have your table be a little more "open" can greatly improve engagement (& looks less cluttered)
— Lance Corvus (@CorvusInk) January 30, 2019
Bring a bag of spare change – most customers will be paying with larger bills.
It is hard to draw and engage customers at the same time – its handy to have a wing(wo)man with you to chat to customers as you sketch. (Writer/artist combos are perfect)
— Michael Arbuthnot (@michaelarby) January 29, 2019
I keep my display minimalistic and easy on the eyes.
I walk away and walk back to my table a lot during conventions, to see what vibe ppl get visually as they walk towards or around my table.
I try my best not to draw, look up (,smile) and be as interactive as possible.
I try. pic.twitter.com/EAwRk2cYsZ
— Eric Epotǝ (@EricEpoteArt) January 30, 2019
Another common type of tip shared has been about the importance of audience engagement:
Never be afraid to engage with someone on the most basest of levels. My very first comic sale EVER at a Con was recognizing that a person was wearing the shirt of my college. We got talking and he bought a comic.
Sports, comics, clothing, if you see something to connect, do it
— Todd Black #BlackMagicWolfClub (@Guardians_Comic) January 29, 2019
Engagement is HUGE, talking to people and connecting over anything at all is important. The point of tabling is to grow your audience, not to make $$$, so try to think of it in terms of how many people you talked to about your books or your art.
— Jeff Rider | ECCC NN-13 (@cloudwrangler) January 29, 2019
Be able to make a 30-second sketch for a kid who is burned out. Spidey, Batman, Deadpool. Give to the child for free. You'll save a parent's day, you'll be a kid's hero, and they will remember you. It's not for money but goodwill. It pays off.
— Gregory Dickens (@GregoryDraws) January 30, 2019
Also, learn to be comfortable in telling someone who may be doing something wrong (like putting a water bottle on your comics or placing their bookbag on your table) to kindly remove it. Also explore ways to comfortably end conversations for those who tend to linger too long.
— Marc Lombardi (@marclombardi) January 29, 2019
To have a great attitude and mindset when at the table. If you are frustrated, upset, clearly uninterested, negative or don't even raise your head to the customers, they feel that. Be a genuine person. Act as if they aren't going to buy anything. They can feel when you are –
— STEGGY & STAR KITTY➡️⭐AnimeMilwaukee⭐ (@SmolStarKitty) January 30, 2019
I'm essentially a newbie, but I've learned that if you're also drawing at your table (not just seling) it helps to have a little sign up inviting people to say hello even if it looks like you're busy.
— Chris Hazeldine (@Brotacon) January 30, 2019
Have fun and don't worry too much about making a sale! Just by being there you're promoting yourself, so don't worry bout trying to push your stuff and just be genuine when talking to people :)
It's a great and humbling experience and I'd recommend it to anyone!
— Blue Bolt Comics (@BlueBoltComics) January 30, 2019
If you (particularly as an artist who may be busting your way through commissions) are too busy to look up and chat with potential customers, make sure you have someone tabling with you who can make eye contact and talk to people.
— Marc Lombardi (@marclombardi) January 29, 2019
Heads up and keep off that phone/tablet as best you can.
— ABT ☕️Commissions Closed (@AdamBryceThomas) January 30, 2019
Tips regarding networking with other tabling creators while at a convention have also been popular:
Might be obvious unless you’re shy & awkward like myself, but try and talk to guys you work with. Make friends. It makes the job so much better…. I wasted so much time being a wallflower…still hard
— clay mann (@Clay_Mann_) January 30, 2019
Make friends with the tables near you. Help each other.
Also, I always try to set up a signal with someone near me when I’m tabling alone in case I can’t call security myself but need them to.
Better safe than sorry.
