The Bernard Shaw Sci-Fi Flea!

Last weekend, I had the utmost pleasure of attending the Bernard Shaw Flea Market, with their first themed event: a Comic Book, Video Game and Sci-Fi market! My previous experience of events has been extremely limited; I’ve either been an attendee (ticketed or otherwise), or a vendor at a new event. This was a whole new challenge.

The Flea Market runs outdoors, in what is otherwise the smoking area for the bar, under plastic cover for the most part. It’s been doing so every week for over a year, rain or shine, and it shows no sign of slowing down. People know about it, and attend it regularly, and suddenly I found myself manning a table beside the lads from Dublin City Comics & Collectibles.

Flea Market Stall

As with my Geek-Mart table, I came equipped with my books – Balor RebornThe Hounds of Hell, and Old Gods and Wicked Things, the collected flash stories associated with The Rebirth Cycle – and my prints and book-art.

My plan for simple: leave my Celtic prints on display in the centre of the table, leave my book of prints open on a fun design, and interact with as many people as possible. I came equipped with three tools for the latter, and I recommend these to anyone selling at an event.

1. Eye contact. If you’re not making eye contact, you won’t get someone’s attention. It can be difficult, because some people won’t look up, and some vendors struggle with certain “social” actions. Heck, everyone struggles with eye contact. Pro tip: do it regularly, in your day to day life, to train yourself to do it. I began doing it when visiting my favourite shops, because I knew the staff, and it made it easier.

2. Smile. Not everyone will come up to your table. Fewer people will if you’re not smiling. Early on, just keep on smiling. Later, when you get tired (and you will get tired), make sure you’re smiling when you’re making eye contact with people. Not only does this make you much more approachable, it also makes people more comfortable to be around you. (So it benefits everyone if you smile!)

3. Pitch. Have your sales pitch ready. It’s annoying, it feels a bit fake, but you can make it fun. I’ve gone for “laser death vision” and “Irish myths set in the 21st century, with all the old gods and faeries trying to get their power back… and killing people in the process.” They’ve worked out for me pretty well. Some things are easy to understand from a glance – a drawing, for example – but other things need an explanation. Keep it simple, keep it short, and make it sound as much like something people will want to pick up. (Thankfully, Irish folklore is ‘in’ at the moment, so I’m lucky there!)

IMG_20160611_150917

The event itself was fun. People liked my pitch enough to buy my books (a few even took a chance on the entire set! I love those people!), the organisers gave us vendors pizza and a drink (and then my neighbour-vendor went and bought more pizza, and gave me a slice because she made a big mistake thinking she could eat it all herself, so that was awesome!), and, despite the awful weather, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles showed up. The 90s child in me died of excitement.

While I’m not sure how well my books fit into the Flea Market generally – I’ll check in with them when I know life will be less hectic (I have between 5 and 7 events to attend in the next four weeks!) – I know that it was a worthwhile experience.

Attending smaller events like this and the Geek-Mart are excellent ways to prepare for larger-scale operations. It gives people like me – the ones only starting out on the event scene – a chance to figure out what works and what doesn’t, what to say to people, how to display merchandise, and how people react to even seeing something new. In my experience attending conventions last summer, people flocked towards the tables that were less like the others, the more originally drawn characters. Unfortunately, original material is still a hard sell, but with the right pitch, the right audience, and the right mindset, it’s still possible to sell enough copies of a book or comic to make attendance at events like this worthwhile.

Next weekend, I’ll be at Q-Con (with my camera and a ticket, not my books). Following that, I’ll be attending the Superhero Convention on the first weekend of July (you can catch me on the Sunday!). There will be smaller events, too, that I hope to make it to, but I imagine it’ll be more difficult to strike up a conversation at them. In the meantime, I’ve a ton of stuff to put together for the blog for July (with the ever-exciting Camp NaNoWriMo on its way again!) and a lot of stuff planned for Comix Ireland. Until next time, peace out!

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About Paul Carroll

Paul Carroll is a writer, born, raised and still living in Dublin. By day he's a student and bookseller, by night he writes fiction and uses social media.
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