After a long four-day weekend of 9 to 5s (or rather, one 2 to 8, two 10.5 to 7s, and one 10.5 to 3), I’ve finally got some time to type up a blog post reflecting on just how exhausting my first Artists Alley experience was. FanimeCon was my first anime convention experience and it still remains as my most frequent. Being established in my hometown of San Jose, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to delve into the communal phenomena known as the Artists Alley.
After being rejected last year due to not registering for a table in time (I signed up thirty minutes after registrations opened and I was still immediately put on the waitlist!), I tried to make it a point that 2013 was the year for me. This year, I needed to go and I needed to go hard. Even with that resolve persisting through the year, and more challengingly, the school-year, I was only able to pump out two t-shirt designs and three artworks I felt were print-worthy. Technicalities had me frantic until all of my supplies arrived the day before the convention (my birthday), and in the end I only had the three different prints and one of the two t-shirt designs to sell. Needless to say, I was cautious as well as apprehensive about how well my first entrepreneurial endeavor would go.
And it’s at this point that I feel the need to split my experiences and sentiments into the four days of the con, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, which all had me reacting to my experience differently.
Day 1 (Friday): The first day was the most discouraging for me because it was the introduction to all of my expectations coming face to face with reality. I never would have expected that the short-lived interests of passer-bys and their inaudible comments that could only be left up to paranoid interpretation could get to me so much. When my first sale occurred an hour or three in, I was relieved but not enough to believe everything would be fine from then on.
Day 2 (Saturday): Perhaps the busiest day of the convention in general, Saturday stayed true to its bustling reputation and had me making twice as much sales as the previous day. Although I closed down my table earlier than usual because I was concerned with enjoying the best of Fanimecon’s event on the best of its days, I was happy to have prosperous results.
Day 3 (Sunday): At this point, I was enjoying the experience of tabling more as convention-goers complimented me and even asked me for business cards. More so, whatever epiphanies I had, they did good in breaking down the event to its very essence for me. I was starting to enjoy Artists Alley for what it was and is, just a really nifty place where artists could share their work with each other and the general public of supportive viewers. Before the convention, I had predicted that the latter days would be the busiest because convention-goers’ affinity towards window-shopping for the first two days until they finally decide what to spend their money on. I still don’t know if I was right or wrong, to be honest. While the first half of the day was completely lacking, I believe by the end of the day my business had equaled Saturday’s. But I was having the right kind of fun for what its worth.
Day 4 (Monday): Fatigued by the previous three days, I was excited just at the mere thought of finishing things with a bang and finally getting some proper sleep. In the end, I loved the last day, because it was the most lucrative of them all. I already had no regrets in my enterprise because of all the praise and amiability I had received from the last three days, but this particular day something happened that forced an irrepressible smile on my face. Just an hour or two before final closing, a group of convention-goers stationed themselves in front of my table for a good dozen minutes, discussing amongst themselves in a foreign language. I figured to myself that they were just debating about which of the sizes left they wanted, but it was to my total surprise, but welcomed surprise I must note, that their discussion led to the hefty purchase of eight shirts (normally amounting to $200). It. Was. Incredible. Glee.
I learned a lot about Artists Alley and about myself this past weekend. Beyond myself debating whether to increase or decrease the price of my products to cater to the public. Beyond the convention-goers would read my t-shirt’s tagline, ‘I read hentai for the plot,” and then say, “Yeah, right,” scoffing while walking away. I realized, because of the charming customers I had, the ones that I cherish right now and ever, I would unquestionably lower the price of any of my products to put it in the hands of those who would appreciate it to an extent that even I couldn’t.
A sales total of $1262 subtracted by an expenses total of $1012 leaves me with $250 profit, a gain that couldn’t even pay a month’s rent. But I’ll happily take photograph after photograph of my earnings so long as it represents the volition of people supporting my artwork and the certainty that dozens of people are donning my sexy t-shirt.
Tips & Tricks (Artists Alley Tabling)
Have a prominent display. You can have beautiful artwork to sell but a lot of people are keen on walking past tables without so much as batting an eye if they aren’t within a generous field of vision. A lot of people may be traversing the alleys of Artists Alley not even in search of artwork to buy, but how cool would it be if your extravagant display caught their attention anyway and gave them a reason to buy something there.
Be tall. Displays on the table or in front of the table are easily blocked by walkers and the prospective customers standing in front of your booth. Using PVC pipes is an easy and affordable way to develop an all-seeing attraction.
Have big signs, for everything. I can’t count how many times people asked me how much a certain product was or anything else that was already clearly explained on a sign. But I can’t blame them for not reading the relatively small signs I had. Make your signs as big as your actual prints if you can, especially the prices because seeing those great deals from afar is what especially brings in potential buyers.
Have business cards. It’s amazing what kind of interests people have. I never would have expected people to love my artwork so much that they would want such means of contacts and updates, and yet, “Do you have a business card?” was one of the most common questions I received, thankfully.
Consider customer appreciation. Prepare plastic sheets to put prints in and bags to put other products such as shirts in for customers. Maybe even slide in a business card in each packaging.
Be neat. A bit self-explanatory but a display that looks like a poorly built edifice is quite off-putting. I learned that the hard way.
Pageantry. Be creative in execution. Have a sign that welcomes autographs and such theatrics. Some people like hosting promotions such as freebies and discounts. Others like to attract through playing music and other kinds of sociability.
Have fun! Talk to the fellow artists and your audience. A lost sale doesn’t mean a lost friend! This is a community of fellow animanga lovers we’re talking about here, indulge in it in more ways than one!
Materials: PVC pipes, table, scissors, pen, pencil, marker, paper, business cards, products, water, seller’s permit, sign, plastic sheets, boxes, etc.
Shout-out to the seemingly couple that bought a pair of shirts together, that was so cute!
Shout-out to the friendly Aladdin cosplayer that came back the next day to buy a shirt!
Shout-out to Dante for proper criticism on my artwork!
Shout-out to the customer who asked me if I knew a particular hentai artist, thereby acknowledging me as a proper hentai indulgent!
Shout-out to the group of customers who bought eight shirts after a long and delightful consideration! The prophesied hentai party that would buy-out all of my remaining shirts!
Shout-out to the dealer who bought three shirts and complimented me on the design!