Posted on January 29 2019
Convention season is fast approaching and maybe you’ve dipped your toes in or are yet to take that leap? We, along with some seasoned con-artists are here to help you make the most of your convention.
We have spoken to lots of seasoned con-artists about their experiences of selling at conventions across the world who have a TONNE of wisdom and advice to help you overcome that fear.
Rose Catherine Khan, the creator of Centernia, has been attending cons for over a decade and began selling her work in artist alley in around 2013. Specialising in fantasy creatures such as dragons and unicorns, Rose sells prints and charms at conventions. Her attendance at conventions has meant that Rose’s work now sells in gift shops and stores across America!
Rose’s Top Tips
- Focus on that unique thing that you love! There are thousands of people selling fanart, how can YOU be DIFFERENT?
- Don’t stress the few days before a con to finish new art. I used to fall into the trap but found it wasn’t worth the stress. Instead, learn to pace yourself and set your con deadlines weeks before.
- Bring hand sanitizer. Con plague sucks.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome when attending cons?
Learning to not fear to share what I truly care about!
In college, I majored in Illustration and Graphic Design. I sharpened my design skills, but I was also taught to separate myself from the art. This was helpful for doing client work, but not great for con work. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the design process, but the finished work wasn’t really me.
When I scored booth space at NYCC, I knew I had to do something that truly mattered. I put all in to finish Centernia and hired a pro editor. It was a terrifying gamble! I remember staring at $1,000 worth of books sitting on my dining room table thinking no one would care. I’m so happy I was wrong! Centernia fans are the best and I am working constantly to give them the sequel and new art!
You can find out more about Rose and Centernia here
Next up is Joanne Garcia of Fierce Fantasy Designs. Joanne attends multiple conventions through the year including Wonder Con and Cat Con and has been doing this since around 2004, although she waited a further 8 years before becoming a vendor. At her table, you’ll find handmade crafts, jewellery, prints and plushies. This year Joanne will be promoting her first children’s book “Girafficorns” which is self-published, wrote and illustrated!
We asked Joanne for her Top Tips
Joanne’s Top Tips
- Know your health: whether it’s a long day or a long weekend at a convention make sure to pack some snacks, water, medication, small first aid kit, etc. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking small bits of water throughout the day. Remember to eat from time to time and have some aspirin ready in case you get a headache. I even carry band-aids, you never know when you might cut yourself, they come in handy.
- Know what you’re getting into: Every convention is different and therefore have their own rules and regulations. Be sure to read the info on the website and the packet they give you so that you know what is or is not provided (table, chairs, wi-fi, etc.), permits needed, refund/cancellation policy, set-up times, additional costs, etc. In some cases, wi-fi comes at an additional charge.
- Come prepared and bring a smile: Be sure to do a pre-layout of your table/area at home so that you can see how your merchandise will be displayed. Make a list of everything you need to bring (merchandise, money to make change, artist alley badge/ticket, snacks, permit, etc.). At the convention, be sure to make eye contact with attendees, greet people, say hello, welcome them to your table with a smile. Also, be sure to introduce yourself to your neighbouring artists, it’s a fantastic way to make new connections.
We also asked Joanne about the biggest challenge she has overcome when attending cons.
Selling original art. Fan art sells well at conventions because people know the characters and are drawn to what they know. I love fan art and seeing all the unique styles of so many talented artists, however, it's not what I want to sell. I want to sell my own characters and designs. I have always felt that the only person stopping me from doing what I want is me, therefore I must be brave and take chances and put my work out there. Seeing my art sell at conventions and getting positive reviews makes it all worth it.
You can click here to see more about Joanne.
Purveyor of phone charms, enamel pins, button badges, stickers and prints, Rachel Sheffield, owner of That Cute Crap, has been selling her wears at conventions from around 10 years and attending for around 15 years. Rachel now attends multiple conventions each year and has done for the past 3 years.
Rachel offered some invaluable advice for artists who are venturing into the world of cons.
Rachel’s Top Tips
- Do not overstock your product, especially if it's your first time as a seller. It's hard to not get overexcited about creating something to sell, but you don't want to have spent so much money preparing your booth that it makes it near impossible to recoup the cost. Depending on the convention and the item you're selling, you might want to stay between having 5 - 20 pieces of each item.
- If you're unsure of how to price your product, research other sellers and how they’re pricing their works.
- Have a business card at your table with all your information and social media handles so that people can find your work online. If you want to be more cost efficient, have a big sign instead with all your information that con-goers can take a photo of.
Rachel also spoke to us about her challenges at cons.
I think being okay with the idea of failure was the hardest challenge for me to face. You're not going to be a Rockstar at every convention you go to. There have been a few conventions where I didn't sell very well and just barely broke even. It's hard to not take that personally because sometimes there's just not enough traffic flowing through, or you're in a poor location, or the general mood of the con-goers is to not spend money. However, if it is the fault of your own product, it's a terrific opportunity to evaluate your work and see what you could do better, what works and what doesn't. You must take failure in your stride and be willing to learn and give it another shot.
Wanna check out Rachel’s work? You can find it right here
Specialising in jewellery, textiles and geeky themed commissions, Jen from White Fairy has been attending cons for over 5 years and had a stack of useful advice to offer.
Jen’s Top Tips
- Always have essentials in a kit bag including your table cloth, price tags, blu tac, collotape, carrier bags, promotional items such as business cards and leaflets. Having a good amount of change on you is always super helpful when attending cons. You don’t need a card reader, but I’ve found that my sales have been stronger since offering this option.
- Ensure you have lots of water and snacks. You’re probably not going to have time for a proper lunch and some venues don’t have a place to eat.
- Offer a good variety of stock. There are so many fandoms out there and everyone has their own preference. Having a basic knowledge of everything helps but if you have one or two you’re particularly passionate about you can use this to help build a bond with your customer.
- Have fun! Yes, you’re there to make money but interacting with people and handing out business cards can lead to much more sales outside of the event. Nobody wants to deal with sour faced sellers so always smile and be friendly and you’ll have a much better chance of selling if you’re easy to approach and show a passion for what you do.
Before attending cons, Jen sold her wares at craft fairs, so she had some challenges to overcome since making the move into conventions, “When I first started out, I had no idea what I was doing. Craft fairs are VERY different to conventions, so I found I had next to nothing anyone was interested in. My biggest challenge was creating products which bring people to the table. I thought if I kept my prices low then people would spend money but since expanding to new products I have learned that these are catching people's eye much more”
York Unleased is Jenn’s personal favourite to attend. “People come from all over the country for this one as it’s pretty central, so I get to catch up with friends from all over in one place. The atmosphere on the day is always amazing no matter what the weather brings!” Jenn told us.
So, what you are you waiting for guys! Get that con booked in and don’t be afraid. The only limit is the ones you set yourself.
Leave a comment to let us know your top tips or what you found useful.