My Experience at the Kaigai Manga Festival

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Pictured: The Fast Track to Bankruptcy 

On November 23rd, I had a table at the Kaigai Manga Festival in Tokyo. How it went depends on how you look at it. On one hand, I had the best sales I’ve ever had. On the other hand, it was my least profitable show ever.

To understand why, I should explain how comic book conventions have gone for me historically. Over time, there’s been a trend towards higher sales. I attribute this to better table presentation and sales technique, and to being more selective about which shows I go to.

That said, it’s important to put this “upward trend” into perspective. My work hardly has universal appeal, I only have three different things to sell, and I haven’t put out anything new since 2008. For even my best show, I’ve never made more than a few hundred dollars in sales.

That’s fine, but only if expenses are low as well. Up until now, I’ve only done shows in Minnesota, my home state. With no plane tickets or hotels to pay for, my expenses have just been for the table rental itself, which is negligible in the scheme of things.

Which leads me back to the Kaigai Manga Festival, the first show I’ve ever actually had expenses for.

I currently live in Kyoto, so I didn’t have international plane tickets to pay for or anything. But getting from Kyoto to Tokyo and back is actually pretty expensive, especially if you’re unwilling to take an excruciating, eight hour night bus. In order to get there and back comfortably in a single day, I had to buy two full price Shinkansen tickets. (You can get discounted Shinkansen tickets, but not for early in the morning or late at night, which is what I needed.) These travel expenses ate into my record sales to the extent that financially, the show was basically a wash.

But before you think I’m down on the experience or regret doing it, I’d like to briefly talk about what was, previously, my least profitable show ever. That being the first show I ever did, SpringCon, back in 2010.

The show is very super hero-centric, so not exactly my crowd. I only had two things to sell. My table looked awful. My “sales technique” amounted to sitting hunched over my drawing pad, ignoring anyone who walked by unless they addressed me first. I honestly can’t remember how many books I sold, but I do remember figuring out I couldn’t even pay myself minimum wage for the time I spent there. At the time, I was disheartened.

But as I eventually discovered, same day book sales aren’t the only reason to do conventions. The show allowed me to reconnect with members of the Minnesota cartooning scene after a long absence. These connections were gratifying in there own right, and also eventually landed me a few paying gigs.

At the Kaigai Manga Festival, I met a representative for a major Japanese book store chain who felt my work might be a good fit for their English book section. Time will tell if that pans out, but if it does, that could result in sales over the next few years that wouldn’t have occurred if I hadn’t been at the show.

I also met a lot of great members of the cartooning community, like Victor Edison and Deb Aoki among others. For someone who has devoted their life to comics, I’m embarrassingly out of touch with the current comics scene, so it’s good to get a chance to reconnect with it a little bit.

If the travel expenses weren’t an issue, I’d definitely go to Kaigai Manga Festival next year. It’s well run and as I said, resulted in my best sales ever. If you’re a cartoonist who lives in the Tokyo area, I’d recommend it.

As it stands, with the travel expenses being what they are, I’m still deciding if I’m going to participate next year. It might be worth doing if I combined it with a mini-vacation to Tokyo or something. We’ll see.

That said, sales were encouraging enough that I’ve decided to try a similar show in Osaka next May. I can get to Osaka for one-tenth the cost of getting to Tokyo, so if I manage to pull off similar sales, it’d be well worth it. More details on that in the months to come!

Come see me in Tokyo on November 23rd!

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Mark your calendars! I’ll have a table at the International Manga Festival in Tokyo later this month! This will be the only show I’ll be doing for a long while, so if you’re in the area, stop on by and say hello!

Details:
What:
International Manga Festival
Website / Facebook

When:
Sunday, November 23rd, 2014, 11am to 4pm

Where:
TOKYO BIG SIGHT (Tokyo International Exhibition Center), East 4 Hall
Address: 3-11-1 Ariake, Koto-ku, Tokyo 135-0063
Access Info: English / Japanese

Admission:
¥1000 per person (This fee also gains you admission to the Comitia Comic Expo.)

“Tonoharu: Part Three” Progress Report (Fall 2014)

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Whoops! I totally dropped the ball on updating this blog for the latter half of October. I’ll try to get back into the swing of updating every week again, even if it’s only a youtube video or a funny photo or something like that (though I’ll try to intersperse those with more significant updates as well).

As I just did a progress report recently, I hadn’t planned to do another until next year sometime. But I’ve been happy with how things have been going recently, so I wanted to toot my own horn a little.

For the past two months, progress on Tonoharu has been spectacular. My “page a week” goal for September and October would have had me finish 8.75 pages. Instead, I managed to complete 15.75 pages; a whole seven extra pages! That’s like a month and a half’s worth of work. So I’m really happy about that. It’s been literally years since I’ve managed to finish more than a page a week for such a sustained period.

And things are looking good for the rest of the year too. The next stretch of Tonoharu has a couple of multi-page conversations that take place in the same location, which will allow me to reuse several backgrounds. So I expect I’ll be able to outperform my “page a week” goal into November and December as well.

In the new year, things will get a bit tougher. I’ll be starting on the epilogue, which, like the prologue, is narrated. In practice, this makes it so almost every panel takes place in a different location, which takes longer to draw. But even so, I think/hope I’ll be able to finish at least a page a week, so I shouldn’t lose any ground at least. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

The next progress report will come sometime in 2015 (for real this time). Or if you just can’t wait for that, follow me on Twitter, as I tweet every time I finish a page. Toodles!

“Tonoharu: Part One” 5-Star Review at Comics Bulletin

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Daniel Elkin reviews the Tonoharu: Part One paperback, giving it five out of five stars!

From the review:

At its heart, Tonoharu is a book about communication, about connecting, about learning through our shared experiences and defining ourselves through the eyes of others. The story of Dan becomes the story of us. This is the thematic sandbox in which artists build castles and Martinson is building Neuschwanstein.

You can read the full review here (about halfway down the page):
http://comicsbulletin.com/tiny-pages-made-ashes-1032014-comix-dont-take-crap/

My thanks to Elkin for the coverage and the kind words!

Come see me in Tokyo this November!

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Mark your calendars! I’ll have a table at the International Manga Festival in Tokyo this November! This’ll probably be the only show I’ll be doing until Summer 2015, so if you’re in the area, stop on by!

Details:
What: International Manga Festival
When: Sunday, November 23rd, 2014
Where: Tokyo Big Sight, 3-11-1 Ariake, Koutou-ku, Tokyo

I’ll be posting more details in the coming weeks, but wanted to get a quick mention up on the blog now. Hope to see you there!