Most Comic Cons these days centre upon the ‘movies, games and videos’ aspect of comic books. On 7th May 2016, the Enniskillen Comic Fest 2016 however, made it first and foremost, ‘all about the comic books’, as stated in their tagline. Here, I outline the how and why this event was such an amazing success.
Note: I recommend you check out my previous blog entitled ‘7 secrets to increase face to face book sales’.
As an Independent book publisher based in Enniskillen, I had a very successful day pitching my horror novels ESCAPE FROM FERMANAGH and FERMANAGH EXORCISM to the consumers of County Fermanagh.
I kick-started my company AG Publishings just over a year and a half ago through the Prince’s Trust and I want to offer some context as to how much of a big deal the Enniskillen Comic Fest 2016 means to me as an independent book publisher based in Enniskillen.
Enniskillen is located on the Island of Ireland. We are a mainly rural community, we suffer from ‘brain drain’ of our local talent because if we wish to taste opportunity and success, we need to move to Belfast, Dublin, London, Edinburgh or New York. Our crippled economy is a kick in the teeth for many of us, and the solution between government initiatives and grassroots born enterprises can be difficult to connect and nail down.
The Fermanagh community never had the opportunity to have a comic book festival before. Previously we would have to travel two hours to Belfast in Northern Ireland, or two and a half hours down to Dublin in the Republic of Ireland. Worse still, we would have to make the journey to London, Edinburgh or New York. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but to us, visits to Belfast, Dublin or beyond are very expensive in both time and finances.
Hence, the Enniskillen Comic Fest provided an amazing opportunity for comic book and book creators to help expand the commercial aspect of their businesses by increasing both sales and customer base. This was an opportunity I did not want to waste. So I went out and maximised the positive potential.
Myself, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn showing off the horror!
Certainly, I write and publish books for the love of the art, however, there is a commercial aspect to what we do as an independent publishing house. The Enniskillen Comic Fest has helped me with that commercial aspect as they provided me opportunity to sell print editions of my books to consumers face to face. I mainly sell my stock in eBook and print format via Amazon. I took the risk and ran print runs on both my horror titles, ESCAPE FROM FERMANAGH and FERMANAGH EXORCISM. The money generated from sales on the day easily covered my printing costs. I actually sold more print editions on that one day than I have through four weeks with Amazon. The books that I now have left, when I sell them, will provide pure profit for my company. This puts me in an advantageous position as it takes me a huge step closer to generation of increased sales revenue. This provides a huge economic boost to my bottom line when I fill in my tax returns for the year. And it increases my customer base.
Top Quality Talent
I will take my cap off at the efforts of the crew at the Enniskillen Comic Fest who not only promised to draw top talent to Enniskillen, but they delivered in style. Present at the event, were writers and artists from 2000AD, DC, Marvel, Image, Beano, and other high quality independent creators. Most notably, Glen Fabry, Clint Langley, Alan Grant, Pete Doherty, PJ Holden, Michael Carroll and Ryan Brown, Kevin McHugh and Andy Luke, to name just the few (you can check the star studded list here).
The networking of great talent was a great highlight to the event. L-R: Andrew Gallagher, Clint Langley, Ryan Brown, Glenn Fabry
On the night before the Festival, all the creators took part in a pub quiz at the local Wetherspoons and the bar was filled to the brim. The Bar Manager asked me what the big deal was as he was impressed at how full his premises was. When I listed off the names of Glenn Fabry, Clint Morrison and Alan Grant, he admitted he had no idea who these people were as he didn’t read comics (He did however, recognise the names of Judge Dredd, Preacher and Slane). I explained to the Bar Manager that having those three guys in one place, in footballing terms, was like having Maradonna, Pele and George Best all in one room. To which the manager blushed at the quality of celebrity.
The Enniskillen Comic Fest really did attract top quality talent to Enniskillen. Edinburgh, London, Belfast Dublin and New York attract top talent in every field. Enniskillen normally doesn’t. People always talk a big game, but the crew at the Enniskillen Comic Fest well and truly delivered for a very rare, special, premium event that few will forget.
Richard Branson talks about how networking is key to business development and thankfully, the Enniskillen Comic Fest kept this in mind. You remember the top quality talent I just mentioned?
