Welcome to the first installment of Artist Alley Insight. Here is a quick intro about myself for all my new friends who don’t know much about me.
My name is Tim Hyde, 30 years old from Orange County, California. Have two degrees in Marketing. I have been in the comic con industry since 2010 and have sold at over 300 comic conventions all over the US, Canada and Europe. I have been asked many times for advice to artists who are selling at their first (or first few) comic convention. I am always open to giving advice to anyone and everyone who needs or wants it. So I have decided to put some of those thoughts into words. Here is Issue #1 of the tips I have for anyone beginning to sell in the comic con, anime con, pop culture con industries.
You need to ask yourself, why am I doing this con? What are my goals for setting up at _____ Comic Con. Is it money driven? Is it spreading your art to as many people as possible? To gain an online presence through promotion at the con? Is profit important or is promoting yourself more important? Only you can answer these questions for youself. Be honest with yourself. There is no wrong answer here but there are wrong actions that can result in a lot of wasted time and money simply because you were not honest with yourself and honest with your expectations.
I often find a lot of new artists do not have realistic expectations when doing their first convention. The unrealistic expectations can go both ways though. For example, some artist go into a con with 1,000 attendees and think they are going to make $6,000 at their first con while selling $5 prints. At the same time, there are artists that come to a large 50,000 attendee convention and only bring enough inventory for a 500 attendee convention.
Here are two real examples of complete polar opposite situations where both artists did not set themselves up for success and did not ask themselves why they are selling at a convention.
Let’s call this person Sarah (Not this person’s name, by the way). Sarah was doing her first con at a large con that had roughly 65,000 attendees at the con. It is a great show run by a great group of people. I was setup right next to Sarah with a client of mine. We spoke during setup and she mentioned that this was her first convention ever. She asked about her display and I gave her a few small tips and finished setting up and left for the night. Came back the next morning, and she had not changed a thing and actually did the opposite of my recommendations. Which is totally fine, it is 100% her business and completely up to her to make her own choices. Sarah had a goal of doing $4,000 the show, which I thought of was a bit of a reach. Not because no one has made $4,000 at this show (because a lot of my clients have outperformed that goal easily at this show) but because she had about 6 different 11×17” prints and from what I could tell, about 10-15 of each. She was selling them for $10. Even if she sold out of all 6 prints with 15 of each, that is only about $900 in sales which is about 23% of her goal. From the get go she literally had a 0% chance of hitting her goal simply based off the fact that she had not enough inventory to even get to 25% of her goal muchless hit or beat her goal of $4,000. She later complained about not hitting her goal while we were packing up on Sunday.
Let’s call this person Billy. Billy I met at a smaller Anime con on the West Coast. He had really good mixture of artwork and the anime style that bodes well for the crowd. We spoke for about 30 minutes about the con and he asked for some advice on pricing and some other small tidbits. Billy told me he had a goal of making $200 (the cost of the table) for the entirety of the 3-day con. He had a price point ranging from $10-20 and was doing $30 commissions. Both of which being completely reasonable for the quality of his work. He sold $280 on Friday alone (in 4 hours) and had already beaten his goal! Which is great right? Yes and no. Yes because he had already beaten his goal (even though it was a low goal considering the attendace of the con and the good location of the table) but it is also bad because Billy made the mistake of only talking to one artist about the show (who had a terrible show) and he took that artist’s advice and only printed about 5-10 of the 12 designs he had. Problem was he was half out of his prints after only a few hours. He was stuck going to a Fedex Kinkos and paying nearly $3 a print several times during the con. All because he listened to one person’s poor advice and it cost him. He was paying 72 cents for a 11×17” and for every sale he made it costs him an extra $310 (150% of his intial goal!) in printing and Uber costs not to mention the time being away from his table. #lessonlearned
Here are some helpful insight for realistic expectations…
-Watch who is successful around you, gage your surrondings. Was it a good spot with traffic? How did you do? How did the vendors and artists do around you? When people are buying, what are they are buying and how much are they spending? There are some artists that $3,000 is a poor show whereas tons of artist will kill to make $3,000 at a con.
-When you get this information (by watching, taking notes etc.), then go to the vendors and/or artists you watched and talk to them. Make friends. See how their show went. If you think they did well, then ask how they did. (DO NOT ask for total sales, if they want to tell you what they sold, they will, but it is rude to ask.)
-Use the information to adjust your expectations for that con. Then ask that vendor or artist what other shows they like to do and their best shows. More than likely, they will tell you. Then you can use a little trick by asking “how much better is that show than this one? Would you say your sales were twice as good?” This way you can compare your sales you had with them at the shows you can attempting to do in the future. It isn’t an exact estimation or guarantee of sales but it is a lot better of an idea than simply guessing or going off one person’s views.
-Do some testing at home, compare online sales and see what is trendy. Go on Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook. See what people were walking around with at the most recent comic or anime con. Use hashtags on Instagram to see what a convention last weekend looked like. It’s not hard to get inspired when you know you sell more of your artwork and make more $!
After all, the only difference between a hobbie and a business is money.
ps- Please do me a favor and email me or message me on social media if you want any critiques or need any insights on your business or art. I am here to help and will not charge for consulting!