Convention Report: Anime Boston 2016
My third (in a row!) and final convention appearance of March was Anime Boston, which had probably my highest sales volume in 2015. Since it’s an away show, I had to ship my inventory in advance, and since it’s an awesome city, my wife would also tag along with me for the journey. So sit back, relax, and check out the fun we had at Anime Boston!
I worked from home so we could leave straight for the airport after Beth got out of the office. We headed down to O’Hare, which took a lot less time than I thought, and then encountered the spring breakers in the security line (which took about as much time as I expected). Suffice it to say, we had time aplenty in the airport, so I was thankful that I had downloaded several episodes of a TV show I’m watching on my iPad. Our flight was delayed, due to mechanical issues (an oxygen mask in the cockpit needed to be replaced), so we arrived in Boston a lot later than expected – but that wasn’t terrible. It just means we had dinner at the airport instead of the city.
Upon arriving at the hotel, we got my books delivered to the room. I noticed one of them was not a box I had shipped (even though it had my label on it). This made me a bit nervous, so I opened the box to see what was inside…
A mysterious box sent to my hotel room, which I did not ship….
The box was filled with damaged books, some missing covers, and also a Cream vinyl record
…unfortunately, I discovered most of my single issues had been damaged (some missing covers, others with big chunks of them ripped out), 4 of my Reading with Pictures books were missing ($80 in potential revenue), and they had added a Jesus coloring and activity book, and a 2-disc Cream vinyl record set. Suffice it to say, this was not how I wanted to start my con. But it was late and there was little we could do about it now, so we tucked ourselves in and went to sleep.
We got up super early and headed to Thompkins for breakfast, a little diner right next to the convention center. We had a hearty meal, and then headed inside to drop off our stuff and set up our table. Anime Boston is unique, because you need multiple badges in order to be in artist alley – and getting them can be a bit tricky, since not everyone remembers that artists get priority access to the registration line, as well as get to skip the bag-check line. After jumping through some hurdles, we got our first badge, reminded security we didn’t need to go through bag check (several times), and made our way to artist alley to get our next set of badges.
I was set up right in front of the entrance door to artist alley – the first thing people saw when they entered into the hall – which was either going to be a spot where everyone saw me and kept going, or a spot where people bought from me first. Not surprisingly, it was a mix of the two.
The table is set up, with my lovely wife / assistant for the weekend
We set up the table, and then it was a waiting game until the doors opened and our 12 hours of selling would begin (the artist alley floor is from 10am-10pm Friday and Saturday). Since the Dealer’s Room didn’t open until noon on Friday, the alley was packed for the first two hours of the show. It was an incredible sight to behold, and because I was facing the entrance doors, I got to see the masses of people coming and going from the hall. Many would stop at the table – and thankfully, many would buy, with the newest titles going first and fast – and others would listen to pitches, grab a bookmark, and go about their day.
The alley was mostly filled with print vendors, one of which was next to me, and it was incredible to see how much business she was getting with her fan art prints of popular anime and video game characters. And also how little work she had to do to sell it, compared to comics. Books involve a pitch – people have to know what they’re buying, and if it’s worthy of their time. But a print is an impulse buy; You see it, and if you want it, you buy it. And she was selling them $10 each, or buy 3 get 1 free. Lots of the bundle deals were happening at her table. It invited some interesting conversations between Beth and I about how we should consider laying out our table moving forward.
As the day progressed, I got some repeat customers from last year. Several of which had spent the last year consuming my webcomics, and wanted more. I had one fan in particular who really enjoyed my first webcomic series, The Temple of a Thousand Tears (available online for free), and he requested a commission of his favorite character, Shiri. Additional commissions came in, as well, which made me even more grateful to have my wife on hand to continue selling while I went heads-down to work on art.
Shiri (from my webcomic series, The Temple of a Thousand Tears) sketch card commission
Another satisfied customer
Anti-Venom sketch card commission
The sales rush continued after the Dealer’s Room closed, and the last several hours of the floor were busy in pulses. After the floor closed, however, it was time to celebrate our day of hard work, strong sales, and new friends – by heading to a local burger joint with our friends, Sean and Sara Lindsay (Spinnerette). One of their fans was having drinks with them when we arrived, so we got to chat with her for a bit before gorging ourselves on burgers and fries. After dinner, we all went our separate ways – since it was about midnight by that point.
Morning came much too early for our tastes, but we crawled out of bed and headed to a local Panera bread to grab some breakfast sandwiches before heading into the con to set up. We made our way through the multiple layers of security, reminding them yet again that we didn’t have to stand in the bag check line – we’re ARTISTS, we have tables to set up – and then proceeded to have breakfast at our table.
