Montreal Comic Con 2018 Post Mortem

First time to Montreal! One of the reasons I was able to do this con without flying from Calgary to Montreal and back was to pair it with a brief visit (read: not a vacation, worked almost the entire time!) to Nova Scotia. Jessie decided she wanted to tag along and check out Montreal, so we arranged a little road trip.

I’m a little late getting this post mortem up! Since coming back to Calgary from Montreal (beginning of July), I’ve been to the mountains in BC and beared the heat of Mexico – for two different weddings! Yes, what a hard life to lead. I’m back now, feeling a lot more refreshed and ready to create more books.

To follow my sales journey and to see how I did at past conventions, click here for the full list of articles.
I talk conventions with my BFF on my new podcast, BUSINESS BFFs. Listen here.

General Impressions

We left on Wednesday morning. Jessie did a lot of the driving but I ALSO DID SOME TOO! Returning readers may remember that I have a driving anxiety.

The smile is a lie I was dying inside the whole time.

We had a two-hour detour to Fredericton and had a tasty GF lunch at a vegetarian/vegan-friendly cafe called Issac’s Way. It was nearly 40 degrees C outside. Heat wave!

After a night in Edmundston, we arrived in Quebec. The heat followed us. I was very concerned about the crows having a leisurely stroll across the pavement, especially once we crossed the New Brunswick-Quebec border. Why couldn’t they fly??

Jessie said, “Don’t slow down, don’t worry about that crow there, he’s just eating that dead bird!”

Otherwise, it was a real nice day! We are lucky to live in such a pretty country.

Jessie and I successfully navigated the highways and made it into downtown Montreal. We stayed across the road from the Palais de congres, in a swanky Airbnb adjacent to the hotel. We paid extra to park the car underground. FYI, it’s about $20 a day to park in downtown Montreal.

After a bite, Jessie and I pushed on and set up the display.

Display

The Banner Saga continues because I actually lost my banner at the end of Anime North. How? We think that during pack-up, I may have stupidly left it in the parking lot. I remember carrying it out of the convention centre at least. I’m more upset that I lost the carrying case, because I can always reprint the banner (even though it’s yet another expense). That hard case, I bought it from Staples as part of a set to repair my old banner, and it was almost as much as the actual new banner. SIGH EVERYTHING IS FINE.

I was a bit concerned that without a banner, my display would be lacking. I think it wasn’t terrible, especially since we had the new wings Jessie made last year!!

Little wings be like, “I’m just like my mom!”

Before we left, Jessie made some last minute repairs to my box set. I left behind the biggest box in favour of a second two-box set that we actually bought and painted from Michael’s. Jessie spray-painted the stenciled purple and white logo, so pretty!

We spent about 45 minutes rearranging the boxes and the wings to create something workable within the space. The wings are really challenging. They actually come with shelves but we forgot them (not that we REALLY needed them in this small space). It takes several shows to figure out how to use a piece successfully. So I put some books up there, some signs. We found the signs had the most impact on top of the shelves. One of my gripes with this set-up is it’s really confusing to layout books in a series. People can’t look at a row of books and tell which one is first–which makes them hesitant to pick them up. So extra nudging was required on my part. Ultimately, the wings are for showcasing and highlighting, so once I’m able to get them out here to Calgary, I’ll be able to put them to use in that way.

Late Saturday, the neighbours to my left—a Quebec Writer’s Union—ended up leaving, so I took over their space so as not to have an empty table! I’m not really satisfied with the look. If I’d had more stock (of course, I’m always at my lowest on the Sunday!) and banners, I could have rocked the double table more efficiently. Still, it was a good experience.

Sales

Honestly, expectations and reality for this convention were significantly different.

I sold a surprising number of Sparkstone Saga sets – I expected numbers more on par with Anime North, where the first books outshined the bundles, but that wasn’t the case here. The Violet Fox by itself outperformed Stars In Her Eyes significantly, and I only sold a few Violet Fox Series bundles. It was good I had Hunger In Her Bones on hand, leftover from Anime North, as I had expected to have my reprints ready by this time, but of course the stars don’t always align. Phew!

