Conventions?

Hello there WFG people!


In case you've forgotten me, I'm Khronos/Hayley, I'll accept either, illustrator/co-author of Caelum Lex and I would not at all blame you for forgetting since I am so terribly bad at staying involved over here. I have, however, been creepily lurking and reading all your threads for quite some time. Like a creeper. But here I am, making an attempt. With an actual question.


I swear I remember some of you mentioning that you've tabled at cons before (I told you. I'm a creeper...). I've been to plenty, but never actually tabled. I have the opportunity to maybe split a table with a friend at a con in April and although it's been a secret dream of mine to actually exhibit rather than attend, I'm left wondering what I would actually do with the thing. Obviously there's the art route and I would definitely intend to do some of that, but Caelum Lex is predominantly writing rather than art. And how does one market/sell/promote writing at a con?


For anyone out there who has exhibited at cons before, what did you do? Any advice? Or even if you haven't tabled at cons, any ideas?


Hey Khronosabre!


This is going to get long, so first question -- what convention? If it's Anime Boston, hecks yeah, just do it. :)


So your memory is pretty good. I know that we have talked conventions somewhere in one of the marketing threads or maybe it was the Dragoncon thread? (http://forums.webfictionguide.com/topic/dragoncon-should-we-go#post-9986). It's been a while and the search feature is not being all too friendly today. D<


I know that MCA Hogarth also tabled extensively last year as she tweets actively about it. She usually has the same tablemate and seems to be able to sell the books she brings. Based on my conversations with her tablemate (another artist I regularly chat with on social media), they mostly participate in the Florida convention scene. That con scene is a bit more "general"/"broad" than other conventions in the U.S. I know she posted a review of Megacon on her webpage but am not sure if the rest of her experiences are only caught via Twitter.


I have tabled in artist alley a few times here and there. (More times than I care to count UGH.) I'm less active than I used to be as they're pretty time consuming events.


However, unlike MCA, my main presence at these conventions is an artist. (Typical setup here https://twitter.com/whirlyshirly/status/310171364814376960/photo/1 )


FOr the most part my setup does not heavily advertise the serial. For most conventions until last year, I had only a bookmark on my table. Some conventions they go like hotcakes and others not so much but that's largely dependent on traffic flow and how people interact with the tables. Most people will never decline a free good quality bookmark. Mine are gloss on one side, heavy paper, and non-gloss on the side with text (Bookmark: http://t.co/AGOzTeDq3f ) .


I did have a few proofs at one convention last year that was oriented towards anime/gaming/comics. I sold and traded the five or so I brought with me ( Proof closeup here: http://t.co/4npONrXn. ). I simply stuck the proof out on the table (if you look at the picture above, it hangs out in the middle). The weird thing was people who like books will run over if they see them (they're so out of place otherwise). As I generally don't like to mislead people, I'm careful to first tell someone that the book is available online before proceeding with selling them the copy.


That said last fall I went to an anime convention and the book did not sell. Rather it drew other writers over to the table to talk to me. Some tried to recruit me for various fantasy/sci-fi cons in the area that are much smaller in scale in terms of attendance. I have not followed up on them as right now I still haven't finishe dthe proof and I would rather not go to any as a "writer" until the hardcopy of the book is done.


I have tried merchandise at these two conventions and others. Merchandise is also a crapshoot. One year, I sold a bunch of stickers and charms based off this design (http://t.co/2d75uq4X) but the market is saturated. People run away from the charms and buttons now. Stickers still go well but doing a reprint of the ones I have would be pretty costly (I got my initial set through a local connection). I won't be running any more for conventions. Still haven't tested their sale-ability online through a store. Unless you plan to be stuck with merchandise after one convention, don't invest a lot in making merchandise.


As for book sales overall -- I do talk to a few webcomickers online and at conventions when I see them. They do sell books but mileage varies depending on genre , display, and random things like how likable the people are at the table. Most do not rely on books alone. They have a mix of things from prints to t-shirts to buttons at their table.


My conclusion really is that conventions are always a crapshoot. They're risky for artists and vendors if they can't guess their audience tastes. They're going to be hard for writers perhaps unless they're friendly to webcomics. You obviously don't want to go to a convention where your stuff is totally mismatched with the taste of the attendees and you may wish to ask how webcomickers fare at the convention you're considering.


That said -- people have different goals in going to conventions. If you don't need to worry about making back cost and can stomach the idea of going to simply market, then it's worth thinking about. Hopefully the convention you're considering is local enough (or you have a free couch to crash on and low travel costs) so you can afford the gamble.


Make sure you have stuff to give away, most importantly -- business cards (if you don't want to do bookmarks) as people love to collect them.


And if you're going to have art prints, you will have to bite the bullet and look at something that is likely to bring people over. That usually translates to something fannish or something so witty or clever or cute that people will be drawn to your table.


There's not a lot of general advice threads on artist alley tables anymore out there on the internet as the population that tables has high turnover. Couple of places you could look up-

Facebook Group: Artists Alley Network International

Gaia Online AA thread: http://www.gaiaonline.com/forum/art-discussion/artists-alley-information-thread/t.21610915/


There you can get into more specifics on how to present, what sells, how many of "x" should you bring, etc. etc. You may also find people to hotel with and such in teh Facebook group.


Okay - this is far too long so I'll stop.


