Whew! We're on the tailwinds of Planet Comicon KC 2022, recovering and gathering our thoughts so we can make future conventions and Planet 2023 even better!
First, thanks to all of our team, artists, authors, game developers, long-time supporters and new fans for, once again, making Planet Comicon incredible. We approach this convention as an opportunity to network, collaborate, and simply have fun, and we definitely fulfilled that goal!
Tara thought we should do a rundown, so here it is!
While Outland Entertainment's Founder and Creative Director Jeremy D. Mohler has been attending Planet Comicon KC as Outland for years, this is only the second time Outland has attended as a larger team. The first was last August, and, while it was overall a successful event, we had room for improvement.
In 2021 we started welcoming our creators to our booth for signings, we had demos for upcoming games, we hosted panels featuring the talent we had with us, and many of our Core Team got to meet in person for the first time.
As previously stated, there were issues, but the best part was the in-person community. Many of us work remotely in our respective arts, so being together in person—brainstorming, playing, collaborating, planning, etc.—was oxygen to our souls, especially after almost two years of Covid-19.
But it wasn't perfect, and we knew that then.
So immediately afterward, we assembled the Outland convention organizers, hashed it all out, and made a new plan. Then we got feedback from those who attended with us to make sure we didn't miss anything. And this year was so much better for it.
To foster that community further, here's a rundown of the great things that happened at Planet this year as well as additional ways we plan to improve.
The people who attend Planet with us are what makes the whole experience.
Last August, we had the sheer delight of welcoming several of our Core Team, authors, artists, and game developers to our booth, including:
- Angie Bayman- all-around huge help at Outland
- Tara Cloud Clark- Marketing Director and editor at Outland
- Ryan Collins- developer of Siege Command game and creator of the Kinterlands World
- CSE (Claire) Cooney- author in several anthologies and co-developer for upcoming rpg Negocios Infernales
- Christopher Helton- Games Director at Outland and creator of upcoming Action Heroes rpg
- Carlos Hernandez- author in several anthologies and co-developer for upcoming rpg Negocios Infernales
- Jeremy D. Mohler- Founder and Creative Director at Outland and artist on many of our publications
- Shannon Potratz- artist of Dragonring comic and co-creator of The Redeemers
- Michael Rookard- artist and creator of Galefire World
- C Edward (Chuck) Sellner- Licensing Director at Outland
This year we welcomed a few more creators and team members as guests to our booth:
- Alana Joli Abbott- Editor in Chief and author on many of our anthologies and rpgs
- Cullen Bunn- writer and keeper for Outland Universe (Warlock5, Dragonring, and more…), though Cullen is usually at the convention, this was the first time we teamed up
- Scott Colby- Senior Editor, author of Deviant Magic book series and keeper of Pileaus World
- Dustin Dade- creator of upcoming Scourge of the High Seas game
- Glenn Parris- author of upcoming novel Dragon’s Heir
We also got to meet a few other Outland creators who attended the convention independent of Outland, including Jeffrey Edwards (artist for Warlock5), Robert Elrod (panel artist in Kaiju anthology), Daniel Tyler Gooden (author of The Unmade Man), and Ed Lavallee (Outland cofounder, designer for many of our logos, and author of Blacklands).
What an incredible opportunity to fellowship with other creators and to meet others who have helped make Outland what it is today!
And a special shout out to the people who made the convention possible through demos, meals, rides, coordination, childcare, and being eye candy: Evy Adamson, Steve Bayman, Michelle Dreher, and Jen Trouble.
Last year, we had two panels in less than ideal time slots, but we made the most of them by recording them and posting them to Outland's YouTube, and we learned a lot about what people are interested in.
This year we developed panels specifically to draw in and serve people while utilizing the talent and experience we had with us. We realize panel attendees want various things, and since we don't want to do one on more mainstream fandom, we had to think about how to best serve those who are most likely to come... aspiring artists, authors, and game developers.
Our consensus is that this year was a lot better. The timeslots were still less than ideal (who wants to compete with a fan-panel on Avatar the Last Airbender?!), but we had phenomenal crowds and great conversation.
While all were successful, the authors panel may have been the best, for no other reason than that it brought people back to the booth and started conversations between our authors, team members, and those who attended. We also had the time to talk with some of the attendees before the panel to find out why they were there and what they wanted to hear which meant we made a better panel experience for those attending.
But the panel on RPGs had it's own special treat: a leak about a future project. You'll have to make sure you watch it once it's up.
Next year expect more of what worked this year—"how to" topics, talking with the audience before hand—and hopefully better time slots.
One of Outland's Core Values is developing community within our creators but also with our fans. So for the booth at Planet Comicon KC in August, Tara had this genius idea of setting up the booth so that people could come into it, meet our creators, and, incidentally, see lots of product multiple times.
