Over 2008 I wrote weekly for ComicsVillage.com, during a very exciting time in the UK comix scene..
My columns are concerned with four aspects surrounding comics – social community, economic factors, festival and exhibition coverage and modes of distribution.
London Underground Comics. I’d got sick of writing about them, reading about them. Not so much my torrid affair with front-man Oli Smith, or even refusing to throw his tv out the window. They made it look sometimes easy, so armed with aspects of their approach and teachings, I resolved to man a market stall selling comics in Oxford.
I’d emailed Oxfordshire City Council on a few occassions over the summer and gotten no response. The farmers market runs on Wednesdays and the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month. Other Thursdays are an antiques and collectables market, though I’d noticed dvd sellers and other traders guesting as support acts. Casual chats with traders there revealed to me I could get a half table for £13.50, equivalent in size to the Camden tables
A number of artists were in town for the Caption Festival, so there I made arrangements to pick up books, multi-tasking transport costs. Andrew Stitt, Caption’s treasurer, provided the loan of a few display stands. Although I’d announced intention and requested books and stands on Smallzone’s formidable industry Ning site to a silent audience, this was no indication of what was to fall into place.
Pre-publicity was mostly locally based. My livejournal has a number of readers from Oxford who like comics. The local L-journal community, Dreamingspires and DailyInfo both had an event listing for ‘Felt Tip Market’. (The name came from a suggestion by Wasted Epiphanies’ author Deirdre Ruane.)
At around 7am on Thursday 21st August I wheeled my travel bag to the bus and the fifteen minute ride and walk to the vacant market stalls. These are beside Gloucester Green, the main bus and coach station. Arriving early follows background research in being key to getting a table, and upon locating the amicable manager I got placed straight away. I couldn’t possibly match LUC’s YouTube channel but I did learn from them the importance of making the table look presentable, and not overstuffing it with stock. I’d handcrafted a few small signs. ‘Comics!’, ‘More Comics!’ and ‘We also have comics!’ and ‘Locally Produced’. Caption T-shirts accompanied the comics on the table, two back-to-back on coathangers viewable from both sides. I’d dumpster-dived some polythene wrapping from Staples in case of rain. This didnt happen though there were a few times built up residue rain on the canopies above his customers and fellow traders. I’d gotten a beautiful sunny day, though next time I’ll be overthrowing the build up before laying the stock out, and moving back comics from the front.
Stock shifted between 8am and 4pm:
Daniel Merlin Goodbrey’s All Knowledge is Strange – 4copies x £2 each (£8 total)
Caption Generic Stick Figure T-Shirt – 1 x £10 total
Jeremy Dennis Mini-Comics – 3 shifted, to £2 total.
Andrew Luke’s Comic Books – 5 shifted, to £4.50 total
Modern Monstrosity’s Tales From The Flat collection £4 total
Tom McNally’s Hedgemony Comics – 1 shifted to £1 total
Only John Robbins and Deirdre Ruane’s comics didn’t sell then though both attracted good interest and attention.
Seeing comics of a different sort in a different environment is an eyecatcher in itself. My confidence in selling had grown due to the experiences at Camden. Familiar with all but Tom McNally’s works, ensured I was better poised to talk to customers about the books.
The market game can be quite disheartening if you don’t love it. Placed next to me, a very attractive lady selling beautiful handmade jewellry wasn’t taking to engaging with customers about her due self-promotion, and sadly didnt shift a thing. I’m did wonder if she found the comics intimidating. I did offer customers free comics with any jewellry they bought, a good trader has to support the local environment. Its what any artist would do.
The intention of the day was akin to a test flight, gauging the response to find out whether my intuition was supported. Had I gotten a £2 donation from each artist rather than 10% SOR, a couple of us would have found it viable, and it wouldnt have been as costly to me. A number of folk I talked to reckoned that had I been running the market during semester time there’d be a hugely positive response in terms of sales. I’m inclined to agree. However much fun I had, a weekday market selling isn’t achievable with my own university studies taken into account.
Update: Andrew Luke will be appearing at London Underground Comics on Saturday 20th September and returning to sell comics at Oxford Market sometime over the next few months. Next weeks column is an interview with Shane Chebsey.