2011 Convention Report summary
Instead of doing a whole bunch of individual summaries of my conventions, I figured I’d kind of wrap everything up in a single post. Present what I’ve learned, what mistakes I made, what I will changes for next time, and what I did right. For those of you wondering about my Convention exploits and how things went.
Now I’m not unfamiliar with conventions, although previously I had always shared a table and nearly all of my experience was in the US. This time, I was only taking on my homeland of Vancouver, BC, Canada. This led to some very interesting experiences and a look at some very interesting revelations about my fellow canucks and the climates of the various conventions.
My first convention of the season was Minicomi. A new one day comic market based after the 1 day dojin markets in Japan and put on by UBC’s Anime Club. The event was held in UBC’s Student Union Building (a place I have become very familiar with…) in the ballroom. It was quite spacious, and seemingly well organized as far as checking in and setting up was concerned.
I had generally guestimated that the crowd’s demographics would probably be 15-25, biased to the females, likely asians or asian decent. I had thought that it was, from all the advertising, going to be a market of people buying stuff, or looking to buy stuff. Since there were no ‘official’ vendors, as in commercial vendors, and this was an artist only event, I figured it would be a good climate for independent comics. However, this was pretty far from the truth.
The event was free, and so a lot of families were showing up with their kids (ages ranged from about 7-14ish), and there was a LOT of browsing and not a lot of buying. The crowd that was gathered was mostly interested in cosplaying and window shopping. A lot of people stopped and looked through my artbook, and really liked my jewelry, but never wanted to buy. It was strictly looking.
The sales that were being made around the hall were specifically fan art of established, popular series. There was also a price point of about $5. Most things sold were under or not much exceeding $5. Keychains, buttons, and small fan art prints appeared to be the best sellers. Now, I used to work in a commission sales position. I KNOW how to work a tough crowd. I worked it as hard as I could without being a bitch, and I just BARELY made back my table costs. I sold about six things total, including one commission, an art card, a couple of buttons and a couple of comics. I know that other independant comic artists didn’t do much better. The people who were doing well up were the fan artists, not just of anime, but also video games. There were some crafters there as well who I don’t think were doing particularly well either. The price point of this event was very very low, and the people who were there really were interested in fan content, not original content.
I may give this another whirl with many of the new, fanish buttons I came up with over the three conventions I did. I only started with about 7 or so designs, and I have a lot more now. I would also think i need to do more fan art or genre work to make back my money on this. Overall, I broke even on the table, but not the gas or my time at the convention.
I would only recommend this market for people who do a lot of fanart or fan based work, and bring stuff that is 5$ and under. Don’t expect to sell much above $10 in price. (unless you sell cosplay items or plushies… I saw people walking around with those) If you have a lot of product already, it may be just another opportunity to sell, but unless you are making things that appeal to fans of established series, this probably won’t be a good market for you.
Notes for next year: I’m going to try this convention again, but I’m definitely going to find more $5 or less items, and tap a few fandoms for ideas like I did with my buttons later in the season.
Cos & Effect
Cos & Effect is supposed to be an alternative fashion and Cosplay convention which was held at UBS, that, like Minicomi, was a brand new convention this year. However, since the demise of the local anime convention “Anime Evolution”, this sort of became this year’s defacto replacement. Unlike Minicomi, this was a two day event and had a registration fee associated with it. It also had dealers/artist alley separation. The price was more than Minicomi, but it was WORTH it.
The artist alley was located in a room on the second floor, and it was a friggen destination at the convention. The room was PACKED for nearly the entire con, so much so that making your way around the aisles in cosplay (which turned out to be far too narrow) was hazardous to displays and fellow con-goers. The biggest issue was that if someone stopped to browse a table or take a picture, it stopped up the whole flow of traffic. This made it difficult for some folks since no one could actually STOP at their tables. I was lucky, I got a table in the front corner, where there was a large space and it was right in front of the entrance. Everyone could see me.
For this convention, I made up a bunch of new button designs, had a t-shirt printed, and did up some earrings for the necklaces I already had. I also had my comics and, art cards, art prints from the previous Minicomi since I sold so little.
The sales were brisk and the place was packed even before the room opened (someone screwed up and let people in early. :P). Over two days I met a ton of interesting people and sold more than enough to cover everything, from my table to my gas money, and covered what I lost at Minicomi.
My most popular item, hands down, were my buttons. Buttons FLEW off the table. Seriously, I pretty much made my convention off button sales. Several times I had to whip out my button maker and press more of particularly popular designs. I can officially say the button maker paid for itself.
The next best selling items were the comics (awesomely enough), and artwork (prints, artcards, and commissions)
The big loser as far as product went was the T-shirts and the jewelry. Again, price point was an issue. A lot of interest in the jewelry, a little in the shirts. But not a lot of people willing to spend larger sums of money.
The con’s demographic was slightly higher than minicomi as far as age went. about 18-30, with some families, but less than the one day Minicomi. It was more highschool/college students, with a smattering of working adults, and a few family units here and there. The main difference I think between minicomi and Cos & Effect, was that people came to the convention expecting to buy stuff. They were LOOKING for stuff to buy, and not just of their favorite fandom. They were much more open to discovery, and artists. This made the convention much better for independent artists who’s work doesn’t center around fan stuff. Although fan stuff obviously sold very well.
