Convention Perspective: Selling

Written on Wed, Apr 4, 2012 by Kyle posted by kyle

After the first 2 years at conventions my partners gave me the nickname ‘the machine’ because all I did was stand at our table and try to sell our book. I’m not saying this to toot my own horn or brag, the fact of the matter is I feel incredible pressure to stay at that table and do this because each new person is a chance to sell our book. So that’s what I do. There are also a lot of jokes that I’m very much in line with a carnival barker screaming and dragging people to our table but that’s actually quite far from the truth. The truth of the matter is that I do attempt to speak to everyone who passes by our table. I do ask if I can tell them about our comic book. If they say yes I give them a 20 second synopsis with a copy for them to look at and see for themselves. If they want it they buy it, if not it’s no big deal and we all move on. It’s that simple.

The reason I’m explaining this is because convention season is in to full swing and I’ve been seeing and reading some things about people selling their books. Another creator Unshaven Comics has a nice little friendship with wrote something earlier this month about how they dislike people who yell and call out to people to come to their tables. I like to think this doesn’t apply to me but I’m not going to act like some people don’t have that opinion about our table. This person has quite a bit more fame than we do. I can easily admit that we don’t get offered free tables yet and no convention has gone out of their way to promote our attendance. It’s easier say that everyone should be silent and not ask people to come see your table when you already have a line waiting.

The other side of this is something I saw at our first small and local convention of this year. Two tables away from use were two men and a woman selling their own book. I didn’t get to see what they were selling but we all saw them packing up with two hours left in the day. Someone asked what was wrong and they said they hadn’t sold a book all day and didn’t expect to so they were leaving. We had met our goal of 40 books that day. Again, this isn’t about tooting my own horn but I never saw the occupants of that table engaging or asking anyone to look at their books.

I don’t want that table to be us. If you talk to most people who use artist alley they will tell you that you need to get people to your table. However if you walk through those rows there will be a majority that saw nothing except for a timid ‘hello’ to see if you come to their table. That won’t be us. That won’t ever be use because we didn’t get a free table at that show and we aren’t top billing to the show. When you pay to attend a show you need to be aware of what walking in that door means whether it’s 150 books for the weekend or 5 original paintings. Then you need to make that happen. Whether that’s getting every friend to come and calling in every favor. Whether it’s getting one stranger after another to look at your book till enough sell.

2 Responses to “Convention Perspective: Selling”

  1. Wow. You must have read my mind. I go over the exact same topic this week for ComicMix. I say it there, and I’ll say it here: Kudos for your contributions. And yes, we may never reach a status where we’re “featured” guests with a line waiting to purchase our wares. And in the mean time, I take pride in our efforts to be a success.

  2. My name is Shawn Hilton, I own COMICS CUBED in KOKOMO, and I am a promoter for a small comic convention called the KOKOMO-CON. I’ve attended conventions as a fan and a dealer for over 20 years now, and I believe I’ve seen just about everything there is to see at a show.

    I have some advice for anyone wanting to sell their own material in “artist alley”.

    1. EYE CONTACT. I really don’t care if you’re Alex Ross, Jim Lee, or Jack Kirby’s ghost. If you don’t make eye contact you will not make a sale.

    I see artists constantly looking down at some sketch that they’re working on that’s not even for a customer. They’re just keeping their hands busy or got bored. If you’re looking preoccupied there is a very good chance that fans are going to walk on by, and not give you a second glance.

    A non creepy smile, eye contact, and “How are you doing” is all you need to get started.

    2. Over the top barkers, gimmicks, loud music, and creepy stuff is a turn off.

    I’ve been at a show (Mid Ohio several years ago) where a guy was screaming “CHECK OUT MY MEAT. BUY MY MEAT. BEST MEAT OUT THERE IS IN HERE.” and the book had a bloody steak on the cover. I get it. We all got it. None of us bought it.

    Incredibly loud music, usually heavy metal or Pink Floyd, does not make me think you’re cool, it doesn’t make me want to see your book, and it just drives me and most everyone else away.

    Snakes (Motor City Con) draped around your neck doesn’t make me want to read your book.

    Screaming, yelling, jumping up and down just makes me walk faster.

    3. Take a shower and a breath mint.
    To hear your pitch we’re going to have to talk. I don’t want to smell your McDonalds McGriddle or body odor. You’re selling a product, and it helps to make a good impression.

    I’ve seen the UNSHAVEN guys in artist alley at shows all over the midwest (including my own), and they tend to get it right. They have an obvious front man that is looking to start a conversation. He’s not screaming at me, he’s not scary looking, and he leads in with a question. By asking a simple question it begins a dialogue. Most people will not simply walk away from a question. They might answer and keep walking, but most people will acknowledge the question.