Frankly, it failed.
Let's just chalk it up as "conceptual and ambitious."
She's ok with it. She's the one writing this. It's all good.
We whole-heartedly believe failure is 1) proof of trying (yay!) and 2) an opportunity to learn. And learn we did.
We wanted to stand out amongst the sea of vendors through the interaction, but sometimes the right strategy is fitting in... or, rather, "meeting the expectations" of the people we are serving.
This year we set up like convention attendees would expect a vendor to orient their booth, but we also had a set up like people would expect from a creator. So we had an endcap booth with a table of products organized by type (books, anthologies, comics, graphic novels, games) and creator stations on the sides for signatures, conversations, and demos.
This year's booth was SO much better. More effective for all the things including sales, interacting with the crowd, and even allowing our guests to interact with us better. For next year, we're changing very little about the booth set up (see Games Room below), but we will have a new Outland banner and more banners for individual publications, so it'll be even prettier.
This year's sales were about twice what we sold in August. We equate that to changes in the general mood of the world, nation, region, city, and con-goers. I mean, the last two years has been... challenging. This convention seemed very different, both in booth and in the general atmosphere, and we know that contributed to better sales.
But there's not a whole lot we can do about that stuff. But there are things we did have control over that helped our sales, as well.
One of the things we learned somewhat accidentally is that giving out free books promotes sales.
We gave away a first printing of Soultaker, a post-apocalyptic weird western with old branding on it that had been sitting in several boxes in the Outland office. Basically, we stopped passers-by and gave them a book. We thought maybe having a book would lead them to visit us next year or maybe stop and have a look-see. But it was mostly to get rid of the books, so there was no pressure.
What we didn't really expect was for people to buy the sequel, Vowbreaker, right then! Some people started the book and liked it so much they came back to get the sequel; some were already buying something else, so we suggested they take advantage of the convention-exclusive-buy-one-get-one-half-off and get the sequel now instead of later when it would be full-price.
So we're looking at ways to optimize this exchange by handing out valuable free stuff to introduce people to our publications. Stay tuned!!!
We also had a lot less stock on hand. Last year we brought a bunch of boxes of books that were stashed all over the place and difficult to look through. To be honest, we mostly had no idea what was on hand or how to find it. So this year we limited to five per book and restocked each day. Several books "sold out" each day, but some sold out completely!
MVPs include Scott Colby's Deviant Magic series (people were really drawn to the brightly colored covers and many bought up all four books), Glenn Parris's upcoming release Dragon's Heir (he really pushed those and they ALL sold out), and Where the Veil is Thin anthology (stunning cover and we had three of the authors in booth for signings).
The greatest common denominator was that the authors were in booth to sign their books and foster relationships with the readers. And Glenn taught us a lot about selling books! I'm telling you...it sounds obvious, but nobody wants to do it... he stopped passers-by, asked them if they wanted to hear about his upcoming science fiction novel, and started telling them the about the book. They sold like gangbusters!!! And this book isn't even out yet!
And that convention exclusive BOGO half-off sale combined with the presence of the authors was gold!
We're a business, and we're not ashamed of selling our publications. That's what we do, and we have to make money in order to pay our creators and support. So yay for sales!
But also... selling books to people means that they read what we've made, and giving them the opportunity to meet the creators makes it all better. Yay again!
We also had multiple requests for bundles, so we'll be working on those as well.
Last year we were able to set up demos in the games room, but it wasn't planned. This year, we reached out to Mindgames & Magic and got a section just for us. We also had demos in the booth with the idea that we could give a small taste to passers-by and direct them to scheduled full playthroughs in the Game Room. We knew our target audience would be concentrated in the Game Room, but we thought having the presence in our booth would help. But we found that when our game developers camped out in the Game Room, they were able to share their games with a lot more people.
Next year we would like to arrange a more formal booth-type of set up with signage, sales, and even more game demo opportunities. We may have demos in our booth, but we think it may be better to have more space for our artists and authors to interact with con-goers.
Planet is one of our big conventions where we go all out. It gives us the opportunity to design our conventions process with more ease since we have our headquarters in Kansas City. But we're expanding to other conventions, both in KC and across the US (more on that later). And we're looking for conventions more specialized to our publications—book conventions, games conventions, etc. So if you have one you think we would do well at, let us know!
As mentioned, we aren't ashamed to make money. But it's just a means to an end.
We love conventions, because it allows us to build community with other creators, aspiring creators, and those who partake in our publications through crowdfunding, buying, and interacting with us on social media and in person.
In short, it's about the people. And we're so thankful for all the people involved in making Planet Comicon KC 2022 successful!
We're already planning for Planet Comicon KC 2023 March 17-19! Hope to see you there!