Posts made in June, 2013
Last weekend I attended my first comic convention as an exhibitor. My only prior experience was tabling at a first year Halloween themed event called Keen Halloween last year, and though that show exceeded everyone’s expectations for a first time event it was nowhere near the size and scope of Phoenix ComiCon.
Taking the Plunge
Going into the event I had a few strikes against me. I was late to sign up, and as a result I ended up with very poor floor placement. And although I am confident in my artwork and the products I have to sell, my social networking skills need some improving and I am relatively unknown – something I’m trying to work on. I hope that exhibiting at more conventions will help get my name out there.
Question: How are people supposed to find me when I’m tucked away on the outskirts of Artist Alley, and no one really knows who I am in order to to seek me out? Well, fortunately one thing I’m really good at is presentation. I designed a booth that would incorporate my wacky factory branding and hopefully draw some attention to my table. Most of my set up was carried over from my table at Keen Halloween. The problem was that at Keen Halloween I only had a handful of products and my booth design centered around an elaborate spinning display which showcased my Mad Labs: Mix and Match Monster trading cards, blown up about fifty times larger. Now, I have much more product and the spinning display, although impressive, takes up a lot of real estate. As a result, I had to display most of my products on the table top.
The Pay Off
So how did I do? Did my efforts pay off? In a word, yes. Despite my sub-par table placement, I managed to do extremely well. On the Thursday preview night, my son graduated from eighth grade, so I couldn’t be at the show and my lovely lab assistant Jennie was kind enough to man the table solo. We sold only a few items, which is par for the course on preview night. Friday was a good day, though, and I made the cost of my table back about midday, which meant anything we earned after that would be be profit minus the money invested in printing and supplies. Saturday was our best day by far, and I was quite surprised by our numbers. Sunday started out very slow, but started to pick up throughout the day, especially towards the tail end of the convention.
What worked and what needs work
The verdict is still out on whether my table set up was the right way to go. Sure, I moved a lot of product, but I wonder if the display may have been too busy and if it would have been better to replace the backdrop display with product so it would be more visible. Because the table was so crowded, I observed people trying to take it all in, then a friend would point out something they hadn’t even noticed even though it was right in front of them. I’m afraid a lot of people may have missed something they might have been interested in.
One thing I do that takes up some space on the table, but seems to work, is having various mix and match monster cards scattered about on the table. Kids love to assemble and create their own monsters and often times this will lead to a sale of the cards. One kid actually threw a temper tantrum until his mom gave in and bought him a set. Although probably not fun for the parent, it’s nice to know someone cares so much about something you created.
I placed two of the prints that I thought would be top sellers higher than the others on the table. These two prints did sell more. In fact, the two prints beneath them didn’t sell a single copy. I don’t know if this had to do with the print or the placement, but since the higher prints were selling, I didn’t want to fix what wasn’t broken. I did do some rearranging and moved my button display closer to the front of the table. At first, I was surprised that I wasn’t selling any buttons even though at a dollar they were my cheapest item. It occurred to me that the one inch buttons may have been hard to read towards the back of the table. Once I moved the button display up, though, folks began to take notice.
One thing I expected to be a huge seller, but under-performed, was my Red Smuggler Cup. I don’t think people understood that this wasn’t just a cheap disposal solo cup, and was made of durable, reusable ceramic. I offed a description about the cup on the sign, but it wasn’t until I started putting the cup in people’s hands that they realized what it was. Once I stated doing that, we started to sell more of them.
All in all, we were able able to move most of our products. Prints, comics, buttons, trading cards and original sketches all sold about evenly. I plan on selling similar products at future shows, with the possible exception of the Red Smuggler Cups. They were a fun novelty, but in the end I think I want to concentrate on my own creations and not so much on pop culture-centric products.
What I plan to change for future shows.
For next year’s Phoenix ComiCon, I have already secured a corner booth. It’s a bigger investment, but I feel that if I can do well in the dark recesses of Artist Alley, I can do better out where the action is. Now, in order to justify the extra cost of a booth, I will need to fill it with a bunch of new products. I will also be building an entirely new booth display. My existing display is great, but I have some ideas to make it better and more practical. I’ll keep you posted along the way, and also work on being more visible on the social networks.
I know this post focused quite a bit on presentation, marketing, and selling, and I believe this is important. I think if you go into exhibiting at cons just hoping to earn your table cost back, you are doing yourself a disservice. Take it from me, a first timer without a huge audience: you can be profitable. You just need to be smart about it and have a plan. Do your research and be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. Play on your strengths. What works for me might not necessary work for you and vice versa. Mike Mignola was a couple of aisles down from me with nothing but a sign that read “Mike Mignola.” He doesn’t need an elaborate display like mine; he created “Hellboy” and has legions of fans. However, if I was to show up with just my books and a sign that said “Scott Serkland,” I might as well just throw my $260 out the window. If your expertise is social media, get out there and social mediaize yourself. If you have a small niche market, market the hell out of that niche. Do whatever works for you. Having said all that, there is more to exhibiting at a con than just making money. It’s an awesome feeling to see someone laughing and enjoying something you created (assuming it was meant to be humorous), even if they don’t buy anything. It’s also great to meet new faces and talk to familiar faces you didn’t expect to see. There is so much to take in, it really is an amazing experience. I hope to see you attending or possibly even exhibiting at a convention in the future. I know I can’t wait for my next event!