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    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2011 edited
    Hey guys,

    I'm running a stall at Armageddon, which is basically New Zealand's answer to comic con. I've been be doing it for a few years now, normally I only sell prints and sketches.
    So I guess I'm trying to do a little research into what products to make and sell this year.

    There seems to be a large amount of artists around here and I'd be very interested to hear what some of you provide for your stalls.
  1.  (9600.2)
    I've done a few local cons and zine fairs with my own comics, and I also run a monthly stall selling a selection of Irish small press comics by various artists. In both cases I have a decent selection of comics. I'll usually have some business cards and/or flyers for my website to give to people who look but don't buy. This year for the 2D festival in Derry in June I plan to print my web address on a load of sheets of paper to sketch on. Something I always get asked about and always forget is bags to put purchases in. I've tried having a bowl of sweets on the table to attract custom, but it doesn't seem to work and I always end up eating nearly all of them myself.

    Main thing I've learned is, if you, can, stand rather than sit behind your stall. Being on the same level as your potential customers is friendlier and makes it easier to make eye contact. If you're below the customer you're subliminally lower-status and easier to take no notice of. If you're sketching you probably won't be able to stand, so you might consider putting a chair in front of the stall so customers can sit down to talk to you.
  2.  (9600.3)
    here's my how to set up your display booth video ...

    but seriously I have mental problems, what you really need is a little checklist like this:

    1) BUSINESS CARDS with WEB info
    2) BUSINESS CARDS with WEB info
    3) BUSINESS CARDS with WEB info
    4) see above (I do an oversized business card with lot's of graphics, most people are surprised they are free and they are a great give away)

    Merchandise $20 0r less
    5) comics
    8) pins

    10) Table cloth (decorative?)
    11) signage

    PACK FOOD or at least be prepared for snacking NEVER LEAVE YOUR BOOTH. ( diapers are great you never know when stan lee might walk by)

    Did this professionally (mostly in the fine art circuit though, not so much comic-cons) at a rate of 15 shows a year from 2001- 2009, they are lot's of fun but lot's of work. Good Luck!
      CommentAuthorPaul Sizer
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2011 edited
    I've been setting up at shows since 1993, and in those many years, no matter the size of the shows, there's some constants that always bring business to me...

    A. Product standing up, not flat on the table. Improves visibility for books.
    B. Your name (or the name of your book), in big, easy to see letters.
    C. Upright banners with simple, bold graphics.
    D. Easy to see pricing for everything on the table, especially what's FREE.
    E. Work in progress. I always have a "piece I'm working on", which is a clever ploy to have a drawing in progress solely for the purpose of having something that people can see me working on, encouraging them to hang out and browse the table.
    F. I always bring my own cheap, color coordinated plastic table cloth that makes me stand out from all the white plastic tables, and can be thrown out at the end of the convention.

    As far as engaging customers, I mix it up between sitting and standing. I take a laid back approach to engaging a customer, encouraging them to browse the table and let me know if they have any questions. Some people have the gift of being able to carnival bark effectively, but I've always made more sales when I let people browse and hang out. The longer they stay at the table, the more likely a sale will happen. Since I also do sketches, that also gives them something to personalize their visit to my table, so that's always a good hook if you're able to do quick sketches for folks.

    And take-aways. Always have something small and free with your name and website on it that everyone can take. Business cards, postcards, anything free with info on it for them to check you out later.
  3.  (9600.5)
    thanks, some great information in your replies.
  4.  (9600.6)
    Use all the vertical space you can because you won't have much horizontal. Additionally, as Sizer said, you make your work more visible.

    I taped my t-shirts to the front of the table, but if there's a grid rack behind your table (some shows divide the rows with them) that's an even better place to hang them.
  5.  (9600.7)
    Paul Sizer is THE MAN when it comes to doing good booth. I've subtly stolen some tips from him since I began exhibiting about 3 years ago.

    Here's my table from a show last fall. It's a 6' table; I prefer 8' because I can spread out a bit more.

    What we see:
    *I use two plastic magazine stands to hold my "floppy" comics. One has three tiers, the other has four. The comics in the tiers are grouped by title. Prices are next to each title on the backs of business cards. The racks can be found at any office supply store.
    *My trade paperbacks are stacked to the right of those. There's a tall stack lying flat and one copy of each title displayed vertically on folding book stands behind them. You can get these at any arts/crafts store, like Michaels.
    *Next to those is a small binder filled with sketch cards for sale, and an 8x10 portfolio of original art and sketches. The sketches I generally will give away as incentives (buy $20 in comics, get a free sketch). The sketch cards sell pretty well at $5 each or 2 for $8.
    *In front of the plastic racks is space for fliers, bookmarks or other giveaways.
    *The tablecloth covering the table is, well, a tablecloth. THIS IS KEY. Always bring a cloth -- and a second one to cover your table overnight.
    *In front of the table is a 6' wide, custom-made banner. I want to get a vertical one for behind the table, too, but I just haven't done that yet.
    *Behind all of that, out of public view, is a cup to hold pens and pencils, a sketchbook, my notebook to register sales and hand sanitizer.
    *Beneath the table is a crate with random supplies (tape, string, velcro tabs, thumbtacks, scissors, etc.) because you'll never know what you need.

    As for my approach: I try to stand as much as possible, although I have a bad back and that becomes difficult at times. I'm there to sell, so I try to be genial and helpful and not overpowering. If you're standing in front of my booth, it means you want to buy comics. It's my job to put them into your hand and take your money. I've gotten good at sales pitches for my various titles, and I do well at cons.

    Here's one more photo, of me at Wizard World Chicago last year. Like Paul, I try to stand out. One way I do this is by wearing this hockey jersey on Day One. It stands out, doesn't it?

