(originally posted on tumblr)
First of all this list is in no way comprehensive. (I could probably list 50 things). Second, this is just my opinion. I know a LOT of artists and I keep seeing the same things happening at cons year after year. I feel people need to start operating differently, otherwise cons really are going to be a waste of money and time. So this is what I think most artists are doing wrong when they try to sell their stuff at cons…
- Keeping your head down at your table – I see rows of people with their heads down drawing instead of looking up and engaging the people walking by. (What? are we boring you?) Offer to give a custom drawing to someone AFTER they’ve bought something.
- Not being able to describe your book or product – If you can’t describe your book in one sentence, you’re doing it wrong. If you are uncomfortable describing your work, find someone who isn’t and bring them (If you hate people, go back to your cave and sell your stuff online)
- Not telling anyone where you are – 2 weeks before every con you should be on FB, Twitter and IG telling everyone what your row/booth number is. Make sure to include your twitter handle and the hashtag for the Con itself. Cons notoriously run out of maps and have bad wifi, leaving the masses to wander aimlessly. If your fans can’t find you, they will NOT buy from you.
- Not having prices on any of your stuff – I know this isn’t protocol, but there are a LOT of newbie con visitors who don’t know the culture and are approaching only the people with prices, because they don’t know that EVERYTHING is for sale. Make the prices big and easy to read too, so they don’t have to be embarrassed and say that they can’t afford your anthology out loud.
- Only talking to other artists – Artists don’t buy artist’s stuff, fans do. If I am standing at your table, stop talking to the guy next to you and talk to me.
- Hating on Cosplayers – They are your indoor street team! Make friends, compliment them, take pics with them in front of your table and put them up on twitter and IG during the show and ask them to pass out your flyers and postcards. (Just don’t get weird or creepy)
- Not having flyers or postcards – These should say EXACTLY where you are and what you’re selling plus any promotions you might be doing.
- Selling to the wrong audience – If you are at a comic book convention and only bring fantasy novels, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re at a toy convention and only bring comics, you’re doing it wrong. IF you only sell chibi anime characters, maybe share a booth with someone who sells manga posters. Learn your market, age group and fanbase and cater to THEM.
- Your artwork looks like everyone else – If everyone in your row is selling images of a Mecha character or Wolverine no one will see you. Create the stuff that looks different to hang up to get people’s attention.
- Being an idiot – Just because someone confuses Boba Fett with Jango Fett doesn’t mean they don’t have any money. Stop being condescending, calm your inner Sith and be NICE, you just might make a sale.
- Being a creepy idiot – Showing female customers only images with women in them, getting all in my personal space or giving your sales pitch to my chest. We see you. You’re being an idiot. A creepy idiot. Cut it out.
- Not doing anything special for the Con – If I can buy your book digitally online, why should I pay extra money to see you at a con? Give something away, gift cards, movie tickets, variants, keychains, lanyards, bags (everyone needs an extra bag!) anything
- Not rewarding your fans – “Bring us any previously purchased copy of our comic, we’ll sign it and give you 10% off”, or Bulk discount – $10 for one TPB, $30for four. “Follow us on twitter, FB and IG and get a free comic”. Make a twitter post and offer a discount to anyone who retweets it the most. Make your fans feel special.
- Advertising what you don’t have – If I come over because I love the art on the poster behind you and you didn’t bring that comic I will leave your table
- Not Being Adaptable – You might have a whole gameplan setup but when you get to the event, you’re not near the front door, you’re in the back. Or, your character looks just like the girl’s next to you. Come up with different strategies to handle whatever gets thrown at you
- Not selling things at multiple price points – Not everyone has the cash to buy all the things. (They paid for a plane ticket, hotel, food, con ticket , etc.) So meet them halfway and sell some smaller items. Make your cover, splash page and variants into 5X7 or 8X10 prints, sell T Shirts, iPhone cases, instead of creating tons of new art for the con, repurpose what you have.
- Being a Control Freak – Make sure everyone working your booth knows your sales pitch and can answer questions. If you’re not there when I come to your booth and your sister can’t explain what your storyline is, I’m not coming back.
- Selling only popular character’s work – I know. I know. You sell more if you draw popular images, But now that I’m at your table, I should be able to see your original work too!
