A Small Press Expo survival guide

Small Press Expo is, without a doubt, a friendly and comfortable event. You’ll be just fine when you go. But if you want to make the best of it, these are my recommendations.

  • I don’t think I need to say this, but bring cash. A few of the bigger publishers do take credit cards, but mostly, you want cash. There is an ATM on site (the line can get long, though). Smaller bills are the best, overall.
  • You’ll also want to bring a bag. This may seem obvious, but it’s really not — you’ll want something to put your comics in because trying to juggle your purchases as you go through the show isn’t fun. Those snazzy reusable shopping bags are good, as are messenger bags (which is typically what I use). Backpacks are OK, but you’re more likely to hit someone with it if you turn around too quickly.
  • Speaking of that, it does get crowded, so dress appropriately. It’s fall in the DC area and SPX is in a hotel convention center, but it can still get hot. I find wearing a jacket over a T-shirt works the best, but any sort of layering is ideal.
  • Check out the programming. Yes, I know it’s easy to get distracted and lose track of time, but the programming is an under-appreciated part of SPX and something to take advantage of. There is a good line-up this year and it’s definitely worth it.
  • Likewise, check out some of the Ignatz nominees. I don’t think anyone really expects you to buy them all, but there is an impressive selection of nominees this year and even if you decide not to vote, it’s still worth seeing who is on the ballot. You may discover something you really love. (By the way, since a bunch of people ask — I even did one year — the “best debut” category is for a title/issue/etc. that is first released at SPX, whether it is from a newcomer or veteran, a new series or an ongoing series. It’s not a “best new cartoonist” category.)
  • Buy mini-comics. Yes, I know we’re all working with limited budgets these days and graphic novels are really cool. But I do urge you to set aside some portion of your SPX fund to buy a few mini-comics. You get good value for your money — I mean, plenty are only $1-2 and you may find something you really love. Or hate, for that matter. But I think mini-comics are great fun and that’s where I find a lot of the good stuff. They allow you to try out a creator you know nothing about and support them. And really, where else, other than this show (and shows like MoCCA or APE) are you going to be able to buy mini-comics? Take advantage of this opportunity and pick up a few or several.
  • Don’t be afraid to to take a break. The North Besthesda Marriott actually has a lot of nice, comfy places to hang out if you just want to sit and read for a bit (I’ve been known to find a corner in the past). It may allow you to find you really like a creator’s work so you can go back to buy some more. Or it just may allow you to recharge a bit before you go back in to buy more comics.
  • If you had fun, strongly consider volunteering next year. SPX is a labor of love — it’s run completely by volunteers, by people who just love comics and the event. At this point, I don’t think I’m allowed to not volunteer, but I love it. It’s always a good time. You will, at the very least, get free admission to SPX. At the most, you’ll meet a bunch of awesome people who will become your friends and you’ll get to be a part of something really cool. You’ll only be obligated to a three- or four-hour shift, but if you’re like me, you’ll stick around longer because you love it that much. I’m serious.

(And yes, you’ll probably want to eat at some point during SPX. I’m going to get to that on Wednesday.)

1 thought on “A Small Press Expo survival guide”

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with this advice. My wife and I were lucky enough to tumble to the same ideas while we were there, but it’s nice to have a primer like this.

    I especially endorse grabbing mini-comics!

    There’s a lot of good stuff out there, and it’s fun to be the person who “finds” a cool artist before they start appearing in more well-known publications.

    I would have probably volunteered this year, but my getting to go at all was in doubt until yesterday. But we can make it after all. Yay!

    See you all there!

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