Derek Reynolds

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What I Learned From My First Time Tabling (Canzine 2017)

It was my first time ever tabling and selling my zines and mini-comics. Canzine 2017 was a bit of a rollercoaster but overall a really fun experience, and probably the best place for me to start out. Here’s what I learned…

Covers

Obviously covers are super important, I’m a designer so I should especially know this, but when it comes to my mini comics a lot of the reason I do them is so that they can be a little messier and less refined than my design work. That being said after my first time tabling, I was reminded just how important this is. I had a few different mini comics, and time after time people picked up my least favourite one the most, because it has the simplest/easy to understand cover.

My ghost husband Mini comics

I definitely like My Ghost Husband #1 (left) more, but in this setting, and given the small size of the comic, my guess is that it takes people longer to process what it is than #2’s cover on the right.

Sidenote: I will probably retire this copy of MGH #2 because I actually ended up completely rewriting it and have created a story/series that so far runs from issue 1 – 7.

And for my other 2 mini comics, one didn’t even have a cover, and as you can guess it didn’t get picked up often despite the fact that it has both gay dudes kissing and cats in it. This cat comic was the second most picked up (I think that might just be because it is smaller than the MGH issues, so less easy to see).

mini mini comics cats and gay dudes

Stay Positive

For the first half of the show it seemed like no one was interested in stopping at my table. This was kind of a bummer because it was my first time out, and I even thought to myself at one point “well this was a failed experiment” and “I should probably not do this again”. Regardless, I did my best to keep smiling, be friendly and keep an open mind. This was my first time out, and no-one really knew who I was or what I was doing so it’s kind of to be expected.

The second half of the show went much better and more people stopped by my table, looked at my work, talked with me about it and even bought some stuff, but I think if I had been sulky or didn’t engage with people I probably wouldn’t have done very well in the second half either.

Not everyone is into what you’re doing and thats okay

I can’t be sure what happened in that first half of the show, but I think it was largely a flow of people who weren’t interested in my aesthetic or the type of work I was doing. A lot of people stopped at the tables near me for stickers, prints, and more refined comics work and then walked right past mine. I had messier/looser looking comics and an unconventional format zine, and while it did make me sad people didn’t stop, I totally get it.

That being said later in the show people started to come to my table, and were more interested in my work. I had some really great conversations with people and even made a few sales. That leads me to my next point.

Show people the value of your work, especially if it’s a format they’re not used to

My zine QYVR is an unconventional format. It has pieces by different creators in different formats assembled together based on a theme. It also has work that was made collaboratively or through group activities. These aren’t things that are apparent at first glance, so I made a point of giving succinct context for the project if people were even remotely interested. I found that giving this brief explanation and opening up a copy of the issue showing all the cool stuff inside made a huge difference, both in terms of sales and even just in positive interactions.

From QYVR #1 Rainbows and Kittens

Ask a friend to come visit at a strategic time, and tell them to bring you a hot beverage

This was a huge morale booster. I basically sat at my table from 1-7pm, and the one coffee I brought with me was definitely not enough to last this long. My friend came and brought me an earl grey tea, and both seeing a friendly face and having the caffeine were so so appreciated.

Good advice I read/heard before hand

  • Bring Change – I brought 100$ in 5s 2s and 1s (I didn’t use anything at all close to that much, but better safe than sorry, and I now have extra coins for laundry!)
  • Bring a table cloth, I got mine at the dollar store
  • Try to prototype your table space beforehand so you can troubleshoot your display/see what you’re missing

Stuff I probably should do next time:

Get someone to watch the table for an hour so I can go circulate/buy stuff/network. I didn’t do this this time, partially because I was so tired and also because I wanted to make sure I was at my table as much as possible.

Further workshop my table setup. Mostly I think I need to streamline display, maybe add some subtle signage to help people navigate my work easier. For my minis I think I might keep a sample copy loose of each, and then keep the rest in bags to keep things more organized.

Get some cards that have links to my website/Instagram. My normal business cards don’t really fit this setting, so having some that have just my name/website/Instagram would be good I think.

What’s next?

I think I’m going to apply for Vancaf! It’s a curated comics festival, so I might not get in, but I’m going to try.

I’m going to do a mini comic before then. I’m thinking 5×7″ size with like 8-16 pages, so still small, but much bigger than my current comics (which are only about 3.5″ tall)

Finally, I’m going to upload some of my zines and comics work on my website so people can see some of the stuff I’m doing without having to physically be where I am! So keep an eye out for that!

Shout outs! I arbitrarily picked a table spot at Canzine and had two lovely people sit next to me. @its.spelled.blakey and @brightsidedoodles were very nice and encouraging to a new person like me. @jonidraws also gave me some really good advice before the event which I am very thankful for. Check them out!

I also listened to a lot of podcasts in preparation for this event and/or to reinforce my motivation, Dirty Old Ladies has many episodes on comics conventions, Read and Distribute helped me get in the zine mindset, and local comics podcast The TradeWaiters was great entertainment to listen to as I put together all my minis/zines.

And of course Thanks Canzine + Broken Pencil for putting on this really cool festival!

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