Last weekend, the good folks at Panel One put on a small expo designed just for comic creators:  No celebrities, toys, gadgets, gewgaws, or indeed anything that wasn’t directly related to a creator’s independent comics work.

It was amazing.

As an Independent (Indie!) creator, I’m used to having to fight through a sea of oversaturation in my medium, to shout at the top of my small marketing lungs just to be heard above the noise of the bigger, more glamorous creative juggernauts; at the Panel One show, I didn’t have to do that: the audience was already engaged before they even walked in the door.

I didn’t have to explain myself, is the best way of putting it; the folks who came to Panel One knew comics, and were interested in seeing our stuff right from the get-go.  TWICE I launched into my spiel where I normally describe my books by tagline and synopsis and both times, the books were off the rack and on the table for me to sign, with money being pushed into my hand, before I’d even finished my intro.

WHY CAN’T THIS BE EVERY DAY? I thought to myself.

I sold one third of my TOTAL sales from the four-day Calgary Expo in ONE day at Panel One. Cue the hip hip and the hooray.

I was invited to join a panel on “Marketing Your Comic: Successes and Failures” with some great folks including Renegade Comics and Erin Millar.  We discussed methods of getting the word out, things we tried that worked and some that didn’t work so well.  For me, I found that the “One Post Per Day” on social media — ALL my social media– goes a long way toward being front of mind; other creators varied in how they engaged their audiences.

One thing I would say to my fellow creators is to remember that how your audience perceives YOU, the creator, influences their relationship with your work. If you’re engaging, they will be engaged. If you’re positive, they will view your work positively.  However, if you seem to hold the opposite opinion to every single topic that’s brought up, if you’re constantly difficult, unapproachable, and abrasive, people will view you negatively. I watched it happen during the show– I felt bad for the creator in question, but ultimately that’s a lesson I think they have to figure out on their own.

Remember: It’s not just your work. This isn’t an art gallery where “the piece speaks for itself”– these are comics, books, stories, and people want to know who’s behind them.

I loved the Panel One festival. We were treated like legitimate creators, the way we all fantasize about being treated as we strive to distinguish ourselves from the big and loud world dominated by labels like Marvel and DC.

I would have liked to have been able to have banners behind my table to make my name more prominent, but that’s more a restriction of the space, not the show, and I will plan signage and such accordingly for next year.

Hats off to the organizers; I will definitely be back.

Michael