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20
Jan

How to Survive the Artist’s Alley

salesmunky

New artists might find themselves in an Artist’s Alley at an Anime/Comic/SciFi/Fantasy/Furry/Whatever Con. The AA can be both a good and bad place to be. Today I’m going to give you a quick rundown of what to expect if you should choose to exhibit your work here. Hopefully this tutorial will keep you from feeling like a crazy monkey. :)

How does this work, then?

Summarization time!

In my experience, the AA can wildly differ depending on what kind of con you are talking about. There are fan-run cons and pro-run cons, as well as different genres of cons. For the sake of brevity, I am going to have to speak about this generally and focus on fan-run cons. These types of cons are much more common.

Fan-run cons often are less organized due to everyone working on a volunteer basis, but they often cost less to rent a table. They are very popular these days since anime fandom has become more mainstream. At fan-run cons, table prices can be low so it goes to follow that there is no skill or maturity level that you have to achieve to get into the AA. All you have to do is apply while there are spaces available. You usually do not get any extra setup time for your booth, or any security. You could also be sitting next to an obnoxious kid that needs a large dosage of Ritalin, or a professional working artist. Sometimes cons also put their guests in the AA.

Let’s Rock!

Survival Tip #1: Never Go Alone:

If you plan on going to one, bring a friend with you. You will need to leave your booth at some point to use the bathroom and eat, so having a table helper is necessary.

Survival Tip #2: Bring Food:

It is best to bring a lunch, snacks, and water. You may not have time for a break. The rooms are very dry so it is easy to become dehydrated.

Survival Tip #3: Bring a Jacket Even in the Summer:

It is also very cold in most convention halls and hotels, so bring a jacket even if it is 90 degrees outside. Nothing is worse than shivering all weekend because of some overactive air conditioner.

Survival Tip #4: Bring a Fort:

You may need to stack boxes around the perimeter of your booth for security. This is easy because usually your merchandise will be brought in boxes.

Very often the people setting up the logistics of the AA don’t take theft into account. I was at one con where the tables were arranged in a horseshoe shape with the artist’s facing inward. The problem with this was that while customers were walking around inside the horseshoe, nothing stopped anyone from walking around outside the horseshoe and stealing things.

Survival Tip #5: Set the Cash Up Right:

Be sure to bring a locking metal cash box to hold your money. Of course you should bring lots of change, too.

Survival Tip #6: Get Your Measurements:

Be sure to get exact measurements of your table before you get to the con. Sometimes the tables provided may be wide, but they could be abnormally thin. I was at one con where we had such skinny tables that it was tough getting all of my merchandise on the table. Do not expect that the coordinator is going to give you all of the information you need, because they may not.

Survival Tip #7: Hoist That Banner:

You should invest in a banner of some kind so that people can find you in the chaos. I find that ones that you can raise up high above your head work well and take up less “behind the table” space. You don’t want your logo to be behind where you are going to stand, anyway. Here is the banner stand that I use.

Survival Tip #8: Label Everything:

Label all of your merchandise clearly. Customers will not ask you for a price. I repeat: customers will not ask you for a price, so label everything or you will lose a sale.

Survival Tip #9: Vary that Price Point:

Make sure that the price points of your merchandise is varied enough to accommodate all budgets. I have things that cost .50, $1, $5, $10, $15 and so on. If someone likes your work they can buy something small if they don’t happen to have the $20 for the t-shirt. Very often they will come back next time for something larger. Before you know it – you have a regular customer. This is how you grow your fan base – allow people of all financial levels to get hooked on your work!

Survival Tip #10: Business Cards:

Bring lots of business cards that have your URL and email address written clearly on them. Place them on your table and label them with a sign that says that they are free. Believe it or not, people sometimes hesitate to take things…even business cards.

Conclusion:

In closing, I want to remind you to not look at sales numbers as a measure of your success. Getting your brand exposed to new people is a longterm investment. I have gone to some cons not intending to make a profit because my goal was to put forth a great promotional effort for my brand. It builds slowly as people recognize you and then it will pay off.

