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9 Artist Alley Tips for Beginners

This article is all about some tips I picked up having booths/tables in Artist Alley in the past seven years. The pictures and convention I’ll be referencing in this article is the recent convention I did, Ultra Con of South Florida! It was a reasonably small convention, but still a good example for this article.

Let’s start the tips and tricks. Here we go!

First Tip! Don’t get discouraged on the first day of the convention.

The first day of the con was a Friday. It was from 3PM to 8PM. So I got there early and set up my table. Make it look nice and pretty! As Todd McFarlane, ceator of Spawn, might say “Do what everyone else is doing, but make it sexier!”. I set up my table, and it looked like this!

table 2 | Artist Alley Tips for Beginners
table | Artist Alley Tips for Beginners

I had my Mad Dog books and prices on the left and my prints and key chains on the right. Being the first day I felt a little shy and not sure what to say to passers by. I’d be like “hey!… sup.” Needless to say, I sold nothing on day one. But what I did do without realizing it was that I was getting a feel for the convention and the people who came. Also, I was getting comfortable too. OK, here comes day two and I am ready with some new ideas!

Artist Alley Tips Take away!

Use the first day to get comfortable and get ideas to sell your swag better. If you’re like me you’re anxious and nervous and your head might not be so clear when you’re getting all your stuff together. But once you are behind the table see what your table needs or doesn’t need.

I ended up getting rid of the keychains for the third day because they were a pain to deal with (they kept falling off the stand) and no one was buying them anyways. The books and prints we’re selling though, which was good.

Second Tip! Bring a Freebie to give away.

Nothing says “Come over here to my table” like free stuff! But you have to let people know! In my case, I have this secret decoder ring. It’s essentially a little round business card but the design on it is that of a decoder ring that I made for Mad Dog. It decodes scrambled URL’s in the back of the comic that sends you to secret web pages you can’t get to any other way.

Anytime someone came within almost shouting distance of my table (you don’t want to full on shout, it’s just rude, right!) I’d say “Hey there!” if they acknowledged me I then would proceed with “Hey, you want a free secret decoder ring?! It unlocks secret pages on my comic’s website!” That was my opener all weekend long! It helped me sell quite a few books. And by the way, every sale I made, (except one) was because I called out to the folks walking by and reeled them in.

But your freebie can be anything! Something cheap to make of course, so you don’t lose money, but something to start a conversation.

Artist Alley Tips Take away!

Have something free to give away to draw folks to your table! Some ideas for free stuff are button badges, bookmarks, wallet sized prints of your art you can sign the back of and say “Hey! You want some free art and an autograph!”. Also, a bowl of candy, who doesn’t like to hear the words “Want some free candy!” as long as it’s not coming from a creepy guy inside an unmarked van.

But free stuff yo, it’s the best for getting someone to come to your table. 

Third Tip! Have some fun visuals to sell your comic, other than your comic.

The comic I was selling was Mad Dog Volume One, which is basically the first six issues of my comic Mad Dog (well… the only six issues so far, eh heh!) But I just so happen to have some copies of each individual issue! I brought them all with me and laid them out next to the Mad Dog book.

Looked like this:

table | Artist Alley Tips for Beginners

 

My new spiel went like this: “Hey! want a free secret decoder ring?! It unlocks secret pages on my comics website… yeah this is my comic here. It’s Called Mad Dog! It’s all these six issues (I make a grand gesture with my hand of presenting the six issues before them) inside this book! (patting Volume One)” Then if they were interested I would go on to tell them what the comic was about and so on and so forth. That’s exactly what I did for almost every sale of the book I made. I sold 14 copies that weekend. May not seem like a lot, but let me tell you, that convention was small and on top of that it’s hard to sell a comic that no one has heard of. Especially one that’s a whole volume, not just one issue. But the tactic above worked!

Artist Alley Tips Take away!

Whatever you’re selling, try and present it in a fun and visual way to gain maximum intrigue. If you’re selling a volume with issues inside, but don’t have the issues printed then just print the covers. Maybe laminate them too, to look more professional and feel free to steal my spiel. If you have just one or two issues of your comic, then maybe print out a picture or make cool cutouts of your main characters and/or important objects from your story and tell them what it’s about using the cut-outs. Make a little show of it! Get excited about it! Trust me, when you act passionate about your creation, it gets other people excited too!

If you don’t have a comic and you’re selling art prints, then showcase your art in a cool way. Mount some of your work, or if you have a series of art, display them together to show people the potential of using your art to decorate there house, or car, or basement or whatever.

Ted the train man and friends | Artist Alley Tips for Beginners

Fourth Tip! Keep a note on the side of what to say!

You read my spiel above but at first I wasn’t remembering everything I wanted to say, and I would forget to mention things. Like, “This was a successfully funded kick starter comic!” See that’s a good one,  but I would forget sometimes. Or like “It’s an all-ages comic!” That’s important to say when it’s a family with kids. “Here take a look!” Always offer to let them hold your stuff, holding makes them feel a connection and maybe see stuff that will make them want to buy! Another good one!

Artist Alley Tips Take away!

Keep a little paper or card hidden with notes on what you want to say, and take a quick look as your talking to make sure you don’t forget something important!

Fifth Tip! Talk to Everyone!

I sort of already mentioned this, but it’s important. Talk to everyone!!! Like I said before, 13 out of the 14 books I sold we’re sold because I engaged with them first. I talked up my comic, I got excited about it, and every now and then I would make a sale. People can be shy. In fact most of the time they are, I think. So they may be passing your table and thinking (“Hey that’s cool…. but I don’t want to make conversa-“) Me: “HEY! You want a free secret decoder ring!” Ba-da-bing! I’ve just invited them to my table, and they were interested, and they saw my stuff and then they bought something! Hooray!

Artist Alley Tips Take away!

Yeah, seriously, engage with whoever you can! Talk to anyone that passes by! Even just a simple “Hey what’s up! Having fun?!” Then if they respond back, offer them your freebie and show them what you got!

SHOW THEM WHAT YOU GOT!

Sixth Tip! Draw something while you sit, but do it strategically. 

During the con, while I wasn’t talking it up I was working on a drawing of the ninja turtles. But whenever someone passed by my table I would stop, look up with a smile and engage. That’s the formula because if you just stay drawing, people will not come up to you. They will feel they are bothering you. But on the flip side of that coin, if you just sit there doing nothing, making creepy eye contact with people from far away until they get close enough to talk, you also seem kinda desperate and it can be a turn off.

Ninja turtles 1 | Artist Alley Tips for Beginners

Ninja turtles 2 | Artist Alley Tips for Beginners

Ninja Turtles 2 | Artist Alley Tips for Beginners
Ninja turtles 4 | Artist Alley Tips for Beginners

 

You want to be in that sweet spot. Draw so you don’t look creepy and desperate, but be aware of the people passing by so you can stop, engage, and invite them to look at your stuff.

And by the way, your art can also be a conversation starter! People we’re interested in my Ninja turtle art and came to look at it. I still had to engage to talk to them, but they made it easy! One guy was a huge turtle fan and actually had a vendor space at the con selling only ninja turtle toys! That guy ended up buying a Mad Dog book!

Artist Alley Tips Take away!

Draw to look busy and avoid creepy staring, but make sure you stop and smile and engage with people as they pass by your table too!

Seventh Tip! Social Media actually works!

This is one of those tips that is basically obvious but yeah, I have met a few people at cons that already knew about Mad Dog through social media! Like Instagram and Facebook! Blows my mind ever time! I’m no social media expert, I just post pics and throw in hashtags, and try to do that thing where you type @the name of someone famous or someone in the picture. That gets people to see your social media stuff that may not be your friends already. My wife E.L. Lane is the social media expert, check out her site or contact her if you’re interested. She knows that junk good!

Artist Alley Tips Take away!

Use social media! Post your art! use hash tags! tag people!
Any cos-player I took a pic with I would ask them their social media info to tag them. I got a lot of extra exposure that way!

instagram: tiffanymasters_catwoman

 

 

Eighth Tip! Don’t use your phone!!!

If you can avoid it, stay off your phone! Only use it if you really have to make a call, or if you’re quickly posting pics for social media stuff. Other than that, don’t be on your phone. Your at the con to get people to learn about you, see your art/comics and also to make some sweet mula! It’s very rare anyone will come to your table if you’re on your phone. At least in my experience.

Artist Alley Tips Take away!

Stay off the phone!

 

Ninth Tip! Step back and look at your table every now and then.

Having a table at artist alley means that people will be man-handling your stuff. Every now and then when you get a moment step back and look at your table from the perspective of the people passing by.

Things tend to get shifted around as people pick things up or even just bump into your table. So look at it, say “look at that!” and fix it! Make it look sexy again!

Artist Alley Tips Take away!

Step back and look at your table every now and then and re-organize it, and make it look pretty!

 

Whoa Whoa Whoa! hold on… there’s one more tip!!!! It’s a secret bonus tip!!!!

 

Tenth Tip! Take time for yourself, you deserve it!

Is there someone at the convention you want to see? Maybe a seller has some comics or toys you like? Make sure and take some time to enjoy the convention a little! Even if its just 20 to 30 minutes or so. I myself was excited because George Lowe, voice of Space Ghost fro Space Ghost Coast to Coast was there!

I met him once before, almost a decade ago. This was back when Super Con, the big Miami comic convention, was still a baby. As a young lad I grew up watching Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Staying up past my bed time on Thursday nights, waiting for it to come on. If you have never seen that show look it up!

Basically Space Ghost would interview real celebrities but… ok you know what, just watch this instead of me trying to explain it:

I was excited to see him again. Around 1pm on the last day I ran over to his booth and caught him as he was packing up. He was super cool just like the first time we met. He talked to me for a while, and I got a pic and another autograph!

George Lowe and Looey Q

Space Ghost signed picture

Artist Alley Tips Take away!

Make some time for yourself, you deserve it!

 

The Last part of the Artist Alley Tips and Tricks article

Those are my 9 er 10 tips! Hope they helped you out, or at least you enjoyed seeing what life behind a table at artist alley is like!

A special thanks to my family for coming and visiting my table! You guys are the awesomest!

family

 

And another special thanks to my pal Pedro! He was at the con with me helping me out by watching my table while I went to go pee and stuff!

Oh look here he is now! to end the article!

Pedro