How to Organize a Library Comics Fest

This May, I helped organize a Comics Fest at my local library. If you’ve ever thought about working with your library to do something similar, I highly recommend it.

For creators, it’s an opportunity to gain exposure, connect with fans, and collaborate with fellow artists. For the community, it’s a chance to enjoy a vibrant, family-friendly event that promotes literacy and brings people together.

In this blog post, I’ll first share what we did at my library, and then give you tips on how to organize a mini comic-con at your local library.

The Metuchen Library Comics Fest

We organized it as a four-hour afternoon event with:

  • An opening “draw off” with Mike Dawson and Brian Schatell
  • Three separate comics creation workshops aimed at different age levels, featuring: 
    • Steve Metzger and Brian Schatell’s session for 5-8 year olds; 
    • Mike Dawson’s session for 8-12 year olds
    • A session for teens presented by local artist John Polizzano and Dr. Ken Sammond, a professor of English literature specializing in graphic novels. 
  • A panel discussion moderated by Professor Sammond with me, Steve, Brian, Mike, and Debbie Fong
  • A book sale and signing 
  • An artists reception

Below are photos to show you what it was like.

The Photo Gallery!

Here’s the banner at the library entrance announcing the event.

We started the Comicfest with an introductory “Draw Off.” I asked the kids to tell me what the artists should draw. Of course they had a blast seeing how Mike and Brian each interpreted the same prompts in different ways.

After the “Draw Off,” we separated the attendees into three different rooms by age (5-8 year olds, 8-12 year olds, and teens) for workshops.

Here’s Steve Metzger and Brian Schatell telling the kids about their graphic novel series BUMBLE BROTHERS

The kids worked hard designing their own silly characters.

Mike Dawson led his insanely good “Cartooning Lessons” workshop.

Next we had a panel discussion about the graphic novel creative process.

After the panel, we concluded the event with a book signing and artists reception.

Learnings from the Event

The best part of the event was the interactive workshops with the kids. They were almost jumping out of their seats with excitement during the Draw-Off. And during the workshop time, they got completely absorbed in making their own comics.

The timing of the later activities could have been improved, though. We had a 15 minute break between the workshop and the panel, and by that point, the kids had been there for almost 2 hours, and lots of them were ready for a snack or had to leave. 

So it was unfortunate that the library scheduled the book signing — which was organized by the Friends of the Library — to happen after the panel. By that point, many of the families had to leave. I think they could have sold a lot more books if they had had a table set up near the entrance to the library where people could have bought books at any time.

I also think that local promotion of the event could have been better. The librarians told me that there was a miscommunication with the school system, and their information about the Comics Fest was only sent to parents a week or two before it happened. If you’re involved with planning an event like this, I’d recommend making a list of all promotional announcements and following up with the people involved to make sure they actually went out.

Any time you do something for the first time, you always learn a lot.

Despite those hiccups, I would say that this type of event was not that hard to put together, and given how much the kids loved it, definitely worth doing! 

Organize Your Own Library Comics Fest!

Here’s a step-by-step guide to organizing a successful mini comic-con at your local library.

  1. Reach Out to Library Staff
  • Begin by contacting the library director or events coordinator. Share your vision and discuss how a comics festival aligns with the library’s mission to promote literacy and community engagement. Most librarians are well aware of how popular graphic novels are, and will be open to an event that draws families into the library, increases membership, and creates buzz in the community.

2. Form a Planning Committee

  • Gather Creators: Reach out to local graphic novel artists and writers interested in participating.
  • Identify Key Library Staff: In my case, the senior librarian and teen librarian led the planning, and I assisted.
  • Delegate Tasks: Clarify who is doing what — you could assign roles such as project manager, programming organizer, marketing lead, and volunteer coordinator.
  • Secure a Date: Choose a date that avoids major holidays and local events to maximize attendance.

3. Develop a Budget

  • Expense Planning: Consider costs for marketing materials, event supplies, guest appearances, and refreshments. We only had a small budget for the event I helped organize, and we spent most of it on modest honorariums for each of the creators who led a workshop at the Comics Fest. We asked all the participants to bring cookies, chips, or other snacks for the artists reception, so it was basically a potluck.
  • Funding Sources: Explore potential funding through library budgets, local businesses, grants, and crowdfunding. In my case, the budget for the event came from the Friends of the Library fund.

4. Plan Event Activities

  • Our event was entirely focussed on workshops and panels. However, other events you could include at your library festival include:
    • Artist Alley: Booths for creators to display and sell their work.
    • Kid-Friendly Activities: Face painting, drawing contests, and interactive story times
    • Cosplay Contest: Attendees dress as their favorite characters, with a contest to add excitement.

5. Promote the Event

  • List the Assets You’ll Need:
    • The title of the event
    • A short description of the event
    • A detailed description of the event
    • Promotion images sized for different purposes (website, social media, newsletter, etc)
  • Identify the Channels You’ll Use to Promote:
    • Library Channels: Utilize the library’s website, social media, and email newsletters
    • Local Media: Send press releases to local newspapers, radio stations, and TV channels
    • Flyers and Posters: Distribute materials in schools, community centers, and local businesses
    • Creators’ Platforms: Provide promo assets to all the creators involved so they can promote to their audience
  • Write Up a Promotion Schedule — when will announcements go out via each of the channels listed above
  • Create the Promotion Assets
  • Distribute the Assets
    • It can be helpful to create a Google Drive or Dropbox folder that you can easily share with all participants
    • Give everyone who’ll be helping promote clear instructions on how and when to use them

6. Coordinate Logistics

  • Venue Setup: Plan the layout for booths, stages, and activity areas. Ensure there is enough space for foot traffic and seating. In our case, we had one main multipurpose room, and we used two additional library spaces for workshops. We had to quickly move furniture around in the multipurpose room several times to accommodate different types of events (a live drawing session, a workshop, a panel, and a reception).
  • Technical Needs: Make sure you have the microphones, projectors, and sound systems you need for panels and workshops, and identify who’ll be the point person for A/V.
  • Volunteers: Recruit volunteers to assist with setup and breakdown and answering questions.
  • Event Schedule: Design a program flyer with the event’s full schedule and details that you can give attendees when they arrive.

7. Manage the Day-of Operations

  • Pre-Event Setup: Make sure all participants and volunteers arrive early to go over instructions and help set up.
  • Feedback Collection: Distribute surveys to attendees to gather feedback for future events.

8. Post-Event Follow-Up

  • Thank You Notes: Send thank-you emails to participants, volunteers, and sponsors.
  • Recap: Share photos and highlights from the event in your newsletter, blog, and/or social media.
  • Feedback Analysis: Review the feedback collected and identify areas for improvement.

Your Turn!

Would you consider approaching your own local library to help organize something like this? If you have any questions about it, let me know in the comments below!

About Janna Morishima

Janna Morishima is the founder of Kids Comics Unite and a literary agent who specializes in graphic novels and visual storytelling. She started her publishing career at Scholastic, where she was one of the co-founders of the Graphix imprint. She then became director of the Kids Group for Diamond Book Distributors, where she worked with publishers such as Marvel, Dark Horse, and Oni Press, and helped launch Françoise Mouly’s Toon Books imprint. In addition to her background in publishing, she has worked as an associate producer for documentary films, and as an assistant teacher in a kindergarten and a teacher in a high school for teens in the juvenile justice system. She later launched and ran the NYC Department of Education’s “NYC Reads 365” literacy initiative.

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