Over at Comic Book Resources, Brigid Alverson has a fascinating (to me) look at PAX East, the gaming convention started up by the Penny Arcade webcomic guys. While not a fan of their work, I’ve been quite impressed with their business acumen, and especially the success of their PAX conventions. Just check out these photos, which document a show that easily rivals some of the comic book world’s biggest conventions:
After reading the article, two things struck me. First, shows like this can serve as a great middle-ground for the general genre fan to be exposed to comics and graphic novels. Smart comic book publishers with books that will appeal to gamers are already at the show, introducing their products to a whole new audience (and market segment)”
At the publisher’s booth, Oni’s Director of Business Development George Rohac presided over a wide range of books; people are often drawn by the Scott Pilgrim books, he said, but then Oni’s other titles, such as The Sixth Gun and Sharknife, catch their eye.
At the Udon Entertainment booth, video-game art books and Street Fighter graphic novels were moving briskly; at the end of the weekend, Marketing Director Christopher Butcher said he had sold almost his entire inventory.
Gaming fans are just like comic fans: they love to spend money on ancillary products based on the games they like. We buy Batman statues and Spider-man hoodies, and they do the same for products based on the characters from their favorite games. So why not sell them comics based on their games? Or at least, in the same general wheelhouse? And in turn, if they happen to like the comics, they may continue to seek out more works by the same creators, or same publisher. The way I look at it, this is a perfect example of “a rising tide lifts all boats,” or as they like to say in the jargon-obsessed business world, a “win-win.” The comics publishers can expand their marketplace, while the game publishers expand their brand and licensing potential.
But what if as a publisher or individual creator, you don’t have the funds or the quantity of products to be able to field a (presumably expensive) booth at a show like this? Well, that’s the second thought that came to mind: here’s a niche for a smart, enterprising person to fill. You could potentially make a business of being the middle-man for parties interested in selling their comics at a convention like this, but who are limited by their finances, geographical location, or simply don’t have that many different books to make getting their own booth a viable option. You pay for the booth, have your clients ship you the books, sell them at the show, and take an agreed-upon cut of the profits. Theoretically, you make money, and your clients make money (or perhaps they just break even, but they consider the exposure and awareness boost a reasonable return on their investment).
Granted, there are logistical and practical problems galore, not the least of which is whether this scheme would even be profitable. But hey, that’s the job of the entrepreneur, right? To figure out how to make money from an under served (or ignored) niche market, and to take the chance.
So there you go, consider that a free business idea from me to you. Just remember me if you ever put this idea into practice, and give me the “friends” discount rate for your services, OK?