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  1.  (9600.21)
    I tried the PVC thing years ago and finally bought a spring loaded sign from imphotographics. they go to a lot of the big shows in the u.s. and can hand deliver you your signs to save on shipping
    Russell, I love your additions to the list. I end up bringing most of them anyway, never thought of Post-its. great idea!
    and yes, hand sanitizer is a must!
  2.  (9600.22)
    Thanks, Jesse.

    In the "Think Vertical" department that Sizer mentioned, I have this to add. DISCLAIMER: The following photograph IS NOT A SALES PITCH. It was a photo I took earlier today so I could share a new tabling tool with some of my friends. And now I'm sharing it with you guys. But again, I AM NOT TRYING TO SELL ANY OF YOU ANYTHING.

    The tool in question is the cardboard sign that tops the paperback standing vertically here. It's a comics backing board that's been cut in half horizontally. In what remains, beneath the message, are two vertical cuts -- leaving three strips of cardboard. Putting the two outer strips behind the book and the middle strip over the back cover, I've created a really solid vertical sign that draws attention to the book being sold. The version here was just a template; I've since printed better-looking ones that don't rely on my crappy handwriting.

    The price tag affixed to the front cover is made from some of that backing board, too. It's affixed to the cover with a folded piece of blue painters' tape, which doesn't ruin book covers or leave a mark.

    Anyway, here it is:
  3.  (9600.23)
    For artists within the UK, a lot of people get their banners from this ebay seller. I recently got one from there, and they're very nice quality.
    Best advice I can give is just to be friendly, and don't be pushy. Guilting or pressuring people into buying can give you a sale, but it probably won't get you a fan or a repeat buyer. Make people feel comfortable at your stand, like they can just look and chat, and really don't have to buy anything.
    There are also different types of browsers, some people get chased away when you talk to them, and others won't come all the way to the table unless you do. Being able to tell the difference and adapt is useful. I've noticed this varies quite a bit from UK to US conventions, probably because of different social norms, but it's worth bearing in mind.
  4.  (9600.24)
    just wanted to say that jesserubenfelds list of odds & ends is really good. I don't know how many times my duct tape or sales book got misplaced. I have everything on jesse's list in a tool kit these days.
  5.  (9600.25)
    I used to carry a few plastic bins with everything in it and used a dolly to move it all...however it made getting around at the beginning and end a bit hard to do. So, I had a custom bag made to fit all of my wares and supplies in it. I'll snap a photo of it when I get my stuff together for C2E2 next week and post it here.
    Anybody else have any tricks on compacting their table set up for easy transport?
  6.  (9600.26)
    I use a dolly with bungee cords. One crate at the bottom has my supplies; 3-4 Diamond boxes of comics go on top of that; the long box that holds my banner slips in somewhere. If I have a good con, I go home with fewer Diamond boxes!

    Please look me up at C2E2! I'll be at the Reading With Pictures Booth, #821, next to DC. Where are you set up?
  7.  (9600.27)
    I'll be in Artist Alley table M7, look forward to meeting you in person Russell!
  8.  (9600.28)
    Any more for any more?
  9.  (9600.29)
    I love specific detailed advice like this. I don't know if anyone is still hanging around the thread (or if this is even the right thread to ask this) but what is the process of actually getting a space at a con like? Assuming you already have some professionally published work, do you just call a number and say "Hello, I draw pictures. How much is a table?"
  10.  (9600.30)
    Pretty much, yeah. Don't expect to make your nut back, though. The only way to do that is to get some actual exhibitor space. The indie guys I know who have done that have made really good bank, but it requires 4 figs, a lot of merchandise to sell, and all attendant risk.
  11.  (9600.31)
    Comic cons in the UK and Ireland usually have a special lower rate for small press exhibitors. You don't have to restrict yourself to comics shows, either. There's also local arts markets, zine fairs, book fairs and the like. Tables are usually pretty cheap, and in my experience I usually make more money at them than at comics shows. People who go to comics shows generally know who or what they're there for, but people at a zine fair are more likely to be looking for something they haven't seen before.
      CommentAuthorPaul Sizer
    • CommentTimeMar 14th 2011 edited
    The success of setting up in an Artist Alley of a con is really dependent on the con itself. For certain, there are cons where Artist Alley is THE focus of the show, and is placed accordingly, a center destination point that is easy to get to, and with easy visibility. Other cons make sure that you see the wrestling rings and General Lee well before you ever see where they have the artists stowed. A good indication of the focus of the con is how the adds are listed; the upcoming C2E2 ads are littered with artist names, while other cons are telling me about all the media guests they have, which is fine, but does give you a pretty fair idea of where their priorities are centered.

    As Patrick said, don't limit yourself to just super-hero comic shows. As I've stated many times on these threads, my secret find has been anime/manga cons, as they have the excitement and enthusiasm for ALL genres of comic art that I have not seen at most capes and tights based shows in years. They don't exclude super-hero stuff, but they include an amazingly wide range of interest, so setting up in Artist Alleys at these shows has proven to be an incredibly smart move for three years running. The customer base is very open to trying new stuff, and in my experience, these people come to purchase, either with their own money or mom and dad's. One good anime/manga show gives me as much bang as 5 bad super-hero cons money-wise, and I come out much more happy about the future of the medium.

    Also understand that different kinds of cons have different focuses. Indie cons like SPX and APE are more about trading the same money amongst everyone, in that you may sell a bunch of stuff, but there's so much good stuff to buy that it comes out even. Some comic artists try to sell the same at sci-fi cons, which I've found to be a mistake, as sci-fi cons are much less a commerce driven kind of convention and more about the social aspect for the attendees. I've also set up at library-based conventions/book shows, and while it's good exposure to a very fertile buying group, most attendees at library cons think its all about the free samples, and are like locusts with their huge swag bags, almost insulted when you have to tell them "ummm, those books are actually for sale".

    Like any salesperson, your ability to sell your work to an audience is a mix of ingredients. The work has to be good, but you also have to be someone who can be approached and you have to be willing to adapt to a very wide range of how people like to be sold to. I've been to tons of conventions with sullen artists in Artist Alley with their arms folded, pissed that no one is stopping at their table. That just comes off as entitled, and virtually guarantees that no one will want to check out your stuff even more. I've had artists ask me "Hey, you're getting a lot of people at your table, tell them to come down to mine when they're done." Uh-uh, it doesn't work that way; I'll recommend someone, but it's all up to them, and if they come, they come. If your stuff isn't their bag, it isn't. Don't be a piss ant; customers don't owe you a thing; you have to earn that, one person at a time if need be. Make no mistake; I've sat at plenty of cons as a newbie at a table and have not sold one @#$% thing. That's your time in the trenches; if you don't want to stay there, you learn to adapt and evolve.

    Part of the trick is that you need to accept that it may take a few cons to get your "swagger" for how it's best to sell your work, and you also may need to see if what you're selling really IS something up to scratch. I always tell younger artists to take the time to investigate Artist Alley and determine where they are in the "food chain", how many people have worse stuff than you, and how many are schooling you. It's not an ego thing; it's seeing where your strengths are, and what you need to work on, which is how you grow, how you mature as an artist, and how you determine what level of involvement you want to have in the industry. You may come away from a set of conventions with the assessment of "This is NOT for me", and that's a valid conclusion to work with. Some artists will come up with the exact opposite assessment, that cons are their bread and butter.
    • CommentAuthorgeof
    • CommentTimeMar 14th 2011
    Nuts, got logged out while I was flitting between drawing and posting to this. Anyway, yeah, everything that I'd say is important has been covered: take advantage of the vertical space, be friendly, try and bring some change. Oh and try not to fret if it's going badly: I know a lot of my customers will have been drinking the night before so I never expect to see them before mid-afternoon.

    In truth I quite enjoy re-designing my stall. I'm UK based and I take my comics and stuff round comic cons as well as fetish fairs and goth and steampunk events. The guys who trade at those mostly make good use of all their space: making sure there's stuff at eye level, having it easily accessible, making it a bit eye catching. Unlike them I don't usually have a vehicle so my current set up is two old-looking suitcases and a rucksack. And a portable trolley, because whilst I can carry the cases it's nicer not to. I fitted out one of the suitcases with shelves so that it doubles up as a display stand. I can't find a good photo quickly, but it's on the left of this facebook photo with the mugs on it.
  12.  (9600.34)
    Yeah, a show's success can be pretty much a crap shoot. I always go in trying to break even, anything above that and I leave a show happy. As for getting into a show, most of the conventions websites have the forms you will need to fill out to apply for a table fairly easy to find, and if not they usually have a contact us page. Here is that custom con bag I had made

    I also wrote an article about setting up at conventions on Comic Related

    Geof, love the idea of something that serves as both display and transport.
  13.  (9600.35)
    Once again, Mr. Sizer speaks the truth. When it comes to setting up in AA, you need to do it a few times to get your sea legs, to see what pitches work and which don't, and to figure out if your product even has an audience.

    Like Paul, I've given up on sci-fi cons as well as general collectible cons. I tested the waters, figuring I'd be a rare find at such shows, but I didn't sell very well at either type. But here's the thing: Nobody did. At these shows, the cosplayers are there to have fun with each other (and that's great) and the few shoppers generally are looking for bargains.

    Like Paul, my best show typically is an anime/manga show called ACen, in the Chicago area. The attendees are having so much fun, and they're open to new things and meeting creators of all shapes and sizes. They don't care that I don't write manga -- they care that I write good comics, and that I'm personable. That I write Batman helps a lot. In fact, the "Writing Batman" panel I led at last year's Acen was a standing-room-only crowd of at least 150 people. It was tremendous.

    Knowing your target audience is key when selling. You have to be active and pitch to the right people, otherwise you'll be depressed and have a sore throat the first day. At superhero cons, my target audience are parents with young kids, because I've written Batman for younger audiences and I have other kids books. But my indie books are noir, horror and historical fiction -- so I have to try to spot people who'd be into good black and white comics and not just capes and cowls -- and then give them a different pitch than the first bunch.

    You have to watch how people are walking through Artist Alley, too. Someone rushing through who's looking off into the distance doesn't want to shop, they're headed somewhere. But if someone is walking slowly, glancing at stuff on the tables as they go, they want to hear about your comic. That's why they're there. Sullen and cross-armed doesn't sell comics. Smiling and friendly and a good handshake do. Not to mention being well groomed, having a good table layout and offering nice deals, like buy three books and I'll give you a free sketch.
  14.  (9600.36)
    Jesse: I can't believe I've never thought to wrap a towel around my bag's shoulder strap. GREAT idea.
  15.  (9600.37)
    Here's a photo of the READING WITH PICTURES table at c2e2. We did as much vertical as possible, and it caught a lot of people's attention. The books all are on folding book stands, behind big piles of books. I think the big piles of books are key; I think it subconsciously says, "These are new and there's a lot of them, come look at it." Like at a regular bookstore.

    Whoops, I selected the wrong photo at first. Here's the good one.
    c2e2-2011 001
    As you can see, we kept it pretty simple. T-shirts on one side (and eventually an art portfolio over there, too), books on the other. The RWP SC's and HC's were dead-center and eye-catching; my indie books (which were there to raise some extra coin for the group and myself) were off to one side. Free bookmarks are scattered in between.