Like Kin-Yoobi Con, doing a booth at the Alternative Press Expo was a learning experience. It was fun, but also exhausting, and left me with some things to do differently next time. We weren’t able to get the prints done that I’d been hoping to, so for Neko Machi I just had buttons and mini-comics like before. I brought copies of Maid RPG, and Ben Lehman was along with Cel*Style games, including his brand new Clover game (the copies of Hot Guys Making Out didn’t make it from the printer in time). My friend Mike Stevens drove and helped out, and his girlfriend Jenner lent a hand too. It wouldn’t have been impossible without them, but near enough to it, so I’m very grateful for all their help.
We got to SF at the last minute, and wound up scrambling to get everything set up as the con was opening up, which was exactly the scenario I’d wanted to avoid. (And we managed to repeat that on Sunday too…) Apart from that it went pretty smoothly though. We were situated between the Lovesick Robot booth and Emma T. Capp’s booth, which was an odd experience to say the least. Emma is a 14-year-old comic-selling machine, and I’m not the first person to remark that I wish I’d ever at any point in my life had the drive that she has right now. Jackie and Brent of Lovesick Robot make a bit of everything—zines, T-shirts, prints, buttons, etc.—and the venture is now Jackie’s full-time job. I wish we’d had more time to chat, but running a booth at APE gives you a fairly brisk pace of people coming by, and both days we had to part ways after the con.
APE has its own peculiar audience, and the degree to which it’s different from Kin-Yoobi Con was really striking. Our anime/manga-inspired stuff appealed to a certain segment of the crowd there, but they were a noticeable minority (and now that I think about it, there was less of that than in prior years). While APE is ostensibly about independent creators bringing their own unique visions, people there ultimately still gravitate towards stuff they already know. Doctor Who and Nintendo stuff was apparently selling really well (and I will admit to having picked up a $5 “Doctor Mew” print), and I spent the weekend watching Jackie and Brent sell tons of silly Keep Calm mashup prints while wishing that we’d gotten the Nyan Catgirl one ready in time. Still, we sold a fair amount of buttons and especially mini-comics. One thing I did differently was to change the mini-comics’ titles from “Catgirls Being Random 1 & 2” to “Catgirls Being Random” and “Catgirls Being Friends,” which resulted in the majority of mini-comic purchases being of the 3 for $5 deal.
On the other hand, I’ve come to the conclusion that APE just isn’t the right venue for selling tabletop RPGs. The tiny crowd (200 or so) at Kin-Yoobi Con had enough gamers that we were able to sell 5 copies of Maid RPG, and the non-gamers almost always had at least some grasp of what a tabletop RPG is. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many glassy-eyed stares at the mention of RPGs (or “story games” or anything of the sort) as at APE. We did sell some of the Cel*Style games (no Maid RPG at all though), but it seemed like a person’s likelihood of buying a game was inversely proportional to how long it took to pitch/explain. That meant there was an awful lot of wasted effort just talking up the games. After a day of that frustration I can’t really blame Ben for spending Sunday hanging out with his Bay Area friends (and Jono and Sushu are really fun to hang out with) instead of banging his head against a wall for another 7 hours.
On the plus side, I did run into a few people who were already familiar with Maid RPG, including a guy who insisted on taking a picture with me, and a guy named Mike from England who is listens to my RPG podcast. (And I really need to get around to recording another episode soon…) We also got the word out about Neko Machi, which goes a long way towards making up for the fact that we lost money from the cost of the booth. The “I <3 Catgirls” stickers in particular were a big hit. We gave away most of the 250 that I had printed, and they always disappeared very quickly when I left some on the freebie table. Some people started wearing them around the con too.
I did get to see my friend Jono and my gaming buddy Dave Empey, and very briefly chat with Jason Thompson, but I can’t help but think of APE 2011 as the Con of Missing Friends. Piggy never made it on Sunday, Kingsley wound up being in Japan for a few weeks, Steven Savage wound up being busy, Jake Richmond’s ride fell through… You get the idea. I don’t think I’ve ever had a con whose potential for spending time with awesome people was quite so diminished by circumstances.
There are a few more events I might go to late this year and early next (the Holiday Anime Faire in Fremont for example), but on the whole I think I’m about done with cons for the time being. I’m an introvert by nature, so two straight days of interacting with random people is really wearying to me, especially when compounded by lots of travel. I don’t know how well I’d handle a 3 or 4 day con. Instead I want to concentrate on getting work done on creative projects. We’re gearing up to bring Neko Machi out of hiatus, which means I have plenty of writing to do.
And now the fun but time-consuming-to-write part of the post, where I list off the stuff I found neat.
- Chapel Chronicles is Emma T. Capp’s cute little comic about a lively girl’s everyday life.
- Doctor Mew has neat prints and buttons and such of cat versions of Doctor Who.
- Emmy vs. The Mall is an adorable little comic by Linda Bear.
- I got Michael Fleming‘s “Sketchbooklet,” which has lots of really neat artwork.
- F*** You Sun is a children’s book parody about a bunny who has a pretty screwed-up life.
- I got two mini-comics by Jemma Salume, Unicorn Life Cycle and Captain Kitten, both pretty great.
- Beta Temple by Ian JQ is a really neat thing about characters in a fantasy video game world.
- Of the things I bought, Luci’s Let Down by Marjee Chmiel and Sandra Lanz was the one I enjoyed the very most. It presents a story of the creation of the world as the story of Luci(fer), a beleaguered universe designer forced to work in a rather crappy office environment. It mixes the beauty and frustration of the creative life with the awe-inspiring majesty of the universe.
- The only other table with RPGs at APE was the Doukeshi Productions booth by Adam Schiller and Stacy Smith. Adam was kind enough to give me copies of their Armored Soldier Valkyrion book and Doukeshi comic.
And now some other stuff I haven’t had a chance to really dig into but looks neat: