Part of being a commercial artist is running a business. While there are aspects of this that I’m horrible at and procrastinate on (accounting, marketing) and parts that I very much enjoy (comic book conventions, book fairs, meeting fans and showcasing my latest books, and art), I still have to do all of them. This series of my process blog will talk about different aspects of the business.
One of the things I hear often from aspiring artists, when they ask about showcasing art at a convention, is that they don’t think they are good enough to sell their art. And my answer to them is always do it and you’ll see. Because what they are thinking is that everyone is better than them and why would anyone want to give their hard earned money towards art that isn’t very good. But what they don’t realize is that art is subjective. And if you have the proper mindset you can sell your art to them.
I was at a convention in Florida last year with my mom, first one with her as a matter of fact. And it was interesting to see her react to all of the elements of a show; the people dressed in cosplay, the artists selling their wares, the fans in awe of all the amazing products around them. One of the things she commented on was how varied the vendors were with their products and how they approached sales so differently. This got me thinking about the mindset it takes to have a table at a convention.
We had this artist opposite us who had this amazing looking set up. He had a clean look, with beautiful prints for sale, all individually wrapped. And people were flocking to his table. Yet his head was down most of the time watching shows or movies on his Ipad. . And he would acknowledge the fans in a friendly way when they spoke to him and I believe he would make sales. I think he came from another state, and had done other cons all over the east coast that year. I’d have to assume he was making money if he was able to keep on going to conventions. Or maybe he had a disposable income and was happy to do the cons to show his art at a loss. Either way, he wasn’t complaining and what he was doing seemed to be working for him.
Behind us, was a guy who had a product, which was a very roughly made comic book. It was a folded piece of paper with a photocopy of some story he had created. The drawing, skill wise, was at a beginners level. I believe the story was about him or some character like him and about his city of Detroit. And how it sucked there.
How I knew this was because he was shouting out his pitch like a hotdog vendor at a baseball game. He was friendly enough that it wasn’t to overbearing, but aggressive enough that it brought people over. He seemed happy all weekend and enjoyed himself. I don’t know if he made back table cost or if he will continue to sell. But he gave it 100%.
Which brings me to my point. I just showcased two very different types of vendors. I’m not judging them on their sales technique or product. What I am judging them on is their mindset. They showed up everyday and they had good attitudes. They were respectful of their neighbors and pleasant to their customers. And they both took a chance on being a vendor at a convention. And I think the key to their enjoyment was they both had managed their expectations. Whether it was to meet new people or just to be around other vendors, they weren’t there to blow away the world. They were there to enjoy themselves. And that’s the thinking you have to have when you are a vendor at a con.
So when you think to yourself, I have nothing to sell to people or I’m not good at sales or my art isn’t good enough, just remember that there are others who show up regardless of their level of art skill or sales technique. You just have to manage your expectation. Whether it’s to meet as many new people as possible, or to learn how to set up a table, or to make new vendor contacts. Or to finally get to show the world your art, just make sure you have that mindset throughout the convention. And I guarantee you will have a successful show!