Tuesday, April 16, 2013

MoCCA-Fest 2013 Recap

MoCCAfest 2013 Recap and Review

 Last weekend (April 5-6th) was MoCCA-fest in New York.  MoCCA-fest is one of two major conventions in my work calendar, so I made sure to purchase my table as soon as possible, to ensure that I'd be able to attend.  Last year, I shared a table with Eric Lide, and enjoyed the benefit of his having attended SVA, as I got to meet lots of SVA comic artists.  This year, I tabled with Heidi Black, and knew that without the benefit of Eric's network of friends, we'd have to step up our game.  We began our planning and coordinating early, arranging for an entirely new table set up that included matching uniforms.  Heidi and I have tabled together at quite a few cons, and take our planning seriously.  Since we've cooperated over so many convention tables, we've honed our pitches and know how to work a crowd together, but unfortunately, this means change throws us for a loop.  The addition of an additional artist's work and presence caused us a little consternation and a few sales as we struggled to adapt to the addition of a third person at a table designed for two.

Convention Prep


Lollipop buttons designed by myself and Heidi.

Assembling mini comics with the help of a bone folder and a long arm stapler.



No convention crunch is complete without copious amounts of caffination.  
Our preparation began weeks before MoCCA-Fest.  Heidi and I have very different color sensibilities, so to successfully share a table, we have to find common ground.  In the past, we've had space themed tables (Interventioncon), and this time, we decided a candy themed table suited us quite well.  We'd picked up matching rainbow wigs at Anime Weekend Atlanta last September, and figured MoCCA-fest was a great opportunity to break them out.  Heidi sewed matching skirts for us, and we purchased matching t-shirts and sweaters to complete our uniform.  Together we assembled mini comics, including a new volume to the Little Book of Monsters library- book two, the Friendly Book of Monsters, as well as our lollipop buttons and the matching lollipop price signs.


Friday

We left relatively late on Friday evening, flying out of Savannah around 6:30 p.m., landing in Atlanta for our connecting flight, and arriving in New York around 11:00.  We hustled to our hotel room, repacked our table supplies into one bag, and passed out for an early Saturday.

Saturday



The convention floor opened at 9 on Saturday morning, so Heidi, Joseph, and myself headed out early to get the table started.  In tables past, we usually average a set up time of thirty minutes, but since this was an entirely new set up, we wanted a little extra time to get set up.

MoCCA-fest changed hands over the course of a year, and was now under the management of the Society of Illustrators.  This meant some changes for MoCCA-fest, including the bright red curtain shown behind our table.  These curtains separated aisles, and while there was an overall more professional appearance, it also made MoCCA-fest appear more like mainstream cons.  These curtains made it more difficult to see other artists from our table.  Heidi and myself both noticed a dramatic decrease in mini comic trades this year, and speculate that the curtains prevented artists from easily scoping out the convention from their table.

Sales on Saturday weren't bad- they were relatively steady, but we lost a lot of sales due to the fact that our table was located near a corner, a constant distraction for customers.  A lot of people seemed excited about our colorful set up, and we received more compliments than sales.  Parents used our table as a meeting place for their children, but would rarely purchase anything.

The upside of Saturday was that I got to meet Ani Stoll, Hanni Brosh, and several readers in person.  In case I haven't been transparent on this blog--I love meeting new people, especially people I know online!  Though brief, we also got to hang out with Cassie Friere, giving her a copy of The Friendly Book of Monsters so she could see her contributions in print.  All day Saturday, Joseph purchased comics and did interviews with other artists, constantly ducking behind the table to squirrel away minis.

Unfortunately, Heidi and myself were both a little sleep deprived all day Saturday, and neither of us had much of an opportunity to take a break to eat.  The combination of little sleep, over caffination, and low blood sugar meant that I was crashing all day long.  If you want to keep your energy up, it's important to take some breaks and to eat occasionally.

Toward the end of Saturday, our third artist arrived with some minis, and we shuffled our stuff over to give her some table space.  In the past, Heidi and I have made it clear that neither of us are interested in splitting a table more than two ways, but we wanted to offer this friend the opportunity to cut her teeth at selling at conventions.

Sunday


Saturday evening Heidi and myself brainstormed ways to simplify the layout to better integrate our artist friend's work.  By removing some clutter and items that weren't selling well on Saturday, we freed up a bit of space.

Heidi's tower of art, crowned with a sample copy of her beautiful artbook, ElectricAbyss: The Art of Heidi Black, which was available for special convention preorder.


Our gumball machine, my business doilies, and Heidi's promotional bookmarks, as well as some adorable lollipop signs.

Our special lollipop buttons, which sold like lollicakes.





Saturday evening we decided to change up our setup a bit, removing some items and rearranging.  We dedicated an end of the table to Laura's minis, to avoid the confusion having her work in the middle of the table caused.

Sunday was a little more high energy than Saturday, as we got more sleep and showed up at the Armory at 10:30 (the show opened at 11).  During the day, we were able to steal opportunities to eat, as both Laura and Joseph spent more time around the table and we wouldn't have to leave it understaffed.  I took this opportunity to check out a few people I'd been meaning to meet, get a little drawing in, and generally enjoy the convention more.

On Sunday evening, we'd arranged to hang out with comic friends, both new and old, at a local Korean eatery.  Bulgogi and steamed buns were shared with artists like Chris Barrett, Jon Mosley, Jon Griffiths, Eric Lide, Hanni Brosh, Pat LaPierre, Joe Ryan, Stevie Wilson, and Vanessa Stone, as well as comic buddies like Frankie Coleman, Jen, and Paul Segal.

