10 tips for winning at Artist’s Alley
Con season is starting up again and I figured it’s time to dispense some experience from the many cons I have attended and talking to many people who *want* to vendor in Artist’s Alley and have no idea of where to start.
10) You DO have things to sell - If you draw or make things at all you’ve got things to sell. If you’re running short of time, dig out some older pieces and make prints or repurpose them for collages, bookmarks, mini prints, buttons ect, and put them on your table. If you don’t have money for prints or merchandise, but do have time (or adequate run up), grab some paper and fill a binder with original art. A box of Crayola pencils can go incredibly far. On a similar note:
9) Bring enough stuff to cover your costs - I often see people paying hundreds for a table alone and bringing merchandise that if sold at full asking price would recoup maybe a quarter of it. It is easier to go in with extra copies of stuff to sell than selling air when you’re trying to recover your costs.
8) Giveaways - have something for free that you can give away that has your name and a way to find you (i.e.: email, web address) on it. This is usually a standard sized business card (the most easily stored), but I’ve seen people use stickers, strips of paper, buttons, fortune cookies or pamphlet type things.
7) Put your name on it - Just like in school, if you want credit for it, put your name on it. This includes writing your name/website on the back of your prints and original art. I got tired of doing this by hand, so I use a photocopier on prints and I have a rubber stamp for the rest (cost about $17 including a stamp pad since it’s the same size as my business cards, but you can go smaller/cheaper). Now wherever your wares go, they lead right back to you!
6) Zines/books - if you have a webcomic, make an ashcan zine that you can sell for a couple of bucks or give away as advertisement to build your readership. If you don’t have a comic, it’s still worth doing the same for a mini art portfolio to have in hand in case you run across an editor or potential client. If you’re in a position where you have print-on-demand or large run books, consider investing in a collapsing shopping or luggage cart so you don’t have to lift that stuff. A spare rolling suitcase works too. Make sure you can move your kit under your own power ahead of time, especially if you know you won’t have helpers.
5) Food - remember to pack a lunch, water/fluids and a box of treats. Mints, lozenges or hard candy are really good as well. If it’s a crowded con or you’re going without a helper you might have trouble getting offsite or through a concession stand line in a timely manner. Having food will help you keep your energy up, lozenges or candies helps maintain your voice, and having extra bottles of water or edibles to offer to neighbours is an excellent way to introduce yourselves and make friends, especially if you’re the shy sort that have trouble doing that sort of thing.
4) First in, last out - as a vendor at most cons you have the benefit of being allowed in early and permitted to stay after attendees are kicked out. Make use of that, come as early as you can and use the time to set up, run around and see things, or just decompress and get breakfast into you. On the same note, you don’t need to be in a rush to pack up by closing (unless you have somewhere to be).
3) Look approachable - You don’t have to look con-goers in the eye but looking scared, angry or desperate (especially if you’re a guy eyeing a lady buyer, this can have Unfortunate Implications) can make people want to give you a wide berth. If you have a sales pitch, try using it on a friend before con, to work out any kinks. Don’t be afraid to smile.
2) Hygiene - Obligatory addition. In animation college an ex-gamedev instructor spent a considerable amount of time begging us to be clean and presentable in office settings and events. I thought it was a little overboard until I started attending more events and worked in a game studio. Showering daily and fresh clothing will make you FEEL better at con, make people in your space feel better, and help avoid con crud. Washing your face can also help you wake up, if you find yourself running down during the day.
1) GO GET EM, TIGER - Every con is a learning experience, you’ll figure out what works for you, what doesn’t, and how to modify your approach next time (keeping track of inventory really helps here). Don’t let a jerk con-goer get you down, or a low sales day put you off the rest of the weekend. In a 3 day con the bulk of your traffic will usually be on the second day, and your fastest sales on the third as people are last minute shopping with the remainder of their budgets. And if you have leftover stock, save it and get a jump on next con!
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