The sign was a success; even if it didn't lead directly to a sale, the silly gimmick and campy grin caught the eye of people walking past, giving them a chuckle and creating a favorable impression. A small-but-significant number of people came over and actually bought books on the strength of the sign alone (apparently figuring that if I was funny in person, I'd write funny comics), and it's been one of my "mainstay" gimmicks ever since.
Fast-forward to D*C 2006 in the artist alley. mammallamadevil and I have since printed up "Buy my stuff! I'll be your friend!" t-shirts, but these don't work very well -- badges and miscellaneous stuff on the table tends to block the message entirely. Sales were slow on Saturday, so late in the day I crafted a new "BMSIBYF" sign out of bristol, tape, and extra cardboard and went back to the campy grin technique. Immediately sales picked up, and by midday Sunday, I'd made lots of new friends. :)
This caught the roving eye of the booth bunny next door. I have only a passing familiarity with the group who was next to us, but like so many of the people at D*C (and even more at Comic-Con) they are an indy comics shop who are Not Dark Horse and Not Image Comics, if you see what I mean. Demons in spandex and leather-trenchcoat vigilantes, that kind of thing. Their table had fairly brisk traffic, but their only product as far as I could make out was a $20 shirt with their company logo on it -- not exactly an item calculated to set the congoing public on fire.
Thus, they had a booth bunny, a latter-day Betty Boop who appeared to be in her early twenties, with abs and eyeliner and auburn-in-a-bottle hair, who would take turns sitting on their table and lying on her stomach on their table, batting her eyelids at the people who walked by. Unfortunately for our neighbors, even having a booth bunny was not enough to make a $20 shirt bearing an indy comics label logo an attractive commodity, and sales were suffering. Meanwhile, 85% of the people who came back to our little corner and spotted me smiling happily and holding up my silly little handmade sign, would at least laugh, and a good 50% would then come over to the table and even if they didn't so much as buy a button, they'd walk away having heard of NeverNever and The Suburban Jungle and remembering me as the "buy my stuff sign guy." Several people who'd never heard of my work still wanted pictures of me with my sign.
Well, not knowing the booth bunny I can't really ascribe motives to her, but I got the distinct vibe that she was jealous. At a lull in the proceedings, she sidled over to our table, batted her eyes at me, and cooed, "Could I borrow your sign for a little while?"
Halfway between annoyed and amused, I responded, "Wellll ... I dunnoooo..." In the past, I've been approached in exactly that same manner by people who then proceeded to punch me in the face and take my lunch money. But she assured me that she only wanted it for ten minutes, so I acquiesced. And, having learned from bitter experience that discipline is paramount in these situations, made an exact note of the time.
So she took the "Buy my stuff! I'll be your friend!" sign, hiked up her midriff-tied torn-off t-shirt, and started posing with it and telling people, "GOSH, if you buy our SHIRT, I'll be your FRIEND! What more could you WANT?" David Allen, being susceptible to booth bunnies and insufficiently clad females in general, took the opportunity to take several pictures of her.
Not a sale.
After eight minutes of the fanboys not noticing the difference between her with the sign and her without it, their continued insistence on not buying the shirt no matter how much they stood around and ogled her, and my answering queries of "You gave her your sign?" with a casual, "Yup ... she's got six minutes left!" she apparently got disgusted and handed it back to me.
"Here," she said. "I guess I'm just not as cute as you are."
I shrugged and replied in my best just-joshing-ya tones, "Well, I didn't want to say anything, but..."
Within minutes, I was making new friends again. Make of it what you will. :)