This weekend my twitter feed was flooded with fantastical tales and whimsical images from Wonder Con. This can only mean one thing: convention season is here again.
These days conventions are an essential part of my job, but I still remember my first experiences in Artists Alley. The good and the bad– I remember.
So I’d like to share with you three common and COSTLY mistakes to avoid this year.
Sabotage Your Sales in Artists Alley by Spending Too Much on Merchandise:
If you’ve ever attended a convention, you’ll know that Artists Alley is often the most creative part of a show floor. Hundreds of artists gather to exhibit and sell their art. It’s overwhelming– comics, posters, commissions, tee shirts, buttons. Everywhere you look, bright colors, beautiful art and creative ideas.
And so when it is your turn to buy table space in artists alley, you remember all of the different things you’ve seen there and feel pressed to keep up with the Joneses. Sure, you’ve never exhibited at a show before, but aren’t you expected– I mean if you’re serious about it– to have tee shirts? And buttons! And what if your brand new issue #1 sweeps the show floor as the “cannot miss” item of the weekend?
You would hate to run out of comics then, wouldn’t you?
Slow down. Re-evaluate. Ask yourself smart questions before you begin throwing hundreds of dollars into merchandise.
Do people already read your comic or is this a brand new product? Readerships take awhile to build. So until you know that there will be lines of fans waiting for your autograph at a show, go easy on the book orders. They are expensive. And it’s hard to sell a tee shirt of your character to people who have never even heard of your comic.
Don’t put the cart before the horse.
Make sure the kinds of merchandise and the amounts you order make sense. If you’re lucky, you’ll sell out of books, but that’s a good problem to have.
And an easy one to fix the next time.
Sabotage Your Sales in Artists Alley by Forgetting to Engage the Customer:
If you’ve been to an Artists Alley before you’ve seen this scene: a lonely, wet-behind-the-ears artist looking dejected behind her table because no one has bought a single copy of her book all weekend…
…but the guy siting next to her hasn’t even had time to eat his lunch.
The less she sells, the sadder she gets until folks begin walking on the far side of the aisle just to avoid her.
She is waiting for a miracle. But she fails to realize the power is in her hands.
Do not underestimate the value of engaging a customer. Most people walking around Artists Alley are browsing for beautiful art, self-published titles, or hoping to stumble on the next big talent.
So what will make a browser stop at your booth? More often than not, a simple but friendly “hello” will do the trick.
If you’re feeling low, go to the bathroom, count to ten, dry your eyes, take a couple deep yoga breaths and then go get ‘em, Tiger! You don’t have to be the most famous name, the best artist, or the showiest salesman to sell comics in Artists Alley.
You just need to smile, engage, make polite but warm small talk and pitch your comic in a memorable, intriguing way.
Sabotage Your Sales in Artists Alley by Approaching a Convention with Unrealistic Expectations:
Who knows what to expect the first time you show in Artists Alley? Every show will be different, and every person’s show will have different results. I’ve been to conventions where all my friends complained about not selling a thing and I was moving books all weekend long. I’ve also been to shows where the reverse is true.
Don’t go into your first (or second, or third) convention with grossly unrealistic expectations.
Sure, you might find a publisher the first time you exhibit. You might get a movie agent interested in representing you. You might sell 100 copies of your brand new issue #1.
Sure. You might.
But chances are you won’t.
That doesn’t mean the show was a failure. We put too much pressure on ourselves too fast, and expect the entire world to open up to us the first time we make an effort. Life seldom works this way.
Attending conventions is a regular, ongoing part of your life as a comic creator. You don’t have to– and won’t— get it all right the first time. Learn what works, learn what doesn’t, adjust and make changes at the next show. Repeat.
We’ve been doing comic conventions for years and just yesterday my husband stopped me in the hall to say, “You know what we really should get for that show next month…?”
You will always be changing the game plan of what works and what doesn’t. So don’t put too much pressure on yourself to figure it all out now.
…or to sell a hundred comics in a weekend.
These things take time. But if you’re in it for the long haul, fortunately, you’ve got plenty of that.