Conquering Conventions: Artist’s Alley!

The tail end of winter is an exciting opportunity for creators. It heralds the oncoming of spring and therefore the grand season of conventions and craft fairs. Preparations abound. A successful selling season hinges on a creator’s ability to be in the moment: to make the sale when it counts. No amount of previous preparations matter if a creator’s marketing skills aren’t up to par.

Today’s Master Class diverts from our usual programming on advertising to bring you all a special tutorial on marketing to a live audience! Today we’re talking conventions and how to make that sale in Artist’s Alley.

Part 1: Have Business Cards

Deep in your heart you may feel like a hobbyist, but the moment you started to advertise your work you became a professional. The best thing you can do for yourself, your confidence and your public image is to act like the pro you are and have something to hand out that reflects that. Pro Tip: Don’t have a large quantity of cards printed. The information on them may change! Your project may end, or you may find you no longer have a passion for it and choose to do another. That would leave you stuck with a large amount of leftovers and money poorly spent.

Part 2: Limit Prints

For a variety of reasons, don’t do too many prints of any one thing. Some pieces you know will be popular, however, do more of but remain conscious of the cost. The intent of a convention is to at least break even if not come ahead. You don’t want to walk away from the event having spent more than you made. Books and runs of graphic novels should be considered with the same level of respect to the price. Pro Tip: Pick two or three pictures that you also make larger, higher quality prints of. Limited Edition prints. Those excite people! You can sell them with a signature you sign directly in front of them and frame the piece at the table!

Part 3: Make Your Display Interesting

Colourful, varied displays draw attention. Once you have them over to you, an organized but interesting set up may help you seal the deal. Don’t just lay everything on a table at one level and expect that to do the trick. Have stands and things to potentially cover them with if need be: table covers. Or racks to set books up vertically. Display walls for hanging pictures. Layering your display and getting creative with the setup (not just your art and writing!) will give you a professional air. Pro Tip: Have a banner made to hang from the front of the table or to stand on a rack behind your table, high enough for customers to see!

Part 4: Practice ‘The Pitch’

Make or break time. The more you stutter, hum, haw and seem uncertain, the less people are going to be invested in the product you have to offer. Stand up when you make your pitch. Smile. Make eye contact. Offer to shake their hand if they seem interested in greeting you properly. Don’t be meek even if it’s your natural state of being. Conventions are all about putting yourself out there and getting a job done. If comics are your job, you have an obligation to do this part of it correctly if you’re investing money into it. Practice beforehand at home: what you’re going to say when people inevitably ask what your story is about. Who the main characters are. Pro Tip: Write down a list of possible questions and answers. That way if you blank, you have cue cards hidden behind the table to help you along!

Part 5: Look For Connections

When people at conventions say that “Your art looks like it came from ______”, don’t get offended! Why? Because this is your opening to make a connection with that person! Talk about the ways the art is similar to that series they love! If you word it correctly and you’re feeling good, excited vibes from them then there’s a much higher chance of that person becoming a client instead of a random browser at your table. Alternatively, just make conversation with people when they come over. There’s nothing that drives people away faster than the table owner silently staring at them, or even just not looking at them. In both cases it makes them feel uncomfortable at best, unwanted at worst. Conversation is your best friend.

Here are some good conversation starters:
-Talk about their cosplay if they’re wearing one.
-Tell a cheesy joke!
-Hand them a book on your table to look through: something to hold their attention.
-Some of their own interests: games, books, etc.
Pro Tip: Conversations often leads to a sale. Sometimes people will buy something small just because they like YOU! Then later they’ll realize they like the product and come back for more!

The real key to making a sale is to be forward, friendly and engaging with your customers. Remember to do that, hand out your business cards and bring enough petty cash for the till and you’ll be fine! Enjoy the upcoming convention season, creators! Under The Ink is rooting for you and wishing you the best success!


Under The Ink Editor-In-Chief

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