Good luck, everyone!


13
Jan

Handling Rejection and Finding Your Comic’s Target Audience

It is easy to get upset when someone rejects your work or leaves you a negative comment. We artists can take criticism personally because art is such a deeply emotional form of expression.

rejection

There is a secret to all of this. SURPRISE! Everyone gets rejected.

Think of any celebrity. Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Audrey Hepburn are all famous. They have also suffered more rejection than you could possibly imagine. The reason they are so famous is because they got through it. The trick to being successful is to get through your first few thousand rejections. Don’t let it make you stop!

In art school they used to say that every artist has 1000 bad drawings to get out before they can start making good drawings. I say that every career has over 2000 rejections that they have to walk through before they find their audience.

There was a fandom around the pet rock. It was a rock. Yes, a ROCK. There certainly is a fandom for your comic. You can find it if you keep going.

Rejection Analysis, Your Target Audience, and You:

When you hear some negative feedback about your work, the first thing to so is look at it from a neutral perspective. Is there any validity to it? If yes, note this and use it to make your work better.

There are two types of people on the planet. There are people who are your target demographic and people who are not. Negative comments are often being said by people who never would like your comic in the first place.

It helps to think about who your target audience is. How old are they? What do they like? If you do a comic about why being a Dallas Cowboys fan in the best thing ever, don’t be surprised if a Pittsburgh Steelers fan hates you. This is good hate. You are doing your job properly.

Awhile back some random guy said that my comic had nothing interesting to offer at all. That is no surprise because he was a fan of comics that were about guys and gaming. My comic is about a girl and it is definitely not a gaming comic. Of course this person wasn’t interested in my work. It is not for him. Gamers read my comic because I am a huge nerd, but not gamers who are only into gaming jokes and nothing else. I just don’t post jokes about games every day, that’s all.

Consider the source of your criticism.

You need to plow through the people who are not your target audience and find the target audience that is yours.

Haters Rock:

I have to tell you that haters give great links! The best promotional linkage for my work has been done by people who were telling others why they hated it because they went the extra mile to describe it. People clicked to see what the deal was, and I got new fans in the process.

Rejection is a growth process like any other. It’s necessary, inevitable, and sometimes even helpful. Think about it intelligently and don’t let it get you down.


06
Jan

Your Friends and Peers Might Not Be Your Fans, but that is OK:

ohwell

I think that a positive attitude is so very important when it comes to cultivating a successful webcomic. Having a positive attitude comes from understanding when there are things that you cannot change and working around them rather than hitting them in the face with a tunafish.

For example – I was on a panel several years ago with another webcomic artist who was totally angry that her friends were not reading her comic. She stated that if she found that a friend of hers hadn’t read her comic in awhile she ceased being friends with them because in her opinion they had abandoned her. She then expressed anger that Penny Arcade didn’t reply to her email when she asked them to post a link to her comic.

She went on to spit hateful fire and venom about this so loudly that the entire audience was turned off because of her negativity. It backfired, and I haven’t seen her since on the convention circuit.

Your friends and other comics in the scene are not necessarily your target audience. I am friends with people who never read comics. They know that I draw a comic, but they just don’t enjoy reading any sort of comic.

This is OK.

As far as the big comics go – most of us veterans know each other and respect each other very much, but we just don’t have time to read everyone else’s comic all the time.

This is also OK.

No one but me is obligated to read or promote my work. I really appreciate it when people read me and post links to my comic, but I consider it to be a bonus.

A relaxed attitude is a must if you don’t want to scare people off. Not everyone is your fan. They might still be your friend. This is all OK. It’s physically impossible to be universally liked. Accept this and move forward. A positive attitude is so very important when it comes to being a brand that people feel comfortable around. Forcing people to do things they don’t want to do never works, anyway.

While you are busy being nice, you are creating real connections through friends in the scene who are more likely to be able to help you when you need it. Just remember to help them if you can in the process to get a combo bonus of comics fun!

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