So I went to a convention recently recommended by practically everyone I knew to go there and sell my work because it seemed like the right place. To my surprise, it ended up being a lot worse than expected. Because of the lack of sales, I had a lot of time to brainstorm reasons why a lot of tables were making sales but mines wasn’t.
This list varies a LOT and should only be a guideline about your sales. There are a LOT of instances in which you might think a convention goes bad but ends up being WAY better than expected, and sometimes a convention with amazing reputation ends up being your worst convention ever. BUT if you’re ever in a doozie, this list might clarify some reasons why your sales aren’t that great that day.
Convention Reputation: I mention this one because it actually isn’t often the biggest case at all. You can definitely make good sales at a small convention, and some people can say conventions aren’t that great and end up doing really well. Some conventions are known for horrible accidents and stories but are also the most popular to sell. Even the ‘small conventions’ where tables are only $10 might end up being your biggest revenues.
Size of attendees: If a lot of people attend it, there’s potentially a lot more customers.
Size of artist alley: The more artists in artist alley, the more competition and likeliness your stuff will be lost within a bunch of other work. These are usually the conventions in which you must figure out a way to attract customers to your table and buy it the first time they see it. At smaller conventions, making double, even triple rounds is completely normal. But when there’s an enormous amount of artists, it’s hard to recall certain artists. However, larger conventions with a large amount of artist alley tables usually mean a significantly larger number of attendees.
Guests of the Convention: Sometimes having REALLY AWESOME guests actually take AWAY from the convention. I know what you’re thinking–wait, but doesn’t really awesome guests mean more people are coming? You’re absolutely right, but if they have an autograph session, guess where your attendees are going to spend hours in line doing? Now I’m not saying all special guests do that, but it’s definitely something to consider.
I once tabled in a convention where Stan Lee had a signing. People stood outside in line for hours to get a photograph and autograph with the dude. Back in artist alley, the place was practically deserted. It’s not the only time stuff like this has happened too.
Type of Convention: Are you selling original art at an anime convention? Or are you selling comics at a crafts convention? It’s really hard to determine sometimes, but just something to consider. Kind of a bummer, but most anime conventions rely heavily on fanart to make any business. Not saying you can’t make money off original art though; some people excel business for being the ‘sore thumb’ of the pile ;)
What day is it? I hate when people say ‘It’s ONLY Friday’ or ‘It’s ONLY Sunday.’ I paid for artist alley to make business for every day, not just one. But sometimes you have to consider what day it is. Some conventions may open up on a random Friday, in which most people have daytime jobs and don’t come home until late. Conventions often take place on holiday weekends for this reason. Sometimes conventions end up colliding with sports events and other conventions too, so it’s a very hard thing to juggle.
What’s happening today? If your convention is on a holiday weekend, chances are that there are other things happening as well. Sometimes some conventions conflict with other events (here in the Bay Area, you better watch out if there’s a football or baseball game happening that day). If there’s an event happening a few blocks from your building, it might be distracting customers away from the convention (or it could be doing the opposite, but it’s usually a bad thing when it happens).
Too many conventions? Okay I know some of you are going to disagree with me on this (because it’s happened), but let me give you my two cents on this and you can think about it. When I say ‘too many conventions’, I am talking about too many conventions put in the same time period or that the convention is very close to the HUGE conventions. In the bay area, there are times of the month where there’s practically a new convention almost every week sometimes. Sometimes conventions overlap on the same day. I mean, every one is an opportunity to sell something, but for some people, their paycheck only comes once every month. When people are saving up for the REALLY big conventions, they get a bit more stingy. Heck, if the same customer bought something from you a few weeks back, it doesn’t mean they want to buy even more from you. Spaced out conventions are easier to sell, while having a convention a week after another one is harder to deal with. Each is an opportunity to earn money, but not everyone has a customer to spend at your table every time.
So I believe that a healthy dose of conventions spread out is better than a massive amount jammed in. Also note that despite there being many opportunities to table, each convention costs money to purchase a table and travel there.
What are you selling? Fanart or original art? Is it appropriate for the convention? Etc. Sometimes your art may fit in with the crowd and sometimes no one will bat an eye at it. Very hard to tell. For some extra info on this, check out my article ‘What do THEY want to buy?’
What were you selling last time? Sometimes if you’re selling the same stuff every time, no one wants it anymore, or they bought something they already wanted from you. Always have something new out, especially if you sell at the same area/ conventions all the time. Having new merch keeps your table fresh!
Position of artist alley: Is it next to dealer’s hall? Is it in a separate room far away from dealer’s hall? Attendees being able to find the place makes a huge difference. It’s hard to determine this unless you’ve gone to a convention before and they aren’t going to change the layout, so a lot of it is chance.
Position of the table: Did you get a corner spot at the convention? Is it across from dealer’s hall? Is it in between a bunch of really talented artists? Is it stuck in the back of the convention? It’s usually very unpredictable unless you get the choice of determining which table you want at a convention.
Who is right next to you? Tip: If you can choose where to seat your table, and you know some really awesome insanely talented artists, make sure to tell the person setting up the tables you do not want to sit close to them. Their sheer awesomeness will deter customers away from your table, and they can’t help it if their work is glorious (you should strive for that quality too yknow). If you’re an illustrator, seating next to a crafts artist is preferable.
BUT there are some amazing artists that draw others to your table, or are so full of knowledge you won’t care your business sucks because you’re learning more from them than anything.
Also, some artists like to also be ‘musicians’ that sit in front of their table and play music. They clog up space in the alley, and then usually customers end up blocking your table instead of staring at your table. It’s really frustrating sometimes
Did you advertise enough? Did people know you were going to that convention? Did you tell your friends what table number you were? If you didn’t, chances are they were looking around but couldn’t find you in the crowd (especially the REALLY big conventions).
How HIGH is your setup? Yes, the height of your artist alley table matters. No seriously, the higher it is, the more likely it stands out like a sore thumb in the crowd. I personally don’t use pvc pipes, but those are honestly the ones that really pop out at you. I once had a setup that was half the size of the table next to me, and all the attendees looked up and saw the other person’s display and walked away from my work. It really does make a difference!
How COLORFUL is your work? Your eye just drew right to that word, didn’t it? That’s the power of color. The layout and harmony of how you position everything you sell is also very helpful too, but you’re going to need mad color theory skills to work that kind of stuff out.
Everyone has their own particular tastes in conventions, and know which ones to go and not to go to all come from experience. One year a convention might be bad, and the next year it’ll be great. It’s really hard to determine these things, so always give everything a chance.
Today I’m not featuring one artist, but a group! I recently went to Sac Anime and went to an artist meetup, and here is a group photo of us! We talked about sales (both good and bad), what it was like being an artist, and someone had some sweet cooking skills and made cookies and bread. We’re being really mature artists in this photo:D
(will update the list of artists when I get their infos)
Artists (in no particular order, but check them all out anyways):
Note: Links in PURPLE are webcomic series!
- Timothy James: http://timartstudio.deviantart.com/, http://www.techgal-industrial.com/
- Stanley Eugene: https://www.facebook.com/AmigurumiMan
- Alicia Vancil + Scott Vancil: http://www.katgirlstudio.com/
- Ellis Kim: http://timefiddler.com/, http://artofelliskim.com/
**Note: If you’re in the photo, please leave a comment with your artist name + site so I can credit!