Tuesday, October 08, 2013

The Con Game, Part Two

All set up, with banners, table runner, art portfolio, book stands...

So you're a cartoonist, comic artist, or something similar, and you want to get your name out there.  In my last post I briefly mentioned some of the reasons why you might want to attend a local comic con as an exhibitor.  One last thing you'll need to check, though, is do you want a booth or a table?  Smaller shows may not give you a choice, which is fine, since their entry fees will be free or low.  Bigger shows will have prices ranging from Artist Alley tables to large exhibitor booths, and sometimes set-ups in between.  Check the rules to see what you can sell at each.

Artist Alley is usually the best place for beginners, if they don't have rules about what you can sell. If you can only sell artwork, then make sure that's all you have.  If you're trying to sell your first comic book or graphic novel, you can do that at some shows.  Every comic con has packets you can download online, and usually a number to call to ask questions.  Do your homework, be comfortable in your choice, and then send in your check.  Then get ready for showtime!

Your first show may just be you, a sketchbook, and some comics or art prints on a table. Later, you may have a banner or two behind you, book stands to prop your books up, and maybe some other merchandise... anything to get people to your table. Do you need all that stuff?  Sometimes.  You need to remember that you are competing with the entire comic con. You need to convince people that you might be just as interesting as Stan Lee, or the Batmobile, or the guy selling Doctor Who t-shirts nearby.

One year at SPACE, a kid just sat down and read one of my comics!
While I don't encourage blocking the aisles, it was nice to see my work appreciated. :0)

Do you need gimmicks, and t-shirts, and booth babes?  That's up to you.  I try to avoid gimmicks, and anything not directly related to my business.  However, and this is the truth, it can be very difficult to sell at conventions, and there are times when it WILL get frustrating.  Half of the crowd is going to be in a hurry to get somewhere else, and will rush past your table. They may come back later, but at the moment you're thinking about the cost of the table, and how many sales you've made.  There will also be times when there will not be a single soul walking around, because of an interesting panel or a costume contest.

And there will always be a guy next to you, or across from you, who is selling all of the time, leaving you to wonder how and why.

There are a few things you can do to call attention to yourself, so don't panic.  Number one, is to never let it get to you.  Stand there, smile at people, and engage people who stop by.  The biggest mistake anyone can make in trying to sell stuff is to sit there looking sad or angry, crossing your arms, or drawing in your sketch pad or worse, being on the phone, when people are walking by.  Nobody is going to want to engage you in conversation if you do not look friendly.  Now, if you're not a friendly person, then you probably shouldn't be trying to sell stuff.  Each person who comes to your table is a potential customer, sure, but they could end up being a friend, a fan, or both.  Yes, sales are great, but knowing your audience, talking with them, seeing their likes and dislikes... it's all very interesting, and all very important.

At Baltimore Comic-con, I was asked to draw on a shoe!

Other things are your display.  Make sure your table is neat, and your stuff looks professional.  Stand your books up in book stands so people can see them, and maybe get a banner (if you plan to do a lot of shows) that shows what you are about.  And have something nice that people can take away with them, to remember you by.  It can be a business card, a photocopied pamphlet, a postcard... just make sure it looks nice.  Give people something that you would like, something that they will want to keep, something that won't end up in a garbage can.  If you have a web-comic, or an online portfolio, then point people to that.  They may be rushed at the convention, but they just might look you up at home.

Honestly, that's a big thing of what selling at a comic con is all about; meeting people.  Friends, fans, fellow artists... it's all good, and just may leave you feeling better about what you're doing.

And if things do not go well?  Then you've learned another lesson, and should either change what you are doing completely, or find a way to do it better.  Just don't fool yourself. Not everybody sells a lot of stuff at conventions, and that's okay if they've made new friends, learned a few things, and most importantly, had fun.  It's not for everyone, though, and that's okay.  You do need to be a salesperson to do this stuff, especially if you're working alone.

And that's another good point.  If you do know someone else like you, then maybe you can share a table for your first show? You cut down the costs, have someone to watch your stuff when you run to the bathroom, and two people can engage the crowd better than one, and can help each other out.

There's a lot more I can say on the subject, so as always, feel free to ask questions. :0)

JOHN :0)

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