FLUKE 2011 :: The Official Me Report
FLUKE 2011! The last time I attended a FLUKE, it was before I really did that much public cartooning, way back in the golden year of 2008. I was there promoting the forthcoming HeroesCon 2008 Indie Island. That's kinda crazy to think that most of what I've done has happened since then. You can see that photoset here.
This year (and this year's photoset) I'm no longer a con organizer, just a cartoonist with no money, so I was on the fence about whether to go or not. The guys that run Fluke, and the people who set up, are super awesome, but it's hard to take a day or two out of work to do a show if you're unsure of the financial outcome. But Father Chris Pitzer was going, and with him as chauffeur, it was a lot harder to say no.
The night before Pitzer showed up at my house, I did a practice setup of my table. Every time I setup at a convention, I waste about an hour fiddling with it, trying to figure out where to put everything so that it makes some sort of visual sense to a prospective buyer. It's pretty frustrating. I go to conventions primarily to make MONEY--I think of them as work first, social opportunities second. So this time I decided to lay everything out early and snap a picture so I'd have a template to work from in the hustle and bustle of load-in. It sounds basic, but it saved me a ton of time and is probably one of the better ideas I've had. Which may tell you something about the quality overall of my ideas.
I swiped this picture from Pitzer's con report. He knocked at the back door, and in the middle of my dog going crazy, I opened it up to get a flashbulb in the face. I should have thrown the dog at him.
Chris Pitzer is one of the best people in comics, period. I wasn't feeling well on the car trip down, and talked so much to cover it up that I nearly drove Chris bonkers, especially when we missed our exit by 20 minutes or more and had to double back. But that's not what makes him so cool--that just makes him longsuffering friend.
What makes Chris Pitzer so great is his approach to publishing. We talked A LOT about print runs, business models, profit margins, stuff like that--the takeaway for me was that Chris thinks about books and people first, profit second. You can see it not only in the care he takes with his projects, but in the careful way he chooses people to work with, often taking chances on completely unknown creators (like newly-minted critical darling Adam Hines of Duncan The Wonder-Dog fame) simply because he feels like it. I suspect that a lot of the small-press publishing world works along similar lines, but Pitzer's approach is very... Pitzerish, and I love him for it. I remind myself again of how lucky I am to have people like him and Anne Koyama and tons of others in my world.
Anyway, Fluke! I snuck into the 40 Watt early, thanks to my position as hanger-on to Pitzer, who was one of the show's sponsors. Also thanks to the kind hospitality of organizers Patrick Dean and Robert Newsome, who I had to argue with over whether or not I should even pay full price for my table (a whopping $16) because of my Pitzer association. By "argue," I mean I had to argue to actually pay it! Such nice guys. I'm glad the people lined up 90 minutes early didn't rise up and burn me in effigy for traipsing in past the line, too--there were some heavy-hitters in line, including "Charming" Dean Trippe, "Dr Batman" Chris Sims, "Sleepy" Derek Ballard, and many more.
Also outside was my buddy Chris Schweizer, seen here with Wook Jin Clark. We made fun of Chris's scarf/short sleeves combo, but when he took it off we all insisted he put it back on. Peer pressure.
Fluke was one of the best-organized small shows I've ever been to. Everything got done fast and simply. There were enough little extra perks--like the hand-made buttons that served as proof of entry for attendees--to make it feel individual, but not so many that there were a lot of things that could go wrong. The tables were set up by some of the most talented people in the room, which just reinforced the family vibe of the whole thing. Make no mistake, Fluke is a regional, small-scene show, but I think there's a lot there for an outlier like me. Super impressed by Fluke.
Hey, my practice table worked! Zip zap, all set up.
One thing I did that I always try, but never actually keep up with, is track all my sales. I think I got everything, even tracking comps and the few trades I did. I picked this idea up from Joe Lambert and Chuck McBuck and the CCS guys--it's a great idea. Not only does it allow you to track what's actually selling, meaning you can stop making or packing stuff that people in a particular place are uninterested in, it made me really focus on selling things and kept me from giving them away.
A word on that--I get in trouble some times at indie shows for not being interested in trading minicomics. I know it's a tradition, and I think it's a cool one. But it's something that's not the best idea when you're trying to make money. I think of all the books I bring as future money, and my goal is to bring home a box much lighter than the one I initially packed. I mention this not to suggest that trading minicomics is a bad idea--I think it's a really cool idea, actually--but more to underline the many many different sets of habits and expectations people bring to events like this. Some people come purely to trade, and don't even think about money. Others, like me, are Scrooge McDuck level avaritioners. I'm glad there was room for both kinds at Fluke.
Speaking of money, after I totalled everything up, I made about $266 of gross profit, which was really strong for me at a one-day show. It helps a lot that Koyama Press helped financially with the cost of the trip, which freed me to relax and concentrate on collecting Benjamins. I didn't sell a single t-shirt, but I sold 60% of the 20 Diary Comics I brought (there's less than a full-case left!), and the prints I brought were the real star. Selling prints that don't have my face on them has been a surprisingly good idea, which I must give my girlfriend credit for. She laughs at my bemused surprise at how much better non-Dharb-featuring prints do. Hey, I'm obtuse, sue me.
Such a good trip. After the show we had dinner with Drew Weing, Eleanor Davis, Joey Weiser, Chris Wright, David Mack, Derek Ballard, and Derek's two friends, whose names I have totally forgot, and to whom I apologize. Drew and Eleanor took us to this El Salvadoran place where we had "pupusas" which sound like insect pies but are delicious little patty things, filled with beans or cheese or meat (or insects??). Thanks very much to those guys for showing us the pupusa side of Athens Georgia. Also thanks to Patrick and Robert for organizing a really, really great little show, not only profitable but a fun time, full of good vibes and friends hanging out. AND an excellent dry-run for TCAF, in less than two weeks (*gulp*)!
Full Flickr photoset here
Chris Pitzer's set here
Fluke site here