The convention season of 2016 went well for me. I had just published the two big collected OilCan Drive books and, for the first time since I started exhibiting again at shows in 2012, I had made a profit. The four years before I hadn’t even come close to breaking even and I was doing OilCan Drive purely out of love for the project while my wallet continually took a hit.
But, in 2016, things were finally looking up.
With 2017 right around the corner I had plans to finally publish the collected book of my first self published comic, EXIT 6. It was a collected comic, an art book, and an autobiography of what I went through to self-publish in the late 1990s. With that book finished I’d have three big books I could sell at my table and I felt it was time to branch out a bit with my convention shows.
My friend Thom Zahler has been exhibiting at the big San Diego Comic Con since 2001. He’s always had a table and has always offered me a spot at it if I ever wanted to head back out west (I’d exhibited at San Diego with EXIT 6 in 1998 but hadn’t been back since 2000.) With these three books in hand and the possibility of making my money back on the trip I accepted his offer and headed out west to San Diego in July of 2017.
The cost of doing the San Diego Con was expensive. My share of the table alone was over $1500. Other conventions I did during that summer helped with some of the costs but, with hotels and travel to California, I figured I needed to make a minimum of $3000 to just break even. I knew it was a long shot but I had to try.
The trip out to California went well. It took two days in the car but I got to San Diego in one piece. The first snag hit when I went to set up on the convention floor. I found my friend’s booth but someone had stolen my table. And not someone was simply sitting at my table and had taken my space. Someone had physically stolen the table I was supposed to set up on. It was just gone. Luckily Thom did some talking and, on the night the con opened, we had found a table. I hurriedly tried to set up everything before the doors to the convention opened on Wednesday night. As people filed in I was still putting books up. But I finally got everything done.
Needing to make $3000 over a five day period was going to be hard but, with the amount of people at the convention, I thought I might have a shot. If I could make even $500 a day it was doable.
The first full day of the convention, with everything set up and looking good, I made $10.
Over the course of the five day convention I made a grand total of $250.
It was awful. I’ve never had so many people actively ignoring me in all of my life. At one point there was a line in front of my table that was waiting for a Voltron booth behind me. No one even made eye contact or looked at what I was selling. All hopes I had sunk quickly. The five days I spent in San Diego was like a living nightmare. It just never got better. And knowing I was on my way back home to face a wife, a new two month old son, and a pile of hospital bills made me want to throw myself into the Pacific Ocean and never come back again.
So it’s taken me a while to get back up on the OilCan Drive horse. I’ve been a bit broken but I’m getting there. I am working on the fourth book again. It may be taking longer than I ever wanted it to but it’s getting done.
I am back to doing it for the love of the project. The little band in my head just won’t leave me alone. And for that I am glad.
I’m getting there.