    Good luck at your show! Oh, I almost forgot: Other people who do great booth are David Mack, Jill Thomspon and Dirk Tiede. Dirk especially.
  6.  (9600.8)
    I just wanted to thank everyone for taking the time to write up this wonderful feed back.


  7.  (9600.9)
    Russell makes a point -- you can kind of suss out even casually dressed fans from like-garbed creators just because...most pros aren't wearing their gang colors. If everyone's sporting a Lantern Corps shirt, they're going to remember the guy in a tuxedo. Which I happen to own, and there are only a few occasions a year I can crack it open, so there you go. Why not leap at a chance to dress up?

    But when I'm not feeling so gimmicky I still try to arrive in a suit. I don't usually hit up editors for work at shows because most of them are local anyway and it's not like it's worked for me yet, but at the very least they'll remember me as someone who can cut a professional appearance. Now if only my work says the same.
  8.  (9600.10)
    Thanks, Brendan. Con attire is a topic that was raised at the Engine, and at P&P, too.

    Aside from the hockey-jersey day, I typically wear blue jeans and either a snazzy camp shirt (a Hawaiian button-down, but without the hibiscus) or a dress shirt with a nice T-shirt beneath it. If I have scheduled a meeting with an editor, I may wear khakis.

    Although I think I look good in a suit or blazer, and I own a few of both, it's typically too hot at cons for me to go that route. Sweaty is never a good luck when trying to impress someone.
      CommentAuthorPaul Sizer
    • CommentTimeMar 5th 2011
    Thanks for the nice words, Russel. And is it just me, or in your picture, you look 2-D, like you have a cut out of yourself to man the table. That's brilliant!
  9.  (9600.12)
    I also set up much like Paul Sizer. I would like to add a do not forget list to this, because you will never know what you will need.
    Things to bring to a convention that you are set up at
    1.Tape (packing, duct, scotch)
    2. twine or string
    3. scissors
    4. painkillers (advil asprin etc)
    5. a healthy snack with protein
    6. something to hold your money (a wallet, envelope, etc) cashboxes can be bulky
    7. layers of clothing (cons can get hot and cold depending on the amount of people and your location)
    8. a record book (keep track of everything you sell and everything you buy)
    9. scrap paper for last minute signs and notes
    10. pens, pencils, etc (to make art, signs, autographs)
    11. a phone (I have a smart phone so I can accept credit cards with Square, check the net for reference photos, and in case of emergency)

    anybody else have stuff to add to the list?
  10.  (9600.13)
    You're not the first person to say that, Paul. In fact, Jimmie "Bomb Queen" Robinson dummied a photo featuring him and "Flat Russell" at SDCC.

    The optical effect was the result of a wide angle lens, I believe.
  11.  (9600.14)
    Your to-bring list is excellent. I'd add:
    -A water bottle and one-serving juice-mix packets, so you can stay hydrated all day.
    -Granola bars, especially the ones with fruits and nuts. They provide great protein and sugars to get you through the day
    -Hand sanitizer
    -Tissues/paper towels
    -Plastic bags, both for your trash and for customers' purchases
    -Post-it Notes. I've contributed to a lot of anthologies, and having these stickers on my pages makes it easy to find them and show people my work. They're also good for pricing books.
    -A sheet of paper (mine is framed) that lists all your prices, discounts, etc.
    -A table-top name card or sign, identifying who you are. I generally face this off to the side, so people approaching the table can see it before they arrive.
    • CommentTimeMar 5th 2011 edited
    Does anyone have specific suggestions as to how to handle banners/background things? I've seen some people with stands made of PVC pipe bits for easy assembly and portability... I've also seen easels used, but that seems to take up more space than most artists alleys can afford.
  12.  (9600.16)
    Annie: I've avoided the PVC pipe route, as do most professionals. I think it looks amateurish for the most part. I have seen a few good homemade setups, though, including one that used C-clamps to attach to the AA table, making a frame for the artist to sit in -- like Lucy's stand in Peanuts.

    It's worth it, I think, to buy a banner that comes with a built-in stand. The banner is on a springloaded device and has a spine built in as well. You can find them very inexpensively on eBay if you don't mind the product coming from China and taking a while. Or you can get it domestically (if you're American, of course) but pay a bit more.
  13.  (9600.17)
    A dish of candy never hurts, either.

    I often lug a box of Marvels and DCs with me to give away free. Most folks will consider your pitch with a more open mind if they're taking a comic from you which they already know they want. And it doesn't hurt to draw a crowd.
  14.  (9600.18)
    I remember one year Erik Larsen wanted to give away Hostess Fruit Pies at his AA table -- and the con told him he couldn't, because the hall vendors had an exclusive contract for food service, or somesuch excuse.
      CommentAuthorPaul Sizer
    • CommentTimeMar 6th 2011
    Annie: I would agree also; homemade PVC banner holders may have a kind of hipster/ironical appeal, but always seem kind of hokey and non-professional. If you go to a place like FastSigns or places like that, for about $200 you can invest in a self contained roller banner that is its own stand, doesn't weight much, is pretty compact, and goes up in about 10 seconds. Its an investment, but you'll look clean, compact, won't trod on neighboring tables (my big gripe is huge banner self made contraptions that infringe upon my table area) and you can carry it on the plane. Highly recommended.
  15.  (9600.20)
    I got my horizontal banner at It cost $35, including $10 shipping. Interestingly, they don't make banners with eyelets. Rather, You pay $4 for clear, plastic adhesive hangers that you attach to the banners edges to make loops. Eyelets often tear and ruin the banner; these, they say, do not. Mine hasn't. And even if they did, you just buy more.

    I recommend the service.