Artist Alley Insight #4

by Tim Hyde

One thing that has helped my business has been relationships. No not talking about dating or marriages here (not that either apply to me! #singleforever). I am talking about the relationship you have with people in the comic con industry. Below I will discuss building relationships in the industry and how it impacts your business along with some stories (a good and a bad example of how to handle a similar situation)

Relationships With Fellow Artists and Vendors.

I believe that building relationships with fellow artists and vendors is something that is really important to the success in the beginning of your convention selling business. It doesn’t matter if you are an anime artist just starting out at your first convention or a toy dealer that has been around for 20 years. Both will benefit from building good relationships with other vendors and artists at a convention. There are many benefits to making these relationships at conventions and many of these relationships start with a simple hello and a 2 minute conversation. Don’t be scared or nervous to do this. Walk around and check out your fellow artists and vendors. Do not see them as competition, but as resources and tools to help your business.

• The biggest benefit to building relationships with fellow artists and vendors is information! Talk with them, tell them you are new or looking for better shows to do. Simply ask! You would be shocked what people will tell you when you give them the control of the situation. A 20 year veteran of the comic con industry is going to know more than a first timer. Utilize this to your advantage. I cannot tell you how many cons I have found out about simply because I asked what shows a vendor was doing next. Then following up with “oh yeah? How is that show compared to this one?”. All you are looking for is information like; attendance numbers, type of crowd, were they spending, booth costs etc.. Most vendors or artists will tell you if approached the right way. I would NOT recommend asking how much they made in sales at a show. It is rude, and will often times ruin a relationship at the beginning. Instead you can ask “compared to this show, what percentage would you stay you did at ______ show?”.

• Finding a similar vendor or artist to you can benefit you in finding out about future cons. Simply striking up a conversation about a piece they did or product they are selling can easily transition into what conventions they recommend. If you know that they a similar seller as you, you can roughly estimate the kind of show you will have. Again, this isn’t a perfect way to estimate an exact sales amount but it is something to build off that you did not have before the conversation.

• Watch as a closely as you can how your vendors and/or artists are doing around you. Make mental notes of who is doing well and why. Then talk with them and ask questions you feel may benefit your business. Why the change what they charge, how many cons do they do, what kind of paper they print on etc.. Some artists and vendors will give away every single tip they can think of and some won’t. Either way, it is beneficial to you to watch and take notes of these artists or vendors. There is a reason why they are doing well. I am not saying to copy them, that is the worst way to ruin a relationship that you just took the time to build. What I am telling you is to use the tools you learned to shape your business and benefit yourself. Yes, you can do this without stealing other people’s business models or ideas.

• One thing a lot of people do not consider is how many great people you actually meet. I know lots of people that have met their best friends, life partners, husbands, wives and acquaintances at conventions. I mean most of the people in the room like similar things as you or else you wouldn’t be at the con! These relationships can be life-long and create some of the best memories in life. I personally have met many great friends and it’s something I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Relationship Building With Convention Staff (Owners, Management and Staff)

This is often something I find quite interesting is how little of my fellow artists and vendors have a relationship with the staff of a convention. From the volunteers, all the way up to the convention owners and management, all of which are important. Many of the staff worked there way up from a volunteer role to a paid management level. By building good relationships with these staff from day one, you build a correspondence with these members of the convention that will benefit you in the long run. Let me give you a perfect example…
Upon arrival at a comic con about 3 years ago, I had an issue with my booth not being the right size. I had ordered a corner and got an inline. I spoke with the exhibitor floor manager, and told her I needed a corner because of my setup and that was what I had ordered. Apparently the location I was at was turned into an empty spot because of fire marshall issues. She moved some things around and got me a corner in a very desirable location. After moving my setup into that booth, I walked back to thank her and overheard her talking about how much she would ill for a pepperoni pizza right now but the convention center pizza was terrible. I thanked her and walked 3 blocks to a local Italian pizza place and got her a large pizza. I brought it to her and gave her a small thank you note. You would have guessed I had just given her the last pizza on the planet Earth. She was ecstatic and was so thankful. I had a much better show than I would have in the inline booth in the back and all it costs me was $12 for the pizza and 25 minutes of my time. Now, this convention group owns several shows and I almost always get the desired area that I like to have at every show for my clients and I. Which has made me thousands of extra dollars throughout the years of doing their cons and my investment was $15 and some time. If I had never took the time to get her a pizza and write a simple thank you note, I would have not been moved nor would I get better positioning at the con. Staff are people and people like to be treated well. It really doesn’t take much more than a simple and a nice gesture to help yourself and the other person involved.

Another story with the complete opposite results.

I have a friend who has been doing conventions for years. This person had a circumstance in which they were given the wrong booth. They purchased two artist alley tables on the front side of the artist alley in a premium location. In a similar situation, a fire marshall had to eliminate one table off of that row, which ended up being my friend’s second table. The floor manager at this particular convention (a different one than mentioned in my story above) had zero space left and could not accommodate the two tables. The floor manager offered a corner booth in a decent location which the artist refused. After many apologies from the floor manager, the artist yelled and told the floor manager that they were racist assholes who can fuck off. I DO NOT RECOMMEND EVER DOING THIS. The floor manager had security escort this person outside and banned him from selling at that convention and any future conventions they run. Fun fact, that convention now runs a few large and very successful shows that this artist cannot attend at all. Which has costs this artists tens of thousands of dollars. The point is, don’t be a jackass. If things aren’t going your way, nicely try and fix the problem at hand. If you can’t fix the problem, then move on and attempt to make the best of an unfavorable situation. You never know how good or bad actions will impact you in the future. The best advice I can give is do well and don’t expect anything in return and things will start to naturally happen for you.
Moral of the stories above are pretty simple. Treat others the right well and go out of your way to let people know you appreciate what they are doing for them no matter how large or how small the actions are. It will never hurt you to do the right thing.

Fun Tip: ALWAYS give staff and volunteers a special deal you do not give anyone else. If they spent $30 on prints, throw in another print for free (it costs you under a dollar). It makes them remember you and you never know what role that person will have next time you see them! The amount of possible things you gain will nearly always outweigh the $1 you gave up to make this person feel special.

I would love to hear from you and hear about your stories on how you helped (or hurt) yourself in a similar circumstance or what you would have done in my friend’s circumstance and how they could have handled the situation better! Email me or Direct Message me on Instagram or Facebook!

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