- Think outside the con – Weeks before the show you should encourage people to buy and advertise the show. During the con, have a fan meetup where you can answer questions and sign your work. Have a mailing list sign up (it’s cooler if it’s digital) After the con, contact everyone who signed your mailing list and thank them with a coupon and all the links to your work online.
- Talking bad about other artists or con participants – Tell me what’s right about your character, your company, your product, not about what’s wrong with theirs. This type of behavior is a turn off and makes you look like a a big baby. Stop it.
- Not participating in Social Media – Social media is your best friend during cons, because many apps like Twitter can work over your phone’s data network if the Wifi goes down. Also, if you include the con’s hashtag in your tweets, the guys and gals running the con might notice and retweet you or some of your pics themselves!
- Discord in the ranks – You want to sell your book one way, but your co-creator wants to sell it another, instead of compromising and coming up with a cohesive sales pitch, you each “do your own thing” which makes me, the consumer, confused
- Not having anything to sell – If I come to your booth and listen to your spiel and you get me interested in your product but you don’t HAVE ONE I’m going to tell everyone I see not to go to your booth. EDIT (6/10/15): I am not referring to those whose product is late by a day, or you ran out. I am talking to the folks who buy tables JUST TO TALK about the product that they don’t have yet. I don’t think that’s fair. And yes, I’ve seen it more than once.
- Underestimating female clientele – Guys ask me all the time how to sell to women. Sell the exact same way you sell to guys. Tell us about the comic, the game, the toy, the rpg. Make eye contact, be engaging and if you have t shirts to sell, show us. WE BUY CLOTHES. (And we buy clothes for our men too).
- Not taking credit cards – These days everyone has one of these. If you don’t and you only take cash and the only ATM is outside the building then you’re doing it wrong and you’re NOT making a sale. EDIT (6/10/15): I am referring to items for sale for more than $10.
I’m a 58 yr old male going into semi-reitirement and I’ve always been interested in selling at conventions, so thank you for this great article it has a great deal of info I can use to help me decide if working some conventions is what I really want to do.
Keep up the great work.
Glad you found it helpful Michael!
love this! Thank you for this article! Cleared a lot of things!
Glad you found it helpful!
Some of this is good advice; others totally dependent on your social media cred (lol like small time artists who are the most likely to fail at conventions have any fans going to their local con, or would drive any attendance by tweeting about it), and a few downright ridiculous. If you’re walking that razor line of not making your money back at conventions, giveaway items will absolutely not be it and just put you deeper in the hole for little benefit. As usual, a bunch of advice that comes from a place of privilege without even recognizing it. I guess it’s harsh, since plenty IS good advice, but I’m certainly never running a fan meet up of my nonexistent online fans. For the record, I’ve always made money even at bad cons, so you can’t come and tell me I don’t know what I’m doing, either.
This is an immensely helpful article. Amongst the things that are common sense(which is in itself in short supply these days haha) there’re so many pitfalls that would be easy to slip into. I’m weeks away from only my second tabling experience and you’ve given me a lot to think about and work on!
Glad you found it helpful! Thanks so much for commenting!
It was my pleasure! Since I last commented I tabled at my local Con and it went beautifully. Your tips came in real handy, I can’t thank you enough again!
Wow! That’s great! Thanks so much for sharing that!
This is a great list! I’ve never done a table at a con but hope to someday, and I probably would have failed at a lot of these. -_-‘
Do people seriously look down on cosplayers though? Like, artists specifically, or everyone? I don’t get that…
Arriving and setting up Late-If it’s a very big con most of them will allow vendors to setup very early.. Loading docks will close at a certain time maybe like on a Thursday. If you setup on like late on Friday that means you probably wont get to use the loading docks and have to use entrances just like all the other con attendees. Then there’s the hassle of having to walk through all those big crowds with your heavy equipment. Probably wont ever get a chance to settle in. And then before you know it the con will quickly come to an end. All that money spent on a table, booth, or island just to setup a table very late in the con. Always plan ahead!
I found it helps to have a single item type at one price point with bonuses for multiple purchases. Multiple sizes and prices confused people while when I switched to one size/one price making over $5k wasn’t hard