Convention Time! 10 Tips for Success in Artists Alley!

Conventions
Most large conventions offer spaces for creators in Artists Alley-- at some shows a great area of energy and creativity with talented artists of all styles and levels sitting together offering their wares.

Here are some tips:

1. SIGNAGE-- let the folks walking around know who you are.


Retractable banners are a great option.
They are easy to carry with you and easy to set up behind your table.

You could do signage cheaper but there is no guarantee there will be a wall behind you and many cons refuse to let you set something up in the aisle.

I don't advise a banner that promotes your book-- do a small table sign for that-- rather feature a great piece of your art and put your name on it.

That way down the road when you're on your third or fourth book you don't need to do a new banner.

2. BRING ORIGINAL ART & PRINTS
Keep the art in an artist portfolio-- have prices on each piece with a post it note or sticker.  Original art and prints should be your own artwork and characters-- but you can do some mainstream characters too.

A Spider-Man sketch is likely going to sell well, but keep in mind if you aren't freelancing for a company they MAY ask you to stop.  It's pretty rare that they do it-- and you'll see your competition doing it so give it a shot.

I like to have one price for all prints, which leads to...

3. PRICING!
Put a price on everything.  People don't like to ask what something's price is.
You're much more likely to make a sale if there is a price on it.



If you're going to be doing sketches during the show make a price list for that too.
Break it down by media i.e.

Pencil sketches $20
Ink Sketches $40
Color Sketches $60

You can even offer free mini sketches for anyone who buys a copy of your book, which leads to our next bit of advice:

4. OFFER DISCOUNTS AND PROMOTIONS
If your cover price is $12.95 and you are selling it for that you might get people who will say they'll just get it at their local comic shop.

What they are saying is they like your book but they don't want to spend their con money on it if they can just get it at their own shop.

Likely they will never pickup the book.

INSTEAD, offer a discount-- say a $10 show special and a free head sketchcard of one of your main characters-- or of a character of their choice.

Anything you can do to make their option stronger to buy now is going to help, which leads to...


5. ACCEPT CREDIT CARDS!
The SQUARE and PAYPAL HERE have made it so your iPad, cell phone or even your iPOd can now take credit cards for you.

Most convention spaces have free Wi-Fi so even if you don't have a wireless account you will be able to accept credit cards.

Most people only carry a limited amount of cash, so this option will help with impulse sales.

THE SQUARE is free to signup and they take a percentage of your sales-- and its a smaller percentage than most CC companies and worth it.

Paypal works the same way.

I use both at shows and store signings.

6. OFFER FREEBIES
I usually get a thing of bat pencils to give away to kids from Oriental Trading company or a party store-- it costs me pennies for the pencils and they tie in to Dracula.  I also usually will do a free mini sketch for kids under 12 which also helps bring people to my table.

Even just giving away your business card is good.

7. Be Engaged, be pro active
Sitting there looking pathetic is not going to help.


Have a bright lively engaging booth, and look like you want to be there and there's a good chance someone will stop and ask you what your book is about.

Props are good too.

A few years ago I had a character in a story who had a Batman obsession to the point that he spent his life walking around in a 1960s style Batman cowl-- I happen to own one of those so I brought it with me to shows and set it up (under glass)-- it brought a lot of people to my booth.

A smile works.

I don't find calling out to people works at all-- unless you're particularly funny, and most of us are not.


Like this guy, I personally like to sketch while I'm sitting there.
But put up a sign that says "This sketch I'm doing is to keep me busy and for sale" or something like that-- you'll be amazed at how many people will stop, watch you sketch-- take pictures as you go and then buy it.

If you get orders for sketches or you're working on a commission take the sign down.

But above all staying busy almost always looks good-- as long as you look up and say hello to anyone coming to your booth.

8. BRING A FRIEND


If they are also an artist you can split the table cost or hotel bill with them.
If they're a friend or a significant other make sure they have the personality to engage the people who come up to your table.

The best kind of "assistant" stands up when someone comes over to talk-- they know your book and your history so they can handle the sale.

They also can cover the table while you run to the bathroom, they can get lunch, etc.  All good things.

BUT make sure they seem like they want to be there.

I had a good friend who brought his wife-- who hated comics-- she sat there and read a book while he sketched.   Rather than respond favorably when someone would joke about how bored she must be, she got offended.

Another couple spent most of the con sleeping at their table at one show.  I went over twice to say hello an both time they were out like lights drooling on each other.

I wasn't surprised when he told me he had a bad show when we were packing things up.


8. BRING HEALTHY SNACKS
Water, a cooler is good--granola or energy bars are better than candy bars.  Fruit is good.


9. GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS AT THE SHOW
All of the tables around you-- know what they're selling.

AND promote them too-- they'll see you do it and they'll do the same thing.  You can create a great KARMA initiative in your whole row.

Nothing is better than having good people all around you and I've NEVER worked a show where this hasn't happened.

It's just a matter of making friends.


10. GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS AT THE SHOW
All of the tables around you-- know what they're selling, introduce yourself, offer them snack bars.   Or water.  Offer to watch their table if they have to run to the bathroom.

AND promote them too-- they'll see you do it and they'll do the same thing.  You can create a great KARMA initiative in your whole row.

Nothing is better than having good people all around you and I've NEVER worked a show where this hasn't happened.

It's just a matter of making friends.

11. BRING A STACK OF POSTCARDS TO THE SHOW
Printing at overnight prints is cheap-- make a good stack of 100 or so and bring them to the show to leave at the "Free" table usually set up by the entrance-- this might get someone to stop by, but it also gets 100 new eyes on that fancy website or blog of yours.

12. Fully charge your phone or iPod before the show.  If you use your iPod while you're sketching only put one earphone in so you can hear people when they come up to you.  Customers will be reluctant to interrupt you if they think you have to take your earphones out.

Keep the volume low-- I should not be able to hear what you're listening to.