Okay! Convention season has started up. So for this months Business Behind the Scenes I'm gonna talk about everything I do for a convention. If you read my Where the Money Comes from Post then you'll know I conventions are 1/3 of my income. I go to 10-12 a year and wouldn't be able to pay rent without them. So I think about them a lot. So here is everything I know about them
HOW I PICK SHOWS
First, I need to pick which shows I go to. Since, convention sales are a big part of my income is really comes down to profit margins. I go back to any show where I have made $500 profit. (Though I might change that rule to 175 profits per day because more and more shows are becoming longer than 3 days. ) So after everything is paid for I need to take home at least $500. Some times I can make a low sales show work because I live close by or can crash at a friends house. For example, Rose City Comic Con has my lowest sales of my regular shows but I live in Portland and on the same lightrail line as the convention center. So my costs are $5 a day in public transit tickets and the table cost which is $200. The other side of this is sometimes it means not returning to shows where I can have fun and see a lot of friends. I'm probably never going back to MoCCA because the tables are $450 (last I checked a few years ago) and a plane ticket cross country is $400-600. So it means even if I crash at a friends how I would need to sales twice as much as Rose City to just break even.
Now I am always looking for new shows, especially ones in Feburay, June, August, and November. Those months usually don't have shows. When I go to a new show I ask friends who have been and look at plane tickets. I try to figure out how sales will go. Right now, I've on the fence about trying Heroes Con, DINK, and Denver Comic Con. I have heard good things from several friends but in both cases but I need to cover a hotel, flight, and table. So I might give one a try in 2018, but this year is out. Also keep wanting to hit up Wondercon, which would be much easier, but it keeps conflicting with Anime Boston which is one of my best shows.
When I go to a new show I bring my 2 test boxes. My 2 test boxes includes:
- 10 of each Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales
- 15 Misfits of Avalon vol 1
- 5 Misfits of Avalon vol 2
- 15 Fame and Misfortune
- 15 Better to Find You With
- 20 From Scratch
- 5 Sorcery 101 vol 1
- 2 Sorcery 101 vol 2
If I sell all of this that will make me 1500 gross. In most cases that will get me over my $500 profit goal. Part of why I'm hesitant about Heroes Con and the others is I would have to sell all of it to make goal. Even then I might not.
Now that the shows are picked for the year, I try to make sure I got everything organized. Every December I go through all my past convention notes and box up or order anything I'll need for that con every. In my closet right now are several boxes that have writen on their side:
- AB (short for Anime Boston)
- 1 of 5
- Holds BTFYW/BUFFY/MOA1 (short for The Better to Find You With, Buffy, and Misfits of Avalon vol 1 respectively)
On the inside flap of the box it will say
- Buffy - 10
- BTFYW - 40
- MOA1 - 40
So as soon as I open the box I know exactly what is inside.
I always take as many books as I sold the year before rounded up to the nearest interval of 5. If I sold out I'll add 5-10 to that number. So in this case Misfits sold 39 copies at Anime Boston last year, which is why I'm bringing 40.
Doing this lets me know if I need to order or reprint books before the season starts. Like I bought 200 copies of Misfits of Avalon and 50 copies of Buffy from Darkhorse to have them at shows through the whole year. It's not that I don't expect Buffy to sell, but more I want my con sales to focus on my creator owned things rather than work for hire so I limited Buffy sales to 10 - 5 per show.
I also have a con kit box that goes to every show. In that is:
- Promo Flyers
- Cough drops
- Ear plugs
- Square Reader
- Sold out form
This will get update before every show. Promo flyers are obviously so people can find me website later. Sharpies are for signing and sketching in books. Square reader is how I take credit card sales at shows. Paypal also makes one but I like Square better. Cough drops, Aleve, and Tums are for if I start to feel sick during the show. Usually I use Fisherman's Friend cause they are stronger than other cough drops. Since I mostly sell books and books are heavy I do my best not to over bring those. That makes the sold out form important.
If has a blue border to match the price tags and table cloth on my con display which is the same blue on my website. I circle the book or write what they want in the blank space. I usually write the persons name and address cause I have an easier time writing my own hardwriting. Basically, someone can pay for a book or orginal page at the con and I will ship it to them for free. Next year I'll probably reprint it with the font on the new website and remove As We Were/Strange Someone.
