5 Tips on Selling Art at Conventions
I talked a little bit about sales in my 5 Tips on Navigating Conventions as an Artist. Make sure to read that first as it’s a good intro to today’s tips. I want to elaborate on a few of those topics, but today I’m going to go beyond the basics.
In case you don’t know me…I’m Sam Flegal and I’m a con artist. By this I mean I sell my art at conventions and have been doing so for the last six years. I do between 15 to 25 shows a year. I’ve seen a lot, and learned a lot about doing conventions as an artist, and I want to share some tips on how to sell art at conventions.
1. BEST FIT FOR YOUR ART
There are lots of different types of shows: Comic, Horror, Gaming, Anime, Tattoo, Toy, etc. Some shows mix and match, Horror & Tattoo, Comic and Gaming. If you want to sell you’ve got to be in the right market. I’ve learned this the painful way by going to shows and losing money. Hopefully, I can save you some pain.
I got my start doing Zombie Portraits and selling zombie art at cons. This did great at Horror shows, pretty good at Comic Cons, and TERRIBLE at Anime shows. Over the years I broke into game art and my professional art career began. My art tends towards epic and brutal battles, and the funny but gross. Obviously this still does great at Horror shows and still terrible at Anime cons. Over the years I’ve seen sales decrease at Comic Cons because I have less comic art, and the zombie thing is sort of running its course. In contrast I’ve seen a dramatic increase in sales of my game art, both at Gaming Cons and Horror shows. You have to be the one to evaluate your art and your market. Just remember not all cons are the same.
One thing I did when starting out was follow other artists whose market was similar to my own. (In case you’re wondering, that was Billy Tackett: www.billytackett.com) If he did a show, I tried to do it, too. Sometimes this worked out, other times it didn’t. However it was a great way to find new shows and learn the business. Overtime Billy and I have become friends, which is another great side effect of conventions!
If you want to see what cons I’m doing check out the conventions tab on my site: http://samflegal.wordpress.com/conventions/
2. IS IT BIG OR LITTLE
So the other main market factor at conventions is the size of the con. I’ve done great at little shows and poorly at big ones, but more often than not the more attendees a convention has the better your sales will be. My rules for doing a smaller show is that it needs to be cheap with low risk. The two main factors in this are doing shows in your local area, so no hotel or travel expenses; or if you’re a guest at the show, no booth and sometimes no hotel expenses. The more you can cut your costs the easier it is to try a small show.
If it’s a big show then it will be expensive. It’s not uncommon to have over a grand invested in a show between booth, travel, hotel, food, and parking; it adds up quickly. However the potential profits can be great. I recommend attending most large shows to get a feel for things before making the big investment in having a table. Small shows in your local area are great for getting your feet wet and learning the business of conventions.
3. HAVE THE RIGHT MERCHANDISE AT THE RIGHT PRICE
You’ve selected your show, you know the genre and size of the show, now it’s time to make sure you have stuff to sell, but you want to make sure it’s the right stuff. People have a tendency to buy things they recognize. This can be tough if you’re new to con art. My recommendation is to do at least one piece that fits the show. If you’re doing a Comic Con, do a painting of a comic character you like; if you’re doing a Horror show do a monster; etc. Make sure to make it your own! It never hurts to stand out in a crowd.
In addition to content, consider whether a piece would sell as a print or on some merchandise. I have a painting I did that sold o.k. as a print, but it sells AMAZINGLY as a make-up/pencil bag. What about a calendar or a mug? Give some real thought to what you sell and how you plan to sell it. Do research both online and at conventions. At gaming shows playmats and dice bags sell well; at other shows most people think they’re oversized mouse pads or placemats.
Make sure it’s the right price. I tried selling art bags for $30 and they didn’t sell. I changed the price to $20 and they sell great! Print pricing is a factor of size, limited edition, and content. That said I feel like $20 is a solid starting point. Most people are willing to drop a $20 on something they think is cool. Once again do research, look and see what others are selling their prints for: what size are they, what seems to sell. If you really want to pursue convention sales, read books and websites on marketing and sales. The nitty gritty of any business will help you in the business of art.
4. MAKE YOUR PRODUCT EASY TO BUY
Have your prints pre-bagged with backing board. If a customer can put their hands on your art, the likelihood of selling goes up. Make sure prices are visible and easy to read. If possible have your prints displayed behind you and at your table. Invite people to pick up your merchandise and look closely. The more a customer can become intimate with your art the more likely they are to buy.
As you’re getting everything ready, It’s also a good idea to put a business card in anything you’re selling. You never know where your art is going to end up, and the chances of a customer finding you again goes up if your contact info accompanies your art.
I use clear bags to get most my bag and board supplies. There are other options, but it’s a good place to start: https://www.clearbags.com/
5. ASK FOR THE SALE
This is so hard to do, it takes practice, but it works. After a person has been looking through your work, you’ve been answering their questions, and telling stories about your art, ask them which painting was their favorite? Then ask, “Would you like to get that one or did you have your eye on another piece?” Tell them about any specials you have like buy 2 get one, or a discount on multiple prints. Then ask, “Cash or Credit?”
If you’ve not worked in sales before this may feel very uncomfortable, but over time it will get easier. In my experience people are at conventions to shop for cool stuff they can’t find outside of conventions. Your art qualifies! People often need permission to make the purchase. Give it to them. Then ask if they want you to sign the print and ask them to sign up for your mailing list.
Speaking of mailing lists you should sign up for mine: Strange News from Sam Flegal
I hope that helps get you started! I’ll see you at the next convention!
To see more of my work or to contact me for availability to help with your project please visit: http://www.samflegal.com
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