Angry Artist Alley: THE RED ZONE

As some artists, we sit behind artist alley to get pocket cash, exposure, you know the stuff. From budgets, to transportation/living, horrible customers, and well…if you never sat behind artist alley, you have no idea. And if you have…ever feel frustrated?
You’ve got stories? Concerns? Questions? Ask away!
I know there have been people who have sat behind cons before me, but I’ve started around 2004, and I walked in with absolutely no guidance (aka. i screwed up a LOT). So I learned through my mistakes, acquired more than just a handful of stories, and I’ve seen my peers and table mates go through it all too. I don’t mean a convention a year, I mean an average about six a year.


 therealgregstandsup asked: How often do you make a net loss? And is it still worth it?

Net loss is different for everyone. I can’t answer that precisely but if you can figure the following out, you can consider if it’s worth it or not:

Well, great question! There are two zones often mentioned: the red zone and the green zone. Red=bad, Green=good.

BUT some people don’t factor in the OTHER costs that allows you to hit the ‘green zone’.

Say….you lived in San Francisco, and you are going to a FOUR DAY convention, public transit. That artist alley table costed $65, plus  $55 for a ticket there. Sure, you made that back. But think about how much time and money it costed you to make that back:

1)Four days? You’re probably going to have to rent a hotel for three nights.

2)Food? Are you bringing your own food or going out? Average cost of food can range from $5 a meal to $20, depending on quality and time of day. EACH meal.

3)Cost of printing/supplies–Here’s a tricky one. You can calculate the cost of how much it printed, BUT 1)if it’s online you need to consider shipping and handling or 2)if you printed it local, you need to factor in the cost of transportation to get there. Online shipping and handling for printed goods can get pretty steep. And if you don’t have a car, so is public transportation. If you are doing public transportation, one way to reduce a trip there is to send it digitally for them and pick it up there (if there was the option). Don’t forget to remember the cost of buying paper, plastic sheets, and other things!

3)TRANSPORTATION– are you going to go by car? train? walk? airplane? bike? Well….you can calculate that, BUT you need to also think about how early you would have to wake up to get there by 9am. Make sure to calculate the cost of getting back home as well. That or mooch a ride (but it would be courteous to pay for gas)

You need to add ALL of that.

Wait…there’s ONE MORE THING. You are pretty much gonna sit on your ass for about 8-9 hours for each day. Time is money, yes? This is different for everyone, but if you are wasting two days worth of work, you better make sure what you earn will be close to that.

As an easy method, I have a separate wallet for artist alley (to break bills). I use that wallet to pay for all my expenses for that day, and materials for my convention. Everything that’s not related, I use my other personal wallet.

So when is it safe to say that I hit the Green zone?

It is safe to say that when ALL of whatever I just typed up is factored in, and you earned at LEAST that amount, you’ve hit the green zone. Congrats!

Honestly, it’s not a really HAPPY thing to just think you reached borderline. Most people earn a little over a hundred in a day, after calculating the net cost of everything, which is good.  Personally, I find a convention ‘okay’ if I earn at least two hundred past the green line, and ‘good’ if it’s over four hundred past the green line. If it’s under $200, I never feel satisfied because of the time I put into preparing the convention.

How long does it take to reach the Green Zone?

This is an interesting concept. If it’s a four day weekend convention, Saturdays are the most hectic, then Sundays, then Fridays, and then Mondays. By the end of Saturday you should have already hit the mark. You should be getting nervous if it’s Sunday afternoon, and you should worry if it’s Monday morning. Also, consider that you don’t print new stuff every convention, so when you keep selling the same stuff, you don’t have to worry about printing costs until you print more.

Left: Josh Finney, right: Kat Rocha, founders of 01 Publishing

Alternative Press Expo 2012. 

Oh no! I hit the Red Zone!

Hey hey, don’t fret, kiddo. We’ve all gone there once. *pat pat* I actually hit the red for the first time in January, of all my 8 years of artist alley.  Here’s some questions to ask yourself:

Did I go to the right con?

-Different conventions attract different customers. Maybe your work didn’t fit in with the rest of the audience?

Was my work not good enough?

-Maybe. One thing you should cross your fingers and pray for is that you don’t sit next to an insanely talented or popular artist, or someone whose work looks too similar to yours.

How much did I spend to get to this con?

-Well, if you spent over a hundred bucks on transportation and ticket, you have to be seriously sure you are going to earn that much. I am going to sound bitter here, but there are artists at conventions with tables that cost over a hundred and solely doing it for a hobby, when there are people on the artist alley waiting list trying to make it their professional career. Seeing two twelve year olds behind a table that costed a hundred twenty dollars bought by their moms, I gave them ten bucks to draw me a gundam to see if they were serious. Instead, their parents mailed me my ten bucks back and said they couldn’t do it.

What did I look like?

Yes, your appearance counts. And no, I’m not sarcastic. People are attracted not only to your work, but what you look like. It might sound sad, disturbing, or amusing, and I’m a girl (so I can’t say much to guys), but people on the other side of the table….well, eyes will be on you. If you got boobs, you’re cute, asian, you know the gist. Don’t deny it. At anime cons, people walk towards your table if you’re in a maid or lolita outfit. In comic conventions, dressing up like a publisher or wearing a kickass nerdy tshirt will drive people to say ‘omg dude I LOVE that series!’

So don’t worry if you hit the red, learn from your mistakes and it’ll get better!


featured artists from left to right: Michael Manomivibul, Eric Han, Kevin Wada, Dean Stuart

Alternative Press Expo, 2012. 


3 thoughts on “Angry Artist Alley: THE RED ZONE

  1. Pingback: Angry Artist Alley: How Much Change Should I Bring? » Artwork from Jackie Lo

  2. “One thing you should cross your fingers and pray for is that you don’t sit next to an insanely talented or popular artist.”

    this very exact thing happened to me at my very first Artist Alley last year. i didnt realize it immediately, but my table was right next to Wenqing Yan (aka, yuumei on deviantArt).

    • dang that totally sucks! Crazy enough, that person is going to Cherry Blossom tomorrow and I’ll be takin photos of all the tables that give me permission to for my blog too o_O
      I totally get what you mean though. Just keep doin what you’re doing, don’t give up! And if you DO, like I did, train super hard night and day, and come back to the conventions as a brand new person. I’m going back to my first anime convention in more than a year now (cogscon), and I bet no one will know who I was before with my new art >:D
      That or it’ll be august 2011 all over again where people think my art is too scary again u_u
      Good luck on your next con. The only good thing about sitting next to a pro is making conversation and learning from them.

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