How to Make an Artist Alley Appearance Work for You
I'm Scott Perry, and I book artists for Artist Alley at Wizard World. In my time here, I have noticed different levels of success among our guests and vendors, and wanted to take a moment to outline the steps that today's more savvy artists have taken to ensure success on the road.
I know that self-promotion is one of the most difficult things a true artist would ever do; I know you'd much rather focus on your work and allow fans to find you on their own. But the world has changed, and there are a ton of channels that you can use to not just promote your work, but to build an honest connection with your fans, and to build a new generation of fans via today's social channels.
The most important thing to consider is what exactly do you expect to get out of a show -- is it to sell more prints? collect more commissions? connect with your fellow artists and share a late night beer? All these things are important, but realize that any show provides you the framework to build your own success -- how you do so is up to you.
For the more savvy artist / marketer, a lot of these steps are very 101; but if putting this list together galvanizes your goals and makes for more successful outcomes at future shows, then making this list was worth it. We at Wizard World value our guests and vendors as our partners, and want to do everything we can to ensure your success. So without further ado --
22 TIPS TO MAKE Artist Alley Work For You
1) Build your social presence on multiple platforms -- even if you despise all things dotcom, you have to go where your fans are, and empower them to help spread the word for you. Social media is going into its second decade, and the players are well established. But pick the one or two channels that work best for you, and post on a semi-regular basis in order to keep folks interested in your work. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the main platforms of choice, although some of you use YouTube, and a few more join Twitch on a weekly basis. It's up to you to decide if Snapchat fits your strategy, and Patreon, Deviant Art, and Tumblr have been key to many artists over the years.
2) Email is still strong -- if you don't make a sale at the table, then collect an email address. Build your base and email your followers at least once a month keep them up to date with what you are doing and where you will be.
3) Leverage your socials to make money -- do everything you can to book advance commissions, so that you have work ready for paying customers before you even set up at the show. Post new items for sale, livestream from your table or panel, offer freebies with purchase or fan-only discounts to get people excited about your local appearance.
4) Leverage your socials so people know where to find you! Post countdowns to show day, post your table number as your profile pic, post demo or panel times, as well as the days and times you will be at a show. Also be sure to tag the show itself, so their social mavens can share your info with their followers.
5) Offer ticket discounts to your followers -- if the show is offering an early bird ticket discount to potential attendees, then send that code to your fans as well. Everybody loves a hookup -- money they save on tickets means more money they have to spend with YOU.
6) Partner with other peers on your social channels -- this business is extremely small, and a lot of artists travel in packs. So be sure to take selfies and tag your cohorts so you all can amplify your reach by promoting each other. Even better, livestream late night jams! Just keep the booze and cussing to a minimum.
7) Make sure your web site is up to date! Most folks are eschewing traditional sites in favor of the abovementioned platforms, but plug-ins on modern sites make it very easy to keep websites fresh without having any programming skills.
8) Make eye-catching collateral for shows to use -- a lot of shows have their own in-house design person to build their own graphics, but if you can make an image that pairs your pretty face with your most popular works (as allowed by your rights holders), then do so! Even just a picture of you in front of your banner goes a long way to matching your name with your face and your work.
9) Make two banners for your table -- one to drape in front of your table, one that stands out behind you. Artist Alleys can be packed, and you need to do everything you can to stand out from the crowd, within reason. Next time you are at a show, take 40, 20 steps back and see if you can pick out your own table from the crowd. Then imagine what it looks like with crowded aisles.
10) Be a good neighbor -- get to know the folks next to you and around you, share a snack or a good story, be mindful of others' concerns. The biz is tiny, and word gets around when folks don't get along.
11) Bring nibbles, drinks, comfortable shoes, hand sanitizer, breath mints, and wet naps. Also, shower. Very 101, but worth repeating.
12) Never leave your table empty -- this is an issue especially for writers, who may or may not have much work for sale, as well as anyone who is concerned about leaving their work on the table while they are doing a panel. But an empty table can often deter traffic to your entire aisle, so even if you leave photocopies of your work on the table, it's much better than having nothing at all.
13) Offer multiple products at various price points -- convention attendees come from all economic strata, so have a little bit of something for everybody, from a $10 litho or comic to a $30 sketch book to sketches and commissions that you can price as high as your fanbase will allow.
14) Create a limited edition show-specific lithograph -- keep it capped at 50 pieces depending on your average sales, and maybe package any remaining ones into an entire set from that year.
15) Sell protective sleeves -- most people are okay sliding your piece into a thin plastic bag, but you can add some serious coin in a year's time by selling a sturdy, protective sleeve for your work for an extra $5.
16) Never be without supplies -- at this point in your career, your pens and pencils might as well be an extension of your left hand, but always make sure to double-check your toolbox two days before you hit the road.
17) Give away something for the kiddies -- yeah, you might find that 30-second head sketch on eBay the day after the show is over, but offer something for the kiddies to get them excited and to turn them into lifelong fans. Also, anything we all can do to get these costume-wearing kiddos to make the leap from the movies to your books is a huge step. Yaaaay, literacy!
18) Volunteer for as many panels, demos, and press opportunities as possible -- do everything you can to get away from behind the table. Period. It's great to meet your fans one-on-one, but think of these shows as a promotional vehicle for you and your brand. Use those demos and panels to let fans know more about you, and to lure in new fans as well. If you can come in a day early for local press opportunities, even better.
19) When you're doing a demo, raffle off your sketches for free -- folks stick around your demo a lot longer if they have a chance of winning something, whether it is that drawing you are doing, or multiple quick-draw sketches in a single session. Don't think of it as money lost, think of it as new customers gained, since a lot of winners will go back to your table and buy more stuff.
20) Give others a leg up -- if you are at a point where you are a published creator, then you're already at the top of the stack, especially if you can also pay your bills! Tons of your followers want to know what it takes to succeed, so if you have a way to talk about the commerce as well as the art, then remember what it was like toting your portfolio from table to table years ago and offer advice to newbies if you can.
21) Encourage your fans to show off your work -- you just created a masterpiece, and they just paid good money for it. It's okay for them to brag to their friends! If you are social, ask "Hey, want a pic of me holding up the work?" as you pass your work over to them. Also, make sure your social handles are easily displayed at your space.
22) Take care of yourself -- life on the road can be tiring, and we only get one trip on this planet. Be cognizant of what you are putting in your body and how it affects you, both now and in the long run. We all want to see you back at the show next year!
And for anyone interested in booking space at a future Wizard World show, click here.