GETTING TO THE SHOW
Books are heavy and that is mostly what I sell. This isn't much of a problem if I'm car pooling with a friend. Load the car up and go. If I need to fly to a convention, I try to fly Virgin America cause they let you check up to 10 bags. So I can just hand them my boxes of merch to check. I go to so many cons that I get a lot of frequent flyer points and it works out being the same price as a cheaper airline. If I can't fly Virgin America, then I will mail them ahead. But I have had less luck with the USPS then I have with just checking boxes. I also usually cab it to the airport because it can be 100-200 lbs of books.
All of my display stuff that I'll explain in the next part, fits into a large suitcase that I always check.
DISPLAY AT THE SHOW
The last step before the show begins is my display. I tried to brand my display with the same color scheme as my website. I linked you to my Sold Out Form and that blue is color of my table cloth and the color of my price tags.
Books are where I make most of my money and what I want people to focus on. They are front and center. My books get displayed on a colaspable shelf like this one . It is 18 inches wide which works for me because all my books are 6 inches by 9 inches or 9 inches by 6 inches. I keep meaning to paint it black or blue so it will also match my website. This keeps all my books upright and facing people who are browsing. It also keeps them eye close to eye level. All the covers are clearing visible. Some of the books in the back get hidden, and because of that I try to group books vertically. So Misfits of Avalon vol 2 is in front of the Misfits of Avalon vol 1. Someone who is familiar with the book will still see the series clearly, but volume 2 in front will let people who have volume 1 know there is a new book. Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales also gets stacked veritcally.
For each book I have made a price tag. They are 10 inches tall and 6 inches wide. They fit nicely behind each book and poke out. Sorcery 101's price tag is 7 inches tall and 9 inches wide for the same reason. I do individual price tags because of something I learned from reading "Why We By: The Science of Shopping." People only spend like 30 seconds reading signs. So a giant price list is less likly to me read than an individual price tag.
I have tote bags and still haven't quite figured out how to display them. I try to find a place to lay them flat so the design is clear.
Also laying flat is my portfolio. I don't usually sell prints because I've had better luck selling books. Prints of my character did okayish. But most people I sell to at shows have never heard of me and it's easier to tell someone to try a book than to grab a print of a character they don't know (And I don't think people should sell fanart.) Also, laying flat is my price list for commissions. Commissions I could make more money off of if I put more focus on them, but at cons I like to be in selling/pitching mode rather than drawing mode. So I'm okay with them being an after thought. If you want a commission, you are better off shooting me an email than asking at a show.
I also have two banners behind me. They are both the tallest version of this banner. I picked that one because while most people have 3 foot wide banners, the 2 foot wide one will fit in my large suitcase. But the 3 foot one doesn't. One design is the blue black and white color scheme of my website. That one has my name on it and characters from different comics. I might redesign it in a year or so. The other design has Danny lighting his cigarette and has Sorcery 101's logo on it. The Kel McDonald banner is more helpful for people who already know me. The Sorcery 101 banner brings over more people who don't know me. They ask about the title which leads to my sales pitch. The Sorcery 101 banner is also easier to spot cause it is bring orange. So if you need to design a banner and are still unknown, maybe make a banner for your comic rather than you. Both of these banners are VERY TALL. They are hard to miss.
Giving someone a clear way to find you is important. I think that makes one of the most popular ways to display prints at shows a bad idea. I see it most at anime cons, but it happens are every show. There is a thin wall of prints taped together and only a small space for the artist to poke their head out. If you google anime con display you get 9 million examples of this. I don't want to pick on anyone by grabbing a picture so I drew what I'm talking about . First off, that display is flimsy and I've seen more then one fall over. Second, they are hard to put. My display can be put up by just me and takes ten minutes or so. Also, the sign being in front of the table means when the con floor is crowded someone can't see it. Then the mass of images will blur together with nothing standing out from far away. If you and several other people in a row have a display like this is will be hard for someone to see you. And finally, this wall puts a wall between you and the person who wants to buy stuff. It's hard to see if someone is browsing through that tiny window and hard to engage with a customer. If you want to do a print wall, try to put it behind you rather than infront of you. You should be visible.
And the final part of my display is me. I'm not a very fashionable person. But I try to dress nicer than I usually do with a button up shirt. I pick button of shirts with a colar and a front pocket that has a button flap. The front pocket is where I put my large bills so the flap is to make it so they aren't visible. Obviously most people have a cash box or bag, but I worry about losing it. I also wear a tie that matches Danny's piano key tie. So I match my books and merch a little too. Now that Sorcery 101 is done I might switch to something kinda werewolfy if I can find it.
And all that is before the show even starts. The next Business Behind the Scenes will go over how I sell stuff and my after con notes.