Lessons from my first con

 Me at my booth with my sad art display and my homemade sign. My two boys were into it.

Me at my booth with my sad art display and my homemade sign. My two boys were into it.

On May 3rd I attended my first convention as an artist. The nice folks at Charlotte Comicon offered me a table back in November after I accidentally blew up the Internet. I couldn’t make it to the December show, but was more than happy to do the one in May.

Man, I learned a lot.

Here’s some takeaways:

Set up your table to sell stuff

I got a lot of artwork printed to sell, but I displayed it like an amateur. As you can see from the picture up top, it looks more like a gallery than a storefront. It was not apparent that you could buy my art. A few people actually asked if they were for sale. Oi.
 

Put up stuff for people to idly thumb through

As the day went on, I put my sketchbook on the table. It was a new sketchbook with only two images in it. Dozens of people grabbed it, presumably enticed by the first drawing, and then disappointed, put it down when they saw how little there was in it. Then I’d shrug and be all, “It’s a new sketchbook!”

 

Bring business cards...or something

I made some, just forgot to get them printed. That was dumb. Almost every person that stopped to talk to me asked for a card. If they didn’t buy there, it’s possible they could have bought later. Now I know even if an interaction doesn’t end in a sale, it could end in a new fan or Twitter/Facebook/Instagram follower. Next time I’ll have cards from my publisher, which should work better than writing my info on a scrap of paper (yep, I did that...several times).

 

Bring all the merch you have

One of the organizers of the event stopped by and talked to me a bit. Like many people, he asked me about the shirt I was wearing (I bought it from my own Teepublic store). He wanted to know why I wasn’t selling those, and my answer was inventory, cost, stock, all the usual reasons people give for going through a company like Teepublic. Then he said, “This is a con, people come here to spend their money. Give them things to spend it on!” While I definitely don’t want to end up with boxes of unsold merchandise, I’m probably going to diversify a bit for the next con.

 

Remember, people are listening

A few people with booths within earshot said some gnarly stuff about cosplayers. Others dismissed fans as soon as they were gone as desperate or sad, or talked about them as if they were objects and not people. This is something I already knew not to do--I work in marketing after all, also I like to consider myself a decent human--so it wasn’t really a lesson learned. More of a lesson reinforced.  

I didn’t sell enough prints to make my money back on printing them, but that’s okay. Something about walking away from the convention with a head full of new knowledge evened it out for me. Also, my booth was free, so that helped.

I just signed up for my booth in artist alley at HeroesCon in June. This is a big con, so I’m a little nervous, but I’m glad I went through this warm-up experience first. If you’re coming to HeroesCon, come find me, my booth will look super professional, and you might be able to buy a t-shirt too.