Quick guide to ALA for comics creators

For the first time, the American Library Association’s annual conference will include an Artist’s Alley for comics creators. And if you can get yourself to New Orleans, and find someplace to stay, the actual table space is free, last I heard, anyway ETA: yours in exchange for a piece of original art, which will be put in a silent auction to benefit ALA’s scholarship fund. Here’s a list of folks signed up so far.

So, if you’re going, and you’ve never been to a library conference before, here are some things for your consideration:

Understand that the Exhibit Hall is ginormous, and the conference is pretty darn big too. Last year there were about 6700 exhibitors and 19,500 attendees. It’s not ComiCon, but it’s not a little show, either. There’s an Exhibitor Resources section on the conference site.

Bring giveaways. Librarians are typically cash-strapped, now more than ever with the sadly common budget cuts to school and public libraries. Have something they can pick up that will give them a flavor of your work. Make sure it includes your website address and ordering information for your comics. If you’ve got or can make up some posters, they’re often in high demand as free/cheap library decor. Bookmarks, of course, are good too. But really, anything that’s free should be fine.

Be prepared to talk about the age level of your work. Librarians, especially those who work in school settings, will want to know the age(s) of your intended audience.

Know the distributors where a librarian could order your work. A couple of the big ones are BWI (Book Wholesalers Inc.) and Ingram.

Be prepared to discuss your speaker fee and how far you’d be willing to travel to do a library presentation. Are you willing to speak for free because you love libraries so much? That is seriously great! But remember, librarians talk to each other. If you do a session for free for Library X, don’t be surprised if shortly thereafter you’re contacted by Library Y, thrilled that you’re so willing to share your talents with the community. Don’t have much experience with negotiation as a freelancer? I commend to your attention the archives of¬†Work Made For Hire.

Be prepared for experts, newbies, and everyone in between. Some of the folks who come to your table will be just starting to learn about graphic novels. Some will be longtime comics fans. Some (cough) may be comics creators themselves. You might see some publisher representatives, too. And at some point you’ll probably get an awesome invasion of teenagers. They’re at the conference to give their expert opinions of the titles nominated for YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults list, and they get free range of the exhibit hall.

Questions? Additions?