The Ragamuffin Speaks: Being a Model Convention-Goer

With the biggest comic con in the UK fast approaching I thought I’d write a bit about con etiquette this week. However, I’m not writing this from the point of view as a con attendee…so there’ll be no patronising exhortations to attend to your personal hygiene here…I’m writing this from the point of view of an exhibitor.

I’ve exhibited at a lot of conventions over the years, from tiny conventions held in cafés to huge American conventions in massive convention centres. The vast majority of attendees are polite and courteous individuals who it’s a complete pleasure to meet. However, there are a few patterns of behaviour that will silently cause an exhibitor’s blood to boil.

1. Our table does not exist for your convenience.

Yes, we know your bags are heavy, but we want you to put them down on top of the comics and graphic novels we’re trying to sell even less than you want to carry them. There’s a whole lot of floor space at most conventions, there are often empty tables too, if you really, really need to put your bags down somewhere, please use one of those options. This goes for portfolios too. If someone behind a table at a convention has generously agreed to give up their time to review your portfolio, then please hand it to them over the table. Do not just plonk it down on top of their wares. Equally, don’t put your bag down on top of their comics while you fish your portfolio out of it. Basically, just be respectful of an exhibitor’s table space. Be aware that they have probably invested a fair amount of money in the stock that’s covering it, and if you crease, tear or otherwise damage that stock then people aren’t going to want to buy it. You’ll probably also mess up the display that they spent hours trying to perfect before the show. So, yeah, don’t put your stuff on people’s tables.

2. We love talking to you, but…

Please don’t table hog. We all love talking to people at conventions, it’s one of the best parts of a show, but when someone’s been talking to you for a good half an hour, while completely blocking anyone else from looking at what you’re there to sell, and they show no signs of moving whatsoever, it creates what can best be described as “an awkward situation.” Trust me, if a creator has reached a point where they have to ask you to at least move to one side so as not to block the table then they’ve probably already been fuming inside for quite some time. Be aware of your surrounding. If people approach a table where you’re having a conversation, step to one side so they can see what’s there. Be aware of the time, you can always come back later, but cons can get very busy and completely monopolising a creator’s limited time is not on.

3. Is this an official meeting place?

Hey, your costumes look great, and we’re so glad you’re having a great time with your friends, but did you know that we’re here to sell comics and nobody can see our table because of you? Seriously, we all love the party atmosphere at conventions, but if you’re part of a big group…or you run into friends at a show and suddenly find that you’ve formed a big group…please be aware of your surroundings. This point is very much similar to the one above, except that the people behind the table will be even more silently annoyed with you because you’re not even paying them any attention…you’re just in the way. All cons have spaces where you can gather in groups and talk, so please try and move your group to one of those spaces.

4. Honesty is not the best policy.

I sometimes wonder if people think before they speak. I mean, I know it’s a cliché that geeks have poor social skills but when you exhibit at a lot of cons you come to understand why people think that. On the whole, it’s not true…but every now and then you get a real doozy. So here’s a quick list of things not to say or ask at a convention:

  • How come I’ve never heard of you?
  • Why are these so expensive?
  • This art is rubbish, my kid could do better.
  • Are you the artist? (Asked to the writer, before wandering off disinterestedly).
  • Have you got any Batman comics? (To a publisher that isn’t DC).
  • So, like, do you make these yourself or something?

That’s just a small example of some of the ridiculous things that have been said to me at cons. Just, please, think before you speak. Remember that the people behind the tables at conventions are just that, people. Remember that they’ve often put years of hard work into the things they’re trying to sell. If it’s not your thing, that’s perfectly fine, but there’s no need to be rude. As a wise man once said, it’s okay to not like things, it’s okay, but don’t be a dick about it.

5. Please stop tidying my table.

Maybe this is a really personal bugbear, I’m not sure…but, please, for the love of god, stop tidying my table! I like to fan books out so they make a nice display. I like to have a book leaning against a pile of other copies of that book so that it’s visible from across the aisle. I like to have my table arranged the way that I’ve set it out. I’ve been doing this a long time. I know how I want it. So stop straightening it out! Stop neatening everything up into perfect little piles. That’s not how I want my table. If that’s how I wanted it, that’s how it would be. You’re not being helpful. Thank you…but…please stop…

6. Conventions are a great place to discover new things!

Let’s revisit one of the things from that list in the fourth point – “How come I’ve never heard of you?” We don’t know! We’ve been at almost every convention in the last seven years, we have a vocal online presence, we’re one of the biggest things on the UK indie comics scene! How come you’ve never heard of us? Oh, wait…you’re only interested in books by Marvel and DC, that probably explains it. But, hey, you’re at a comic convention…you can get product from Marvel and DC in every comic shop and every good book shop up and down the land! Toy shop shelves groan with merchandise from the Avengers and Batman! You’re at a comic convention…you have a chance to find something new. Something different. Something you’ve never tried before. Give it a go. Pick some books up, have a flick through, talk to the creators. You’re not obliged to buy something just because you’ve shown an interest, but you never know, you might find something amazing!

And that’s about it, really…I’m sure I’ll think of a million more point after I submit this, but this’ll do for now. Hopefully I’ll see some of you at London Super Comic Convention in a couple of weeks, where I’ll be launching two new book, Hero: 9 to 5 – Quietus and The Intergalactic Adventures of Zakk Ridley, which are both available to pre-order now. Sorry…couldn’t resist a little plug… ‘Till next time, I’ve been me and you’ve been you and it’s been great!

Ian D Sharman

Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Fandom Wanderers.

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