Comic Con Hacks

By Rick Duree

The comic con season is fast approaching, and I know where your mind is going—gotta beef up your merch offerings and booth presentation to compete for the fans’ dollars. But wait, why go to all that trouble if you can’t get into the cons anyway? They’re so dang expensive these days! Once you add up airfare, hotel, Uber, food…there’s just no way you can afford a $1,000 table fee.

Trust me, you’re not alone. Creators of every type are complaining about comic con table prices all over social media, and rightfully so. It’s time we rise up! This year I’m making sure creators get a break. Here’s a few hacks you can use to jimmy your way into comic cons for FREE (or at least at a discount).

Knowing that the first step in any worthy quest for knowledge is to ask the guru for advice, I spoke with industry leader Timothy B. Fling on how he gets into so many cons for free these days.

A member of a rock band turned comic book writer, Timothy has built up a strong social media following, a popular YouTube channel, and strong comic IP. Guru that he is, he said that for me to acquire his advice I had to prove my worth by battling a three-headed giant, a killer rabbit, and the dreaded Knights Who Say “Ni!” But eventually, he divulged his secrets, claiming that yes, the cost to attend larger comic cons is just too high for him to pay when he includes travel costs. His recommendation: Creators should look into attending the plethora of SMALLER CONS that either don’t charge table fees or, at most, request a modest fee. When a larger con he attended the year before reaches out to him to see if he’ll return to their event, he NEGOTIATES. He leverages the organic promotion he has done and will continue to do for their event on his media channels as a swap for the entry fee…and it works…sometimes. When his negotiations don’t pan out, he plays hardball and passes on that overpriced con, focusing once again on the smaller cons. The big cons need to realize that indie creators won’t be steamrolled with table price increases, and Timothy is doing his part to fight that good fight.

Once you’re in at a comic con and have your table set up to sell your wares, you have to get buyers to say “YES PLEASE” and “THANK YOU SIR, MAY I HAVE ANOTHER” while happily filling their arms with your merch. That means you need to differentiate yourself from the table across the way. College teaches us that for business to succeed, you need to be either first, best, or different:

  • First: Your style is new, on the bleeding edge of the industry.
  • Best: Your art and/or stories are consistently seen as some of the best.
  • Different: Your style is unique, unconventional, and stands out from the crowd.

Onrie Kompan differentiates himself really well at cons, consistently selling 1,000 comic books per weekend. I love his posts on social showing him wielding a katana overtop all the dead empty comic book boxes he slayed. Feeling Onrie-inspired, I bought a Michonne-style katana to do some slaying of my own, then asked him to impart to me his sales secrets. He told me, “When I go to cons, I try not to think of what I’m doing to get a sale. I try to focus on RELATIONSHIP BUILDING, talking to as many people as I can. It’s what Stan Lee was able to do so effectively and what always kept me excited about this wonderful hobby. It’s not work, it’s play!”

As simple as his advice is, Onrie is right! In the end, relationships are worth more than a big marketing budget. If people like you, they’ll buy your merch. But for those of us who struggle at being a P.T. Barnum showman and don’t have the sharpest sales skills, there’s a solution: EXPERIENTIAL RETAIL. People come to comic cons to have an experience. They want to be entertained, and they’ll offer a fist full of cash to the creators who can give them that. So, it’s your capitalistic duty to get patrons over to your booth by offering something fun, interactive…even tasty!

Ideas for Differentiating Your Booth

Branded Merch

Your brand is more than just your comic books or drawings. It’s a full line of merchandise that can expand as far as your imagination will take it. Here are a few items to consider selling at your table:

  • Graded foil tarot cards sporting your art and characters
  • Themed D&D dice
  • Branded NES cartridge
  • Con-exclusive holographic-cover comics
  • A coloring book filled with B&W versions of your various cover art
  • Sexy body pillow covers of your heroines

You might also consider carrying plushies, Pop figures, and Lego versions of your characters.

Hot Sauce

Laurie Calcaterra has an ingenious idea to have a hot sauce made with her comic logo on it. She offers tastings at her table, then sells the bottles with her books to the tongue-burnt fans. At my table, I use a branded rib rub seasoning to gather fan attention. Rubs may appeal to a broader audience than hot sauces, but to each their own.


Hand out inexpensive merch for free to people as they walk by. Even though not all customers will respond to this reward by buying something, your overall sales will go up due to the generous giveaways. An artist I spoke to at a recent comic con gave out quick doodles for free, and it hugely boosted his art sales. You can introduce giveaways by entertaining your fans with a blind grab from a goodie bag or a spin of a carnival wheel.


Attract attention to your booth by including music or other effects that pertain to your products/services. This can take the form of a product video playing on a portable screen or laptop, random alerts that sound when you make a sale, background music in the genre of your story or art, etc. (Check with your comic con to see if these types of audio are allowed.)

2024 is already set to be a crazy year on so many levels, so why not make it even crazier by getting into comic cons for cheap (or FREE) and dropping some of these out-of-the-box merch ideas on your table? Host hot sauce tastings at your booth, hand out your doodles and stickers, and blare the sound of Indie Comics to the rooftops (until they shut you down). The comic gods bless you and say unto you: go forth and multiply and replenish the cons! Rise up and spread the good word of comics! Seize the day, and all that jazz.

Rick Duree is a self-made entrepreneur, angel investor, professor of entrepreneurship, TV producer, missionary, musician, martial artist, author, proud husband, and father.

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