Convention Tip – DON’T Share a Booth

Sam Flegal Convention Booth

I do a lot of conventions, about 20 to 24 per year. I set up my booth, display my art, and sell to fans. For most illustrators in the field of Sci-fi and Fantasy art, conventions are a part of their yearly routine and income. It’s well known at this point that conventions are a great way to get your name out there, sell art, meet art directors, and other artists in the field. In my opinion doing conventions is key to developing yourself as an artist, with the added benefit of getting to participate in the greater community of fantastic art.

That said, most artists do about 5 conventions a year or less. They do the big shows, and maybe a couple of events where they are asked as guests. It’s a rare few of us that do more than 20 shows a year, which is fine. Not every artist is as extroverted and interested in salesmanship as I am. As an offshoot of the number of conventions I do, I often get asked a lot about the ins and outs of the con circuit. Every artist needs to do at least a couple of shows every year, so naturally they’re curious. To help answer that curiosity, I’ve decided to start posting some convention tips here on my blog.

———-

Without further ado… Convention Tip – DON’T Share a Booth!

When I first got started in conventions I was scared (just like most folks). So I took several friends who worked in conventions out to dinner to pick their brains about the business. Information defeats fear! (Extra Tip – When you want to know more, take someone who does know more out to dinner.)

After one such dinner with my friend Sarah Frary, I asked her if we could share booths at some point in the future. [Now this is a natural thing to do, but understand why. You are afraid; if you have a buddy you will be less afraid. If your buddy has already done a few shows, you’re thinking you can rely on their experience.] Sarah said, “No.” She then explained that first off, our art looks nothing alike and does not complement each other. (Take a second to check out her site HERE. She’s badass but imagine the two of us right next to each other. People would be, like, what does that have to do with that?) Secondly, she said, that sharing a booth rarely works out well, even if their styles mesh. Both artists are crammed into a 6ft or 8ft space, one person might get more attention than the other, and you might interrupt the flow of each other’s sales. All in all it’s a bad scene.

[As an aside I had also done something a little rude here without realizing it at the time. Essentially I was asking Sarah to teach me the business at the sacrifice of her own sales, space, and art. I was of course clueless to this, but as older-and-wiser me looks back, I’m a little embarrassed. The MUCH better way to handle this is to offer to be an assistant to an artist you admire at the convention. Pay your own way. They MIGHT be able to get a you a free badge, but don’t expect that. Then do what they ask, watch, listen, and learn. Extra Tip – If you want to learn about cons, think old school and do a convention as an apprentice.]

I of course nodded, thanked Sarah for her advice, and told her I understood. On some level I was a little hurt, but as the years have gone by (I’ve been doing shows since 2009) I’ve come to realize what AMAZING advice Sarah had given me. I’ve seen a lot of artists share booths and I’ve NEVER seen it work out all that well (unless the artists involved were already famous and/or successful).

Don't be a Frowny Face!

Don’t be a Frowny Face!

I have, however, seen a lot of negative situations that relate to sharing a booth:

1. One artist outshines the other — better artist, better salesman, better display.

2. People typically make one purchase at a booth. It’s RARE a fan will buy from both artists. If you are sharing space, you are also likely sharing profit, too.

3. One artist has a bad time, looks moody, and drives people from the booth. Nobody wants to approach a frowny face!

4. One artist is very aggressive at sales and unintentionally steals a sale from their booth mate. “Oh you like unicorns, my friend here only has one unicorn painting, but I have five, check them out!” He’s having a good show and is excited, he didn’t mean to, but he just broke the vendor code (more on this in a future post) by pulling a customer away from his booth-mate.

5. One artist will not stay at the booth. They’re distracted by all the cool convention stuff or too nervous to sit still. To make matters worse, everyone likes his art more, so people keep complimenting the second artist on the absent artist’s work. Talk about resentment!

6. Art directors keep stopping by, but are only interested in one of the artists.

7. People get confused about who is who and at future events mix the two artists up. “Wait which one of you is the unicorn guy?”

Unicorn Guy?

Unicorn Guy?

I think that about covers it. In conclusion I’ll offer this final piece of advice: Take the pride in yourself and make the investment in your future. You owe it to yourself to get the credit you deserve. Even if you bomb your first few shows, it is better to fail spectacularly on your own, and learn from the experience!

DO NOT SHARE YOUR BOOTH AT CONVENTIONS!!!

———-

 To see more of my work or to contact me for availability to help with your project please visit: www.samflegal.com

STAY STRANGE!

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Convention Tip – DON’T Share a Booth

  1. I wouldn’t have thought about your tip before, but it makes sense. I’m sorry I’m going to miss seeing your booth at Dragon*Con since I’ve canceled going this year. Perhaps next year!

  2. I share some booths and don’t share at other times. It really depends on who you are sharing with, doesn’t it? If you share with someone who isn’t a jerk, I think you’ll be just fine. Buyers are buying what they want… they will as easily go over to the neighboring booth as your booth-partner, if they like their pieces. I’ve found that art directors will come to the booth attracted initially by one or the other artist, but will often look at all the art and will talk to both artists or one artist–like the buyers–because they are choosing the art they desire for a project or future project. It makes no difference if you are sharing or not. PROS OF SHARING A BOOTH: Half the cost of a full booth. If you don’t have a ton of product, two may make the booth look like it has more to look like. If you don’t come with your own minions, a booth-mate can allow you to take a break and you can watch the booth when they need a break. Different art and artists will attract different buyers and art directors, but the partner could easily benefit–I know I definitely got work when ADs came to visit my booth partner and saw my work. If your partner knows the ropes and you are new to that con, they can really help you out. If your partner has the grandfather points to get a booth when new people have to wait for an opening, that is a big plus. If your partner has displays and brings them and you don’t, that is a huge plus. … if you find that you can fill an entire booth and have the displays necessary and can easily negotiate a convention and get a booth with no problem, and you know you can cover your costs with sales, then, by all means, get your own booth! But I would say that it could be a smart step to share a booth, otherwise!

  3. You make some great points here Sam! I haven’t ever share a booth before, but I am going to do it for the first time with a pal of mine in Sept at the Cincy Comic con. We’ve known each other for like six years and get along great. he’s just starting to do these types of shows although he has been doing gallery work for a long time, and actually it was his gridwall I was using at the Lexington Comic and Toy Con. I hope it works out, but I do agree with you, most of the time it’s definitely a bad idea!

  4. This is an interesting article, Sam. I think it works a little differently for authors as visual appeal isn’t the primary draw, but I can see that a lot of the problems relate.

    As I’ve come back into the con scene, I’ve done so with some existing relationships that have been tremendously helpful! Fellow authors and publishers alike have helped me along, working to share costs and tables, and it’s been great for me.

    Now, if I didn’t know someone pretty well, I wouldn’t be as likely to proposition them in this way. But since our math is a lot different for most events and our culture is a little different too, I think this kind of thing works pretty well for us. At least until we have enough in our catalogs to fill a whole table, which can take a lot longer for authors, what with publication schedules and all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: