Pittsburgh Zine Fair

My Fall 2012 Comic Conventions Recap

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

I exhibited at five comic conventions over the course of two months this fall, from the smallest of the small to the biggest of the big. Here's how it all went down.

Small Press Expo (September 15-16 - Bethesda, MD)
Fawn helped me out at my cozy half-table on the show floor. Thx Fawn!!

This was my first year at SPX. Two of my friends (Ross and Fawn) were awesome enough to swing by Pittsburgh on their way from Rochester, NY and take me to Bethesda with them.

I'd only heard good things about the show, but I still approached it with mental caution because the same convention can mean different things to different people. While I was amazed at the passion of both the exhibitors and attendees, I didn't click with the SPX culture. It's very bro-ish -- lots of in-jokes and references I didn't get, plus the camaraderie felt forced.

I was surprised to see so many SPX vendors selling crafts and other items that weren't small press comics. That seems like a general trend at the comic conventions I've attended over the past few years. Crafts have a huge presence at these shows.

I sold okay at this show but not great -- I didn't make back the $150 I plopped down for the table. But I did get to meet some fans of my podcasts and comics, which was by far the awesomest part of being an exhibitor.

Pittsburgh Zine Fair (September 22 - Pittsburgh, PA)
Don't be deceived -- I'm only holding five one-dollar bills.

I helped organize the second annual PGH Zine Fair along with Andy, Elizabeth, and Thom. Last year was a great start, but this year we wanted to build a bigger and better show for the zine and comics creators of Da Burgh.

And we did. Turnout was great at my alma mater, Carnegie Melon University. There were tons of students (from CMU and beyond), self-publishers, craft-makers, and casual browsers packed into the University Center gym.

The vibe was fantastic. It managed to feel both big and intimate at the same time. I had a ton of conversations with people walking the floor of the show, and I got to spend the day with my fantastic friends here in the Pittsburgh comics scene.

I did slightly less business in one day of the PGH Zine Fair than I did in two days at America's most prominant small press comics convention, SPX. So that was a plus.

New York Comic Con (October 11-14 - New York City, NY)
Two banners delivered a double-shot of AudioShocker branding at NYCC.

My first NYCC experience in 2011 was incredible. The show and its attendees had so much positive energy, and I had a ton of fun exhibiting.

This year was different. Like last year, I was a part of the Podcast Arena. Unlike last year, we were in an odd place on the show floor this time around, on the edge of a no man's land of creativity.

While the spectacle was still impressive, my lackluster table placement and the general disinterest of NYCC attendees meant that I did embarrassingly bad business as an exhibitor -- $35 over four days. I shit you not.

But the fun kicked in when the exhibition closed up shop each day. The great times I had hanging out every night more than made up for what I lacked in sales.

N.E. Geek Expo (November 3 - Jefferson, OH)
We split our table three ways, crafting a smorgasbord of self-published comics.

I exhibited at the Geek Expo for the second year in a row. I wasn't planning on setting up this year, but it's only a one-day event and Jefferson is a short drive from the Steel City.

Last year, the N.E. Geek Expo was surprisingly good for business. But this year? $19. Between the table fee, gas, and food, I spent more than I made.

Which is fine for a show like SPX, which also adds networking opportunities and lots more to the equation. But the hyper-local Geek Expo doesn't have much to offer other than another way to get my comics into the hands of new fans.

Still, I wasn't disappointed that I exhibited again. I still enjoyed myself and had a few good conversations. There are worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon than talking about comics and sharing your work with new people.

Pittsburgh Comic & Collectibles Show (November 11 - West Mifflin, PA)
My self-published comics, precariously stacked next to each other.

Finally, there was the Pittsburgh Comic & Collectibles Show last weekend, which will go down in Nick Marino infamy as the least business I've ever done at a convention -- $0. Zip. Zlich. Nada.

Granted, the table was free. So it wasn't a losing proposition for me. And like I said about the Geek Expo, there are worse ways to kill time than talking about comics and sharing my work with new people.

This was the first time I've exhibited at this convention, which is also a hyper-local affair. It's held in one of Pittsburgh's many shopping malls... and, come to think of it, I've never done a mall show before. So I guess that's two firsts.

Aside from the fact that the converted department store smelled kinda gross, it was a really cool space with a groovy bunch of exhibitors.

In Conclusion...

I learned a lot from my experiences at these comicons -- about fans, about conventions, about myself. It's tough standing behind a table for hours on end, promoting characters and stories that people have never heard of before. And, in my case, often promoting formats that people have never heard of either.

Will I go back next year? Hmmmmmm... maybe to one or two of them. I'm currently moving to the west coast, and not all of these conventions make sense for me if I'm living in Los Angeles.

But regardless, I value all of the experiences I had this fall con season. And I'm looking forward to trying out new comic conventions in the future!

UPDATE: I forgot to add something! At SPX I was interviewed by a reporter from The Daily Dot about the persistence of print comics in the face of digital comics becoming more and more prevalent.