The price point was higher than minicomi. $10-$15 was the threshold that made people buy or make them think and “come back later”, although I learned that bundled table deals make things sell much better. My button bundles were far more popular than anything else on the table. I plan for next year to make more available. A lot of people wanted to buy more expensive things, but a lot of them spent their money in the dealers room. I’m guessing the threshold for the dealers room was higher in terms of what people would spend, but that’s pretty typical it seems for most conventions. I think a lot of younger people too are struggling in the current economy. There was more than once people were extremely interested, but they just couldn’t afford it.
Overall this was an awesome convention, and I’m sure it will be even better next year. IRL Events really knows how to run a good event. With some of the changes and feedback they got from their artists, I’m sure the alley will be even better next year. I expect the artist alley will be juried again, which is different from a lot of conventions way of handling artists alley, but I hope I make it in again. (assuming they have one)
Notes for next year: I’m going to add some cosplay elements to my table specifically for this convention, and try to work on my jewelry so that I can get it to a lower price point. Also, more button designs and work on updating my artbook, new comic issues, and freshen up my prints. But I’m definitely coming back to try for this one.
One of the oldest sci-fi conventions in Canada, Vcon is a proper convention held in a hotel. It’s been around a long time, and as such had (as I expected) the oldest demographic as far as age ranges. It also didn’t separate the artist’s alley from the dealers room, which was actually pretty small comparatively to many other conventions I’ve been at.
Vcon is… unique as far as conventions goes. The vendors room was a little more like a craft fair than what you’d expect from dealers. Which makes what you can buy there a truly unique experience. And also what’s expected from you as an artist shifts a little sideways I discovered.
The attendees were generally in the 35-50 age range, although there was a smattering of younger adults, they were definitely the minority. A few families had young kids, but for the most part you were dealing with older sci-fi/fantasy fans, which, let me tell you, are a very different breed than anime fans. Also, unlike cosplay/anime conventions, it skewed a bit to the male heavy side somewhat. The price points seemed higher in the room, 20-50$, but you had to have the right stuff.
These folk had money to spend on the right products. But the right products were tricky business. Artwork these people were looking for was classic fantasy and sci-fi art, and they expected to see originals as well as prints. Large ones. Like 11×17 or larger, on bristol or canvas, in traditional mediums like ink, acrylics, oils, or watercolour. The artshow was a big deal, with some AMAZING pieces. These people are buying art for their homes, or are collectors. They are willing to spend some big dollars for the right pieces, but most of the artists in the alley (including me) were definitely NOT ready for that sort of crowd.
As far as my table went, I brought a few new items with me to the convention. Clip on kitty ears, cyberlox ponyfalls, and a brand new set of sci-fi/geek themed buttons and added Zipper pulls to my repertoire of my most popular designs. I also had to reprint my comics, since I had sold so many at Cos & Effect. ( you can read my reviews of Ka-blam and RA Direct’s print jobs if you want to know how they stacked up.) Otherwise, I was working off old stock from the previous conventions.
Vcon is a 3 day convention, and the first day, Friday, was predictably slow. The Saturday was also slow, surprisingly so since Saturdays are usually the busiest at 3 day conventions, however Sunday was a gong show. Almost 80% of my sales were on Sunday. I did… alright. The buttons, once again, were a life saver. Sold more buttons than anything else at the table. Our other surprise, was that we sold out of kitty ears in a flash on Sunday. We didn’t bring that many, since it was an experiment, but we’ll be for sure bringing more next time.
Again, lots of interest in certain products. Cyberlox were a definite novelty, people stopping to touch them all the time, and browse the jewelry, but only sold one item, one of the cheapest ones. Had a lot of people browse the art, but my anime stuff is definitely NOT for this crowd. I would probably have done better with more generic fantasy art, and definitely need to bring traditional originals.
I bundled my comic with my T-shirt, and thanks to a few friends sold a couple, so that made the table cost. A nice promotion that the Vcon folks did was create a con currency for the dealers room to encourage people to shop. Everyone got a free 2$ of con cash with their registration, and the convention ‘cashed’ it at the end once the dealers room closed. They also awarded prizes in con cash, so it encouraged people to shop the dealers room. A very cool idea for sure. I cashed out a fair amount of it.
Notes for next year: Bring more ears, more buttons, more artwork, particularly an original portfolio of more classic artwork. Enter the artshow. Make jewelry that I can sell at a cheaper price points.
Overall Notes for 2011
I think I broke even more or less on the conventions I went to. It wasn’t easy, but it was also my first time there, and my displays were not ideal. I have a lot of work left to do on those yet, but I need money to make things like popup banners. I did managed to get some better racking. I might need more though.
I am definitely happy about my button maker purchase. It paid for itself many times over and saved my butt at each convention I was at.
I need to work on updating my artbook and focusing a little on my core product, which is my art in general. Comics and originals/prints and such. My artbook is horribly out of date.
Overall Notes for 2012
I am definitely going to look at deals/bundles for the table, making more buttons. I might consider getting another button maker of a different size. I also want to work at making most of the products on my table under 10$ as much as possible, nothing over 20$, unless its in a bundle. I will probably try to leverage a little more fan inspiration into some of my art, but also look at producing some work which can be sold as originals, especially since I’m already committed to Vcon and looking at other conventions in the summer. I want to have my other comic, Shifters, printed. I had Brymstone #1, but I also need to get back on top of updating for Brymstone (which kind of fell behind thanks to Shifters and conventions) and be well prepared in advance this time.