Beth and I, ready for day 2 of sales!
Sales started off strong and kept strong throughout the entire day. Beth and I worked our tails off, engaging in pitches, sales, general conversation, and checking out all of the amazing cosplays that walked through the door. We also promoted the heck out of our panels for later that day: Making Webcomics, and Self-Publishing 101. Webcomics was across the hall from the artist alley, so I headed in there about 10 minutes early just to make sure they knew I was coming…and found a full room, that just kept getting more full!
Making Webcomics panel, 5 minutes before start. Before they added another 4 rows of chairs. It was standing room only!
The panel was incredible! I was joined by Sean Lindsay from Spinnerette, and we talked about how we got started in webcomics, why the web was right for us, and then spent the bulk of the time answering questions from the audience. Participation was great, with hands flying left and right and people really getting into the material. I always try to keep my panels informative and entertaining, and I think we hit a good mix of the two.
After the panel ended, I invited people back to the table for additional questions, as well as to buy books, and found the table FLOODED with people for about 2-3 hours. Any books we hadn’t sold out of on Friday were gone before the end of this rush of people – especially the new books. Most people were buying one of everything on the table, which is always a great feeling.
Once the traffic at the table started to die down a bit, I headed off to the next panel, joined by Sara Lindsay. Sara has worked a lot of the Spinnerette Kickstarters, and also does a lot of the editing on the series, so we talked about the importance of setting deadlines, print formats, and again spent the bulk of the time answering questions from the audience. Engagement was, once again, very high from the attendees. One guy I even had to cut off, because he kept asking questions in a row – and we had to move on and let other people ask questions. After the panel ended, he of course rushed the table to ask some more questions while we were trying to sell in the panel room, and then again once we were downstairs at the table. We tried to accommodate everyone, and welcomed the mini-rush that followed that panel.
After the panels ended, it was time to get back to selling – and also doing commissions. Traffic on the floor lightened a bit, but picked up again in spurts as the Dealer’s Room closed. Overall, however, nothing compared to that rush we had post-panels, which was intense. Everything after that felt like a breather. Since there were lulls in traffic, the con staff (sitting right next to our table) was kind enough to announce my wife’s birthday over the PA. We both were very tickled by the kindness and generosity of the staff, and they were also fun and goofy neighbors.
A fan’s original character commission request
After the floor closed, Beth and I shut down the table and headed to the Atlantic Seafood Company for some dinner. We had gone here the previous year, and really liked their menu and the atmosphere. We ordered fish – since hey, it’s fresh not frozen – which was fantastic. Since we were celebrating her birthday, they also threw in some free dessert for us. At the end of dinner, we headed back to our hotel for a final night of sleep in Boston.
And then we went out to dinner at the Atlantic Seafood Company, and it was delicious
I ordered the sea bass…I chose wisely!
It was Beth’s birthday, so we got a free dessert. Peppermint ice cream pie!
The final morning of Anime Boston came much too early (as they all do), so Beth went to check us out of the hotel while I grabbed some breakfast from the Panera Bread down the street. We grabbed our packed bags and headed to the con floor, to set up what was left of our inventory. We were mostly sold out at this point, which was nice because it meant we didn’t have to work quite as hard. Books you have to take home always seem to weigh a little more, after all.
The doors opened and a slightly more zombie-like group of kids came in, most probably having stayed up all night listening to Greg Ayres rock it at the rave all night – the only reason they were awake, because they had to check out of the hotel by noon anyway. Beth and I didn’t mind, though, because we were very tired, too.
Sales occurred, people requested commissions, and eventually the floor came to a close. We packed up a little early, since 1) we were basically out of books, and 2) we wanted to beat the cab rush to the airport. It was spring break weekend, after all.
Samuari Jack sketch card commission
My buddy Rick’s brother stopped by the table – awesome!
Airport security was on par with what we experienced on our way to Boston, but we met up with Sean and Sara for some dinner and drinks. It’s always nice to be able to relax and unwind with friends after a show – especially one this incredible. We chatted in the booth until it was almost time for our mutual flights to board, and then we went our separate ways – presumably to pass out in the terminal until they called our boarding group. The flight home was short (especially compared to all the delays we had getting to Boston), and the drive home was quick.
Thank you to Anime Boston, the staffer, volunteers, and the attendees, for an incredible weekend. Here’s hoping to being invited back again next year!