— Mairghread Scott (@MairghreadScott) January 30, 2019
And be nice to the people who work there. They deserve it, plus they are sometimes in the position to recommend where to go & who to meet. Be the one who gets remembered (may take time, but it’s worth it to get that reputation)
— Nina Johnson (@ninaleejohnson) January 30, 2019
networking! I find it exhausting though, so I push myself to meet no more than 3-4 on each con; this implies leaving the table if you already know your neighbours, (afterparties aren't a thing in my country), and I find it challenging enough, but rewarding in the long run
— LittleBrisby (@LittleBrisby) January 30, 2019
As someone who attended their first convention last year, and got sick the week afterwards, I can definitely say some of these tips regarding self care are spot on:
Bring a bottle of hand sanitizer. Wash your hands regularly.
— Geoffrey Mason (@gmasonFL) January 30, 2019
If you get a lunch break, don’t do it behind the table. Use this time to get up and if possible leave the building and go outside for a sensory reboot.
— Carter (@attila71) January 30, 2019
Wear sensible shoes. Not comfortable, not flattering … sensible.
I always brought spare socks for late in the day and I had the good carpet. You will be walking. (Awesome thread. Lots of good advice!)
— Patty Jeres (@PJeres) January 30, 2019
I'm not a creator but when I learned to respect my human need to sleep, my con experiences improved dramatically. No sleep makes David a dull boy.
— David Harper (@slicedfriedgold) January 29, 2019
Bring an emergency kit – nothing worse than getting to a con and getting sick, with no pharmacy for miles! Mine has: painkillers (varying strengths and types), antacids, immodium, eyedrops, plasters, antiseptic cream, and sanitary towels/tampons. It's also good to bring extra for
— Milmo @Troobs 2/2 (@Heart_of_Time) January 30, 2019
Don't talk your work down! Even if it's a bit older and you've improved since then, don't denigrate your work, especially if you're selling it at the table. If you're not showing faith in your own work, others won't either – and it won't be limited to that one old thing!
— Chris Manson (@ChrisLauManson) January 30, 2019
Security is there for a reason. If someone is overstepping boundaries, call them.
Bring water and a bag for trash (not all cons provide them and they’re needed most).
Avoid eating at the table. You may think you’re free but someone always turns up mid bite.
— Pia Guerra (@PiaGuerra) January 29, 2019
If you have deadlines Stay at home and do the work. Cons are the dessert of comics not the main meal:)
— Oeming (@Oeming) January 30, 2019
I'm not a pro or an amateur, I am only a fan. To artists: don't let fans pressure you when sketching. If you are pressed for time, tired, or anything else, don't do more than you are willing to. Be firm in what you are willing to do.
— Kai Williams (@Awesomekai141) January 29, 2019
Conventions aren’t just time for work, and creators expressed tips for when it comes to event parties:
Go to the after-parties, even if you aren’t much of a drinker. That’s where you really get the chance to meet other creators and it beats watching three hours of True Detective in your hotel room.
— Mark Russell (@Manruss) January 30, 2019
So I totally agree, but FYI as a woman this can be tricky. I’ve been groped and propositioned (at Thought Bubble even!) at the most unexpected of moments. Best to buddy up in advance with people you trust and learn how to move in and out of groups quickly.
— ✨A M Y C H U✨ (@AmyChu) January 30, 2019
I would also say, try to show some sense at the parties. I am a non-drinker, non-partier, and I have seen a lot of people damage their career or reputation by going a little too bonkers at the hotel bar after the con. Not judging, just be careful.
— GAIL SIMONE (@GailSimone) January 30, 2019
My biggest regret is binge drinking at con after parties, the dangers & ruined relationships from that, then being too sick to table on day 2. I don’t know what I could have done differently back then, as I wasn’t in control of my drinking, but…try to stay professional.
— Tatiana Gill (@TatsGill) January 30, 2019
Whether a convention veteran or rookie, in following these tips you’re sure to have a fantastic time while tabling.
Aaron is an arts journalist who loves to write about superhero media as well as film and television. He’s been collecting comics since he was nine and is from Lisbon Falls, Maine. Though he hasn’t started the game yet he’s pretty sure he’ll cry once he begins Kingdom Hearts III.