Myself on the right, pictured with the very talented, double Will Eisner nominated, 2011 Unltd Millenia Winner, 2016 Titania Best Short Story Winner, Belfast born Andy Luke. He also won the 2007 best Web Log.
Well as an independent publisher, I didn’t have to travel off of the island to go meet them. They came to my home town, as did talent from Donegal, Antrim, Belfast and Dublin. The Enniskillen Comic Fest allowed us to build relationships together in a fun, relaxed atmosphere. And I didn’t have to go to New York for this. As a result, I will be building more projects with professionals who are considered the top of their field. A fantastic opportunity for all of us.
Probably the most fun aspect of the Festival was meeting local consumers as I presented my books to them. Bear in mind that I live in County Fermanagh and my first two horror novels are ESCAPE FROM FERMANAGH and FERMANAGH EXORCISM. Getting to talk to local people and listen to their feedback was invaluable. And thankfully, the critical feedback was extremely positive.
Having seen me, an Enniskillen writer publish horror novels based in Fermanagh, quite a few people commented that they are now more likely to write that story they always had in their head.
Heroes, Villains and Killers, each and every one of them!
The idea that Fermanagh art can promote more Fermanagh art is remarkable. In my own opinion, for too long have we have watched American, English, Scottish and Australian arts. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I used to watch Neighbours during my tenure at the University of Edinburgh, and I am currently running through Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards on Netflix (And Fringe!).
Foreign art is great to watch, read and enjoy. However it has been at the cost of our own art here in Fermanagh. I am really happy to hear that locals here are more likely to create their own art as a result of walking through the doors of the Enniskillen Comic Fest 2016. Is this my fault, or the fault of the Enniskillen Comic Fest? Well, I will say that the generation of inspiration is more likely the fault of the Enniskillen Comic Fest, for if it wasn’t for the event itself, I wouldn’t be able to promote my own books for others to see.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is management speak for: ‘A corporation has a responsibility to the Community it does business in.’ The Enniskillen Comic Fest is not a corporation but a grass roots initiative, and they smashed the Social-Community aspect here by delivering Schools programs that discussed artistry and writing as a career to local students. Furthermore, they raised £2,000, via auction of high quality art, for local charity. That is highly commendable. So in truth, the Enniskillen Comic Fest did not just ‘make it about the comics’, they also made it about the community, though they keep humble on that front.
The most important part of the day. Everyone from the creators to the consumers and their families had an amazing day. I find it difficult to nail down the main driving factor, for there were so many elements to the festival. One aspect in particular, is that from creator to consumer, none of us had to travel away to see what we saw. This event was held in Enniskillen and this generated the idea from within that Enniskillen is indeed able to hold an awesome event, because we are in fact great, quality people.
Poison Ivy learning more about County Fermanagh.
We don’t need to travel around the island, or off of it to enjoy something this big. Something this awe inspiring. The Enniskillen Comic Fest 2016 puts Enniskillen on the map positively, and reminds us that we don’t have to be Belfast, Dublin, London, Edinburgh or New York in order to be premium. We are Enniskillen and we can have and achieve great things.
Sadly, in my own opinion, our people for the last 50 years have had to think about subjects like fear and conflict, and without much choice on the matter. So much so, that we forgot how to build and dream, and I believe this to be one of main reasons why we consume foreign art rather than produce our own. The Enniskillen Comic Fest has allowed us opportunity to remember, to believe in the fact that we can create projects, attract top talent, and draw tourists to our town through a premium comic book festival.
In conclusion . . . .
I offer huge thank you to the Enniskillen Comic Fest Committee, Paul, Chris, Stephen, James and Mark for bringing this event to Fermanagh, so that we can all move forward with something fun, inspiring and art filled.
The Enniskillen Comic Fest 2016 is evidence that Government initiatives and Grassroots enterprises can meet in the middle and succeed in a manner that benefits everyone both economically and socially. Economics and society, being two of the three cornerstones to environmental sustainability.
Ideas are great to have. Thankfully, the committee of the Enniskillen Comic Fest turned these ideas into a tangible reality.
In particular, the creators, the families, the schools and the overall community of County Fermanagh benefited from this event and we are all looking forward to Enniskillen Comic Fest 2017!
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