Catch me at the 2012 Pittsburgh Zine Fair

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Last year, I helped organize the first Pittsburgh Zine Fair. It was a fun community event with fantastic attendance and a ton of enthusiastic exhibitors.

I liked that process enough to help organize the show again this year. Together with Andy Scott, Thom DeLair, and Elizabeth Brophy, I've been working to build a bigger and better zine and indie comics event for Pittsburgh artists.

This year's Pittsburgh Zine Fair takes place tomorrow -- Saturday, September 22 -- from 11am-7pm in the University Center's Wiegand Gymnasium at Carnegie Mellon University, my alma mater. I've really enjoyed organizing this year's show, including my nostalgic session postering CMU's campus.

In fact, I got so caught up in organizing the event that I forgot to register to be a vendor. Whoops!! Luckily, as an organizer, I've learned that there's always a last minute cancellation. Someone bowed out earlier this week and now I'll be sharing my wares after all.

What will I have on my table? Everything that I brought to the 2012 Small Press Expo last weekend and more, including some of my weirder and more obscure offerings. Frankly, I'm kinda winging it this time around so I don't have a full list for you. Just come hit up my table and see what I've got!!

Anyway, I've been a part of promoting the 2012 PGH Zine Fair through various media, like this promo video (featuring me half-naked... I'm sitting on the toilet but you can't see the toilet so it just looks like a whole lotta butt cheek):

I also recorded this shaky solo video showing vendors how to get to the Wiegand Gym, which is a bit tricky to find if you don't already know CMU's layout:

And, of course, I podcasted about the event. Andy Scott and I were joined by my good friend and vendor at this year's show, Virginia Shields, to discuss what people can expect from the 2012 PGH Zine Fair. Give it a listen!!

One last thing -- we're currently running a Pittsburgh Zine Fair Kickstarter campaign to help fund some of the awesome programming we have planned for this year and to ensure that the show continues into the future. Please donate!!! Every donation over $5 gets you cool schwag.

That's it. There's my 2012 Pittsburgh Zine Fair pre-hype. If that didn't convince you, then I don't know what will. See you at the show!!

My Pittsburgh Zine Fair 2011 Report

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

Pittsburgh Zine Fair 2011

My friend Dan mentioned that he hasn't seen any reports from the 2011 Pittsburgh Zine Fair yet, so I figure I'll post an impromptu one from the perspective of an organizer and exhibitor at the show.

This debut PGH Zine Fair was the baby of Erin Oh, who started working on it back in June (I think). I joined the organizing crew in early July, and attended meetings every Monday night at Pittsburgh Filmmakers in North Oakland.

While Pittsburgh's had other recent small press events in the past few years (SPF and PIX come to mind), this Zine Fair was dedicated to zines above all else, making it a bit different than its predecessors. Also, it stands out from the pack by being a wholly volunteer and organization-free project. There was no backing company -- profit or non-profit -- involved.

Anyway, we all worked hard to design the best show possible with limited resources, and I think Erin did a fantastic job leading the show to definitive success. I was really impressed with the attendance. I would say it was a good-to-great turnout for a random late summer Thursday evening. Also, because the main vendor space was tightly packed, it felt really well attended.

The crowd was more bohemian than I expected. I'd consider myself one of the less traditional people that I can think of in the Pittsburgh comics scene... but the Zine Fair crowd made me feel like I was one step away from wearing a suit and tie to the event.

I'd be lying to you if I said I got a good feel for the material that was there. Honestly, I didn't walk around that much. But I did see a pretty wide range of stuff, from minicomics to photocopied prose to art books to perfect-bound novels.

Personally, I did a very modest business. But I always do a very modest business. And the Zine Fair was on par with how I normally perform. One friend of mine did what I consider to be very strong business (and it was her first show), while another did very weak business (and this was his umpteenth show). I fell somewhere in between.

And there were more than zines! We had DJs (I was one of them). The first DJ to go on was AWESOME! She should have played the whole show. The next DJ didn't show up, so a show organizer went on next. I was last. 

We used a PA system, which was great for microphones... but not so great for music. The speakers couldn't handle low or high sounds (it's just not in their dynamic range), so half of my tunes sounded great and the other half sounded empty. But it was awesome that we even had a PA at the show in the first place, so kudos for that.

We also had free food (not my style of grub but it was kickass that we had some), water (I love water), and workshops. I was too busy manning my space to go to any of the programming, but I assume it all went well. I didn't hear any complaints!

Also, there was a raffle, and what I found notable about the raffle was how PACKED the room was when we announced the winners. It was a healthy mix of vendors and attendees, and that was really nice to see.

Here are a few more pics from the Zine Fair on the main site. And here are the same pics plus more on Andy Scott's blog. And here's some personal reflection on the show from Wayne Wise, putting the event in a historical context.

All in all, I had a good time and I felt like the show did terrific for its first year. I really hope we can bring it back again next year and make it an even greater success!