A Round of Thanks to Our Priceless Convention Assistant, Joseph Coco

Even though he isn't a comic artist, MoCCA-fest is one of Joseph's favorite comic events.  We have a lot of friends in the New York area, and MoCCA-fest gives him the opportunity to catch up with them.    Joseph attended MoCCA-fest with us last year and conducted interviews, and this year gave him the chance to reconnect with some of those artists.  For months he's talked about all the mini comics he planned on buying at MoCCA-fest, and he made good on his promise.  If you're interested in seeing some of the swag he acquired during our trip, hang tight, those photos are towards the bottom of this post.

He didn't just spend his time purchasing comics.  He also conducted several interviews, many of which have already been uploaded to Youtube.  Some average questions were:
  • Why they came to MoCCA.
  • Would they recommend other artists in their situtations / skill level come to MoCCA.
  • What was their newest work.
  • What their inspirations were.
These interviews provided the interviewees an opportunity to discuss their work at length and the chance for additional exposure to a new audience.  While Joseph made it a point to interview some old comic friends, he also met some new artists, and I'm pleased to have the opportunity to share those artists with you.

Joseph also photographed the table set ups of booths he enjoyed or found appealing.  I've taken the opportunity to remove myself and Heidi from this selection to reduce redundancy.  You can view these interviews on my youtube channel.


 Appealing Convention Table Set-Ups



Convention Swag














Pros and Cons of MoCCA-fest 2013

Pros

  • Met new comic people
  • Hung out with old comic friends
  • Engaged a potential new audience
  • Sold a fair amount of comics
  • Debuted 7" Kara Chapter 2 
  • Now have a lot of new mini comics
  • Introduced to the work of new artists
  • Got to meet some fantastic people in person
  • Tried a new table setup
  • Created some new wares that sold well
  • Made back table cost
  • Organized and produced another volume in the Little Book of Monsters collection
  • Gave away all postcards and business cards brought, stamped logo on doilies, gave away all those as well
  • Sold out of some charm designs
  • Sold out of some planet designs
  • The MoCCA-fest volunteers were helpful and kind

Cons

  • Spent so much time on Chapter 2 that I didn't have time to make new charms
  • The entire trip was pretty expensive
  • Splitting a table three ways causes table clutter and mis-timed pitches scare away customers
  • MoCCA-fest is beginning to feel like more mainstream comic conventions
  • Atmosphere was not as friendly and open as last year
  • Didn't receive as many trades as last year
  • Travel was extremely expensive

What I learned this year

When you take conventions as seriously as I do, it's important to make sure your table mates take it just as seriously, and are just as prepared.  Conventions like MoCCA-fest can be expensive, with tables costing $300, airfare costing $350, and hotel rooms costing $220 a night.  Even preparing for a convention is very expensive, I spent $200 printing up Chapters 1 and 2 of 7" Kara, reprinting When I was 13: I Rediscovered Cartoons, and this year's ashcan.  Assembly took a bit longer than expected, but the books looked nice because I invested in a bone folder for sharp creases, and a long arm stapler.

Although having an attractive setup brought people to our table, it didn't necessarily mean they spent money.  Being a meeting place for families may seem like a captive audience, but many of the parents attending MoCCA-fest this year had no interest in buying comics for their children.  This meant that the kids touched and read everything on our table, but we received no profit.  Of course, this wasn't always the case, and we met many wonderful parents and children.  Next year, I think it would be beneficial to tone down the spectacle of the table a bit to put the comics themselves in better focus.

The uniforms Heidi and I designed seemed to be a good idea at first, but ended up preventing me from leaving the table.  Whenever I left the table, people assumed I was cosplaying, and I was asked several times which pony I was cosplaying.  Unfortunately, this appears unprofessional at a mini-comic and indie comic convention, and may have reflected poorly upon me.  Because of this, I stayed behind the table.  In addition, the heavy wig I wore both days gave me a migraine and was extremely itchy.

I regretted not having a new charm set to offer at MoCCA-fest this year, as I try to release five new charms every six months.  I'd chosen to focus on finishing chapter 2 of 7" Kara instead, and really tried to push both chapters.  I knew when I made that decision that I would lose a lot of impulse sales, but I'd hoped that the lollipop buttons and space buttons would mitigate those lost sales.

I do not regret attending MoCCA-fest this year, as I got to meet a lot of new people, hang out with old friends, and was introduced to new career opportunities.  Convention season marks an increase in momentum for me, and I try to use it to the best of my advantage.

Recommendations

I recommend plenty of time to prepare for MoCCA-fest, as it's an expensive con to blow off.  I recommend printing and assembling your mini comics ahead of time, including your name, website, and email address if possible.  Preparation is particularly important if you plan on tabling with someone, and cooperation can make for a very successful convention.  I sold a lot of things for Heidi while she was on break simply because I was very familiar with her products and could recite her pitches.

Swag from BookOff

No trip to New York would be complete without visiting Kinokuniya or BookOff.  For those unfamiliar with the chain, BookOff is a franchise of used book stores across Japan.  The New York branch is no exception, and the basement floor is filled with manga and artbooks in both English and Japanese.  Whenever we visit New York, we make sure to leave plenty of space for books.


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