Kiri Leonard's Artists Alley Booth at Gencon

Is it your first time exhibiting your artwork at a convention? Firstly, congratulations! This is going to be so exciting for you!

Here are a couple of things I’ve learned along the way while showing my artwork at conventions such as New York Comic Con, Gen Con, and Wizard World.

1. Do your homework.

You are going to save yourself time and worry if you spend time reading up on the convention you are attending beforehand. Figure out arrival times, transportation, rules, tax rules – and make sure you read up on this in good time.

2. Bring your portfolio.

If you are going as an artist (or art student for that matter) do yourself a favor and bring your portfolio. If you do not already have one, put together a portfolio of your 9-12 BEST pieces, and remember less is more.

A couple of portfolio tips:

  • Each additional piece you add to your portfolio can/will weaken it.
  • Don’t put in life drawing pieces of your student work or random sketches.
  • Put in your personal and ONLY your BEST work.
  • Don’t put original works in your portfolio. Instead, have all your pieces printed in the same format and with the same alignment on each print, so people don’t have to turn your book around because some pieces are vertical and others horizontal.
  • Make sure it is of high print quality. It gives a better presentation.
  • Make sure to put your contact information on the first page of your portfolio.
Kiri Leonard's Artists Alley Booth at Gencon

3. Selling Prints.

Prints are popular items at any convention! If this is your first time attending a show, don’t bring too many prints. Pick 4-5 of your very best pieces and print 5-10 copies of each.

A note on signing the prints: In my experience people loving getting their prints signed, in fact, every person I’ve sold to at a convention has asked to have the print signed. Therefore I recommend signing them before leaving for the convention. You can save yourself some hassle by doing it ahead of time.

4. Selling Postcards. Another Item you may consider selling is postcards. Packages with 3-5 postcards sell better than singles. If you have single postcards, people are likely to think they are free handouts.

As for print sizes I recommend sticking to standard sizes like 8”x10”, 11″x14″, 12”x16”. It is easier for customers to frame them. Full bleed looks best in my opinion, but if you prefer a border, you can do that too.

5. Packaging and presentation matters!
Consider how you package your prints and lay out your table at home before attending the show.

A good presentation will draw more people to your table. Get cellophane sleeves and backing board and put a sticker with your information (Name, website address) on the corner of the cellophane sleeve.

You want to elevate your work with your packaging. Make it look more professional, inviting, and well thought out. If you are selling postcards, make sure to package them nicely too.

Framed mini prints by Kiri Leonard

6. Pricing Guideline.

The price is your call, but if you need some guidelines here is what I sold my prints and cards for. It seems pretty in tune with what other people at the con were selling theirs for as well:

  • Small print (5” x 7”) – $10
  • Medium Print (8”x10”) – $20
  • Large Print (11″x17″ +) – $40
  • Limited Edition Prints ($50+)
  • Three pack of postcards – $5

Make sure to have clear pricing on the items that are for sale. Printed prices look better than handwritten.

7. Don’t worry. Be Happy!

Going to a convention for the first time can be overwhelming and concerning, especially if you’re not a social butterfly because there are a lot of people there. Try to relax though, smile, and be welcoming and you should do just fine. Don’t miss out on chances to make connections and friends with other artists, say hello, compliment their work and try to get a conversation going. It pays off, not just in having more fun at the convention, but also in making new friends!

8. Business Cards / Freebies.

Don’t forget to bring business cards! The amount you need depends on the size of the convention. I recommended bringing at least 500. Other options for freebies are brochures or postcards.

9. Original Art.

Depending on the convention (Again, do your research) you may want to bring original art.
Some conventions are more focused on prints than original art. If you do bring originals don’t undercut yourself. Make sure you charge a fair price worth the amount of time and effort you put into your piece.

10. Must-bring Items:

    • Hand Sanitizer: You are going