New artists might find themselves in an Artist’s Alley at an Anime/Comic/SciFi/Fantasy/Furry/Whatever Con. The AA can be both a good and bad place to be. Today I’m going to give you a quick rundown of what to expect if you should choose to exhibit your work here. Hopefully this tutorial will keep you from feeling like a crazy monkey. :)
How does this work, then?
In my experience, the AA can wildly differ depending on what kind of con you are talking about. There are fan-run cons and pro-run cons, as well as different genres of cons. For the sake of brevity, I am going to have to speak about this generally and focus on fan-run cons. These types of cons are much more common.
Fan-run cons often are less organized due to everyone working on a volunteer basis, but they often cost less to rent a table. They are very popular these days since anime fandom has become more mainstream. At fan-run cons, table prices can be low so it goes to follow that there is no skill or maturity level that you have to achieve to get into the AA. All you have to do is apply while there are spaces available. You usually do not get any extra setup time for your booth, or any security. You could also be sitting next to an obnoxious kid that needs a large dosage of Ritalin, or a professional working artist. Sometimes cons also put their guests in the AA.
Survival Tip #1: Never Go Alone:
If you plan on going to one, bring a friend with you. You will need to leave your booth at some point to use the bathroom and eat, so having a table helper is necessary.
Survival Tip #2: Bring Food:
It is best to bring a lunch, snacks, and water. You may not have time for a break. The rooms are very dry so it is easy to become dehydrated.
Survival Tip #3: Bring a Jacket Even in the Summer:
It is also very cold in most convention halls and hotels, so bring a jacket even if it is 90 degrees outside. Nothing is worse than shivering all weekend because of some overactive air conditioner.
Survival Tip #4: Bring a Fort:
You may need to stack boxes around the perimeter of your booth for security. This is easy because usually your merchandise will be brought in boxes.
Very often the people setting up the logistics of the AA don’t take theft into account. I was at one con where the tables were arranged in a horseshoe shape with the artist’s facing inward. The problem with this was that while customers were walking around inside the horseshoe, nothing stopped anyone from walking around outside the horseshoe and stealing things.
Survival Tip #5: Set the Cash Up Right:
Be sure to bring a locking metal cash box to hold your money. Of course you should bring lots of change, too.
Survival Tip #6: Get Your Measurements:
Be sure to get exact measurements of your table before you get to the con. Sometimes the tables provided may be wide, but they could be abnormally thin. I was at one con where we had such skinny tables that it was tough getting all of my merchandise on the table. Do not expect that the coordinator is going to give you all of the information you need, because they may not.
Survival Tip #7: Hoist That Banner:
You should invest in a banner of some kind so that people can find you in the chaos. I find that ones that you can raise up high above your head work well and take up less “behind the table” space. You don’t want your logo to be behind where you are going to stand, anyway. Here is the banner stand that I use.
Survival Tip #8: Label Everything:
Label all of your merchandise clearly. Customers will not ask you for a price. I repeat: customers will not ask you for a price, so label everything or you will lose a sale.
Survival Tip #9: Vary that Price Point:
Make sure that the price points of your merchandise is varied enough to accommodate all budgets. I have things that cost .50, $1, $5, $10, $15 and so on. If someone likes your work they can buy something small if they don’t happen to have the $20 for the t-shirt. Very often they will come back next time for something larger. Before you know it – you have a regular customer. This is how you grow your fan base – allow people of all financial levels to get hooked on your work!
Survival Tip #10: Business Cards:
Bring lots of business cards that have your URL and email address written clearly on them. Place them on your table and label them with a sign that says that they are free. Believe it or not, people sometimes hesitate to take things…even business cards.
In closing, I want to remind you to not look at sales numbers as a measure of your success. Getting your brand exposed to new people is a longterm investment. I have gone to some cons not intending to make a profit because my goal was to put forth a great promotional effort for my brand. It builds slowly as people recognize you and then it will pay off.
Good luck, everyone!