Oops - well due to server problems, I thinkw e lost two posts here but in sum:


Khronos: The con I'm going to is wondercon. Are sketches okay? I have no product.

SGL: YES.I THINK YOU SHOULD GO OR HIRE YOURSELF OUT AS A TABLE MINION. SKETCHES ARE A GOOD IDEA.


And so this is not simply a total farce--

Khronos -- I heard Wondercon was really good for other writers based off some stuff I was reading last night. Someone said he grouped with a bunch of writers and sold books. They said it went well and they'd do it again.


I have copies of the two lost messages. I will repost shortly (just have to figure out how best to do it).


**Editor's note**: This was originally posted (before our outage) on Jan 3.



Ahh thank you so much! That's all really useful advice. The con I'm looking at is Wondercon in Anaheim which I would be going to regardless of whether or not I table so thankfully it's not a super effort to make it there if I do decide to go through with it. Wondercon's a pretty varied con too and has a presence for all kinds of media including sci-fi which could serve me well I think, especially if I find some way to draw in all the California Browncoats.



My problem I think mainly is that I have literally nothing to sell. I have no books, no merchandise, no art that's actually marketable (aka fanart). So financially, it would probably be a bad decision haha. There are a few months for me to figure something out, of course, so some of those things might be possible to create in that time, but with work, that's not really guaranteed. I would love to have a setup like yours, it looks so nice, but clearly I am vastly unprepared haha



I definitely like your idea of bookmarks if only because I too love bookmarks. One thought I had, maybe you have some insight on this, is cheap on-the-spot sketch commissions? One thing I used to do when I was younger (not so much anymore) was walk around artists alley with a sketchbook and ask people to draw in it, just a free doodle or a few bucks for a nice character sketch. Maybe a bit of a cop-out, but it could be enough so that I could at least break even on the table cost and not have to worry too much about spurting out a bunch of fanart before the con.



The more I think about this, the more I realize this is probably a 'next time around' sort of thing, but hey, it never hurts to start planning early. Obviously, I say, as I have literally no idea what I'm doing :P

**Editor's note**: This was originally posted (before our outage) on Jan 6.



Wondercon actually has been on my list for many years to attend because they are fairly nice about writers. They had programming I consider writer friendly, i.e., "writer/artist speednetworking". (Kind of like speed dating for people looking for partners.) Unfortunately I don't know anyone who has gone to it. My West Coast experience is limited to Anime Expo and Fanime.



I know that the podcast Paperwings hosts like to go there too (http://paperwingspodcast.com/sabotage-sale-artists-alley/)



I would not rule it out to attend. Actually highly encourage you to think about it. If you are not goingto have much product, would you be able to share a table with another artist who does similarly themed stuff? Or offer yourself up as a helper? That way you can learn with less risk. You can also use that position to try to network and talk to artists about where they think you might try next. The only thing you really n eed then is a business card. Add your email, serial website address,a nd whatever deviantart/tumblr URLs you think relevant.



And yes - convention sketches are a good thing to offer. If you're fast and dont' find it stressful to draw on spot, you should do it. Lots of advice out there on how not to go about it already too (reference: Livejournal community "artist_beware").



Doing clean sketches or b/w works fine. I generally show people a sample before we agree on what to do. Most of mine look kind of like this -- simple greytones and inks (http://plumgirl.tumblr.com/post/62627552248/last-commission-david-tennant-as-the-tenth). These are probably 10-15 dollars at an anime con. You could get away with higher 25-50 at a comicon.



Other places to go poke for advice:

Definitely now think you should try to hit up the facebook group if you can -- that's a good place to just randomly toss out questions/find out who might have intel on Wondercon.



... Random thought: I do know of another writer who does to the small convention circuit. He doesn't write serials but brings books. Bobby Nash does podcasts and blogs. Can't recall if he's talked about his convention experiences but it might be worth hitting up his webpage to look.



Sorry this is so scattered -- tryign to answer you before I disappear out of work :p


First off, Caelum is totally my replacement for WORM, so I finally archived crawled you guys a month ago. Awesome stuff, and the graphics, especially the screns emails notes, ect, really add some depth to the story, I've been loving it. So I would go with prints, also flyers. Make up a simple flyer with a name banner, the web address, some b and w artwork, and a synopsis of the story, maybe a good paragraph or two from chapter one. have a good 50 of those to pass out to people. have another 50-100 and go to any panels that might be releveant (firefly viewing, steampunk, writing, ect) and leave a few flyers lying around. unless youve been cranking out some stickers tshirts and such, you're going to have less in the way of things to sell, but you still have things, especially as the artist. If able, things like, character sketchs, a quick sketch of a person (especially cosplayers) in the Caelum style. As "co author" if you also have the writing chops you can write brief scenes or written character sketches for people, and of course, there's always the holy grail, buy a guest appearance. But honestly, for us writers, I see cons as more of a networking / reader gathering opportunity.


Speaking of networking, see who else is there, talk to people, other writers and artists, get your name out there. If you have any friends that also do the serial novel thing, see if they have any flyers they want to print up and ask you to display (and honestly, a small cost for the display space isn't bad). Offer things via social media as well to anyone who shows up at con cosplaying as a character from caelum (and if they do, A. FUCKING AWESOME! and B. give them some of those flyers to give to anyone who asks them who they are).