I had a lot of interest in my eBooks – they continue to be a good budget option and for those who are on the go!

Leftover stock went with Jessie for use at the Eastern shows (Hal-Con, Christmas at the Forum, and Turner’s Christmas at the Coliseum). I’ve ordered reprints for Dreams In Her Head and Hunger In Her Bones, and likely I’ll have to do the same for most of my other titles within the next six months. I’ve only done 5 shows this year and I’m close to breaking my con sales numbers for last year. Because I’m only doing large shows, I’m seeing a bigger return—and the true sales season hasn’t even begun yet.

Overall, this show was about $100 shy of my Ottawa numbers. I hadn’t realized the Montreal show was larger than the Ottawa show–but of course, Montreal is a city of nearly 2 million! I could have done better–my lack of good French being a chief obstacle.

Je Ne Parle Pas Francais or Do I?

Growing up, I didn’t take French Immersion, because that wasn’t even an option in school. We had “Extended Core” from grade 7 to grade 12 – aka, French class, and Social Studies in French…and that’s it. I went to a couple of French retreats across the province to round it out, sponsored by the Canadian Parents for French, and even participated in concours d’art oratoire (French public speaking competitions). When I compare my musical performing experiences—including the time we performed for nearly 8,000 people—none are quite so scary as the time I recited a mostly memorized speech about Joan of Arc in French and then answered questions from judges, in front of other high school students from schools with better French programs.

So if you ask me if I speak French: I can understand it okay, but responding is hard.

Friday was nerve-wracking for me. I thought my French wasn’t up to snuff, so when I’d say hello to the passersby, and I got a “bonjour” – I treated it like a wall. “Oh, this person is French – I guess I can’t sell to them.”

After a somewhat disappointing Friday (it was not great), I realized that I was going to have to step up my game, French or ne french pas. Even being around the language again for the first time in a while, I felt the words, phrases, and grammar returning, and I remembered my own advice: it’s not the customer’s fault if they’re not buying. I had to be willing to at least try some French, or push through the language barrier confidently.

The next day, I approached with a new attitude. Within the first hour, I made Friday’s sales, plus some—because I pushed through. Also, right after I have coffee, I’m at my most positive, so that helped as well.

A fair number of people asked me if the novels were only in English. These were the folks that I “lost” by not having French editions. “Lost” meaning, I may not have had them anyway, even with French editions. Doing this con has made me consider a French translation–though honestly, I think I’m a little ways off from that.

I’ve always wanted to be multilingual. One of the big takeaways from my weekend in Montreal is that we do not live in an English-only country. I know, that’s obvious! But when you live in English-only areas, consume English media, and conduct business in English, it’s easy to forget there are other spheres of people who think in a different language—living a hop, skip, and a jump away! This is a good reminder to me–since I have some other Canadian-set stories I’ve yet to publish.

THIEVES!

Despite the size of the vendor area, word travels quickly through the rows.

Thieves. Three of them, working together, taking cash boxes from the artist vendors.

This wasn’t just a grab-and-run. While one or two pretended to be interested in a product, a third would crawl underneath the booth, rummage through boxes, and take the cashbox.

At least four booths were affected. My friend, Peter Chiykowski, was one of these victims. He reportedly had at least $1,000 cash taken—essentially, his Friday cash earnings.

The story was picked up by CBC not long after the event–there was an initial article, and then a follow-up. I remember reading the initial article and seeing a comment: “They should have paid closer attention.” So it’s Peter’s fault that he got stolen from? Considering that he builds a literal tower of prints and t-shirts on all sides of his booth, and there were three people manning a small space, on the surface level it seems impossible that anything could get by them. But they did. If people want something badly enough, they’ll figure out a way.

Yes, we all have to be vigilant in the face of thievery. Yes, we have to step up our game. But I’m reminded of the Jean-Luc Picard quote: “We can do everything right and still lose.”

If you’re reading this and you’ve been struck with indifference, don’t assume that all convention artists are rolling in the dough and they should be punished for this success. Even if you’re selling $1,000+ a day, that doesn’t mean you’re making $1,000 a day. The cost of Peter’s booth for the weekend was near-on a grand—plus food and travel and shipping his product. And of course, the time and effort he put into creating product. We all work hard for our living, no matter if it’s in an office or a studio or on the convention floor. Sometimes an act of theft can ruin a person—you never know how close a person is living to poverty, even if it looks like they’re doing well.

The community banded together and donated over $1,000 to Peter to make up for his loss. He gave the excess to the other affected artists, and also created a t-shirt, again, donating the profits to the affected vendors. Peter is a full-time comic artist/creative entrepreneur. He is kind and selfless–qualities we could all use more of.

This story of thievery isn’t over–there is a police investigation going on and Peter has been distilling and disseminating updates via Facebook. If you are an artist/vendor and you’re interested in following the developments, I suggest you join the Artist Alley Canada Facebook group.

Good Food & Good Times

It’s not often I get to enjoy a city when I’m doing a show. But it’s Montreal, and Jessie was there, so why not?

Montreal is the city of Treat Yo’self! On Saturday night, Jessie and I went to Brasserie 701, an upscale restaurant just around the corner from where we stayed, in Old Montreal. We chose it because of its location but also because of the logo—gold lion’s gonna tell me where the light is! The food: very tasty. Jessie is on a rare beef kick and I do not pass up the opportunity for fish, so we got beef and salmon tar-tar respectively.

Then, of course, creme brulee. Yes, I still eat creme brulee, even though I nearly died that one time from too many creme brulees. Readers will be happy to know that we SHARED the dessert, and we did not overdo it! It isn’t very often that Jessie and I get to hang out together so it was great to have sister times in an intimate setting.

Our server Gavin was so nice! Jessie and I were so pleased with the whole experience that I ended up giving him an extra vendor pass I had so that he could enjoy comic con. The look on his face, he was floored! He came to visit me at my table with his young son. YAY.

Justin Currie was also in Montreal and the three of us ended up taking in the city together. We went to C’ChoColat, the most decadent dessert place I have EVER seen! Jessie and I had found it online when we were searching for things to do and obviously we had to check it out.

Then we went around the corner to a bar Justin recommended (which turned out to be completely renovated/different from a previous visit, much to his disappointment). We sat in a cozy corner and played Giant Jenga. First the normal way, then we invented a new way.

Some of the blocks had drinking game instructions written on them, many of them rude, so we came up with some fun/silly ones instead and wrote them on the blank blocks accordingly.

Justin, it was so fun to hang out with you! This is the best part of being a creative entrepreneur – connecting with others who are likeminded.

I was neighbours with animation artist Kurt Lehner and his friend Andrew, a mask-maker. Andrew and I became fast friends and we kept each other laughing throughout the long three days, eating dried mangoes and shouting “QUATRE-VINGT!” at each other. YAY!

As always, thank you to all friends old and new who came to visit me at my booth!! AND ALSO THANKS FOR ALL YOUR HELP JESSIE!!!!!

Will I Go Back?

I haven’t decided yet. On Friday, I was convinced I wouldn’t. After a great Saturday, I wavered. The thievery does make me pause – but I could get robbed anywhere.

Theoretically, I could make it work to go back. It is a LOT of work, and I do have to pay for accommodations—and really, it’s probably THE most expensive convention for me to do. This might be a good candidate for a proxy.

Stay tuned for my next show, which will be Animethon in Edmonton–just days before my 30th birthday!!

And now, proof that I was in Mexico!!

To follow my sales journey and to see how I did at past conventions, click here for the full list of articles.
I talk conventions with my BFF on my new podcast, BUSINESS BFFs. Listen here.