Short Run, a giant comix and arts festival now in its fifth year, is happening during the day on Halloweeeeeeeeeen!
They're making the most of the holiday overlap by setting up some Trick or Treating activities and handing out risograph-printed masks designed by Scott Travis. There'll be a Kid's Zone for the children, and also an animation tent and bake sale for everybody.
But the main entree of the festival is the book fair, which features over 200 artists, cartoonists, zinesters, and publishers, including established big shots like Bruce Bickford and Jim Woodring, up-and-comers like Robyn Chapman, and everyone in-between. Fantagraphics Books will be there. Youngbloods like Cold Cube Press will be there. Even literary people like APRIL Festival and Wave Books will be there. Everybody's going to be there.
The question is: How do you steer your canoe through the swamp of cartoons, broadsides, books, and ephemera? What's good book fair etiquette? (E.g. Can you touch stuff? If you like one of the artists, is it more helpful for them if you buy their cool t-shirt or their cheap zine?)
When you have a bunch of comic nerds and artist types sitting behind the table, social interaction can feel awkward. It's hard to ask. But that's okay. That's why I'm here. You'll do fine. Just follow these 7 tips and you'll have the best Short Run experience ever:
Tip 1: Bring $50 Cash
That should be enough for a couple zines, a book you like, and a weird thing you didn't know about before you walked in the door.
Tip 2: Make the Rounds
There's so much stuff to see and do, and everyone understands that. When you approach a table that looks semi-interesting, let them know up front that you're just makin' the rounds and seeing what there is to see. Feel free to pick up books and zines that look interesting, nod and adopt sagacious poses, put the stuff back where you got it, and mosey along. Make sure to write down the name of the table so you can remember it for later!
Tip 3: Ask the Artists What They Like
Chances are, the people sitting behind the tables know and respect a lot of the other people behind the other tables. They're looking forward to the moment when they can stop tabling and start roaming around and buying stuff. Use their knowledge to help guide your own adventure. Ask them who or what they're really excited to see at Short Run this year. If you like them, you'll probably like their friends, too.
Tip 4: Go In With a List
Look up the exhibitors ahead of time and make yourself a little list. If you don't have time to do this, don't worry—I'm making a list and will post it to Slog on Friday. Tomorrow I'm planning to put up an interview with Mita Mahato about her work. Have you seen her stuff? It's so good.
Tip 5: Don't Put Big Names on That List
There's no real reason to buy books from Fantagraphics or Wave** at this festival. The Short Run festival brings together tons of new and hard-to-find presses. Buy from them.
The big, established presses are easy to find any day of the week. If you want a book from Fantagraphics, just go down to the store in Georgetown and pick one up. (They will be cheaper there, anyway!)*
*Update:* Well, now there's a reason to put big names on your shopping list. I just got word from Fantagraphics that I have made a factual error. The publisher actually plans to sell their wares at a DISCOUNT, which is the opposite of what I said. So, if you're interested in a few titles, buy from Fantagraphics at Short Run. You'll save some money!
**Update:** Wave Books also plans to sell their books at a discounted rate, so buying them at Short Run would be advantageous. Here's what I'm trying to stress with this tip: don't spend all your money on the presses and artists whose work is readily available online or at a store. Take advantage of deals, but set aside $$$ for new, compelling, and rare work from artists and comics that haven't got tons of mainstream play yet.
Tip 6: Branch Out, Literary Tourists!
If you love books but don't have much of a comics background, try flipping through books that automatically appeal to you on a visual level. Poets: seek out the lyrical comics, ones that rely more on repetition and image association to tell their stories. Novelists and non-fiction folk: seek out the graphic novels.
Tip 7: Buy the Art Before You Buy the Shirt
If someone's selling a $15 dollar shirt and a $5 zine, get the zine. More money goes to the artist this way. Also, buying the zine means that you'll be doing what the artist wants you to do the most: engaging with the work.