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notes on the importance of trading

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May. 19th, 2006 | 04:50 pm
location: the couch
mood: geekygeeky
music: the wedding singer on VH1

I wrote this on a bus last Sunday after a con, thinking about con stuff.

Among my fellow self-published comickers and I, the topic of trading at cons is frequently debated - whether or not to trade, what to trade for, when to trade, what (if any) standards to employ in terms of which types of comics are trade-worthy, etc. You sit at your table, hawking your wares to passersby, and occasionally another cartoonist will come up and ask if you’ll trade your comic for theirs. The truth is, by trading frequently, you WILL end up with a sizeable pile of crappy comics at the end of the day. Comics you will probably never look at again, created by people who may never even MAKE comics again, and who you are likely to never SEE again. So why bother?

I will trade for ANYTHING at a con. Anyone can come up to me, comic in hand, and walk away with a copy of my comic in exchange. Some people get their knickers in a twist about the monetary cost of this – after all, it’s likely that you’ve spent countless hours drawing those pages, not to mention the production costs for reproducing it, the cost of the table at the con, the hotel room, airplane tickets, etc. Just how’s a person supposed to break even if they’re trading their comics left and right for zero profit? Especially considering the comics you’re getting in return are largely, well… crappy. What’s the point?

There are several reasons; the first is networking. For me, “networking” is just a fancy business way of saying, “making new friends”. Last night, I was at the SPACE con in Columbus, OH with several of my comicomrades and we were all hanging out in the hotel room, drinking beers, acting the fools, and general mischief-making late into the night when it occurred to me that all of these friends were made by trading at cons. More importantly – these are some of the people I traded with years ago even though, at the time, their comics were still very raw and they were just starting out (and so was I). Guess what? They’ve gotten way better over the years in part due to the support of friendships made through trading and getting feedback. The crappy comics of today are the decent comics of tomorrow are the AMAZING comics of ten years from now. You can have a hand in ensuring that those kids just putting out their 1st mini will keep making comics instead of just giving up, simply by trading with them and emailing them your thoughts after the con’s over. Aren’t friendship and a sense of community more important than making a few extra bucks?

If you’re into making comics that are pricier and really can’t afford to trade those hand-sewn, lithographed/silk-screened items, why not make a smaller, cheaper mini just for trading? Even if you’re not interested in making friends, you’re still getting your work into a new pair of hands. Think of it as self-promotion, if you like. How many comics have you ended up buying, just on a friend’s recommendation? Don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth – the people you’re trading with are probably NOT going to be the only ones looking at it. Not to mention, if you are trading a copy of your comic to someone THIS year and they come back to the con the following year, they’ll probably buy the next issue then. Think of yourself as a drug dealer if necessary – “the first time’s free”.

Oh, and not all the comics you trade for will be crappy, either – I’d say a good third (okay, maybe just a quarter) of my convention trade pile is real quality stuff that I would not have thought to buy and I will probably buy something from those people in the future. So enough with the elitist attitudes – trading comics is a great way to keep fresh blood pumping through the veins of our minicomics community. Next time a kid approaches you with their hastily compiled first minicomic and you hear them ask, “Do you trade?” – just say “YES".
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Comments {9}

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from: ex_malaisia
date: May. 19th, 2006 09:41 pm (UTC)
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You know, I've kinda thought there should be like a hobo sign or something that everyone should put up on their table to trade. Maybe like a t in a circle.

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Liz Baillie

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from: lizbaillie
date: May. 19th, 2006 09:47 pm (UTC)
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It would certainly help with the horrible, awkward feelings of rejection I get when someone says "no" to me! At MoCCA, I plan to put a sign on my table along with the others that says "Yes - I trade!" so people feel less awkward about asking. I think we should start implementing the sign at MoCCA - like if you DON'T want to trade, you can have a T in a circle with a line through it, like the "no smoking" icon. Maybe it'll catch on!

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(no subject)

from: ex_malaisia
date: May. 19th, 2006 10:39 pm (UTC)
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we should make little signs to give out, like the 60 on Sunday signs at SPX. Then it'd catch on!

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Pat Lewis

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from: lunchbreak_pat
date: May. 19th, 2006 11:28 pm (UTC)
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When I was starting out, and I asked people to trade, I didn't get the outright rejection so much as that horrified look and a reluctant "I guess..." I still remember that today, so I try to play it cooler, and I'll always trade for one of my comics. Some guys want to trade you a stack of stuff for everything you've got, though, which I can't do. I used to even do trades through the mail, which cost me too much in postage, so now I have to limit that to conventions only.

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Yay for Trades.

from: elephanteater
date: May. 26th, 2006 06:55 pm (UTC)
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Hi All,

I've been "tabling" at comic conventions for a couple years now and I roamed the aisles long before that. I can certainly sympathize with the "horrified" looks and the elitist, "I guess" response from my days talking with ppl behind the table. After chatting with like-minded creators, I've adopted the "Just say yes" attitude described here. I think Liz Baillie makes some great points in her discussion and I found myself nodding a lot while reading through it. I hope more creators will give it a peruse and maybe a bit of thought. In the meantime, this convert enjoyed being preached to. :)

Take care, guys!

Ryan Claytor
Elephant Eater Comics
www.ElephantEater.com

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Darryl Ayo Brathwaite

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from: nervousystem
date: May. 27th, 2006 06:29 pm (UTC)
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Lizbaillie--I clicked over here from "Making Comics Forever!" This is a very good idea you have going.

I only had a table at a convention once: MoCCA2003. I traded with some really cool people (but sadly I can't remember who I traded with--only the pile of comics I went home with). Since then, I've been a convention-attendee only.

As a "pedestrian," Trading is really hard. Convention goers know that each artist would like people to purchase at least one thing from them. And therefore, the whole question is a bit awkward. Sometimes artists get offended that you ask to barter and not buy--some artists get more enthusiastic about trading than you would have anticipated. You really never know.

Personally, I haven't sold a comic book in months and months. When I make them, I just give them away...yeah, I'm even getting beyond the idea of trading, just PLEASE! TAKE ONE!

In closing, I'm going to MoCCA2006, and I'm going with a bag full of minicomics and comics to trade.

P.S.: I bought one of your comics a while back and I really dug it. I'll try to find you at MoCCA!

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Liz Baillie

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from: lizbaillie
date: May. 27th, 2006 11:54 pm (UTC)
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Awesome! I'm glad you liked my comic! I'm having 1" buttons made for MoCCA this year that have that "T" in a circle so this time you'll know who's friendly to trading and can feel comfortable approaching them. I'll be giving several to my friends and they'll be giving them to their friends, etc, and we're hoping we can get this thing to catch on. I'll also be making plain xeroxed editions of my comics (in addition to the ones with silkscreened covers I'm selling now) so I can trade those to people who ask.

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(no subject)

from: anonymous
date: May. 28th, 2006 08:50 pm (UTC)
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Hey, Liz! I'll take five of those buttons! Better yet, can I trade you five "Have A Day" buttons for them?

Matt Feazell

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Liz Baillie

(no subject)

from: lizbaillie
date: May. 29th, 2006 03:44 pm (UTC)
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AWESOME! I love how this is catching on! I was just going to give them to people but if you want to trade, I am down. I just want as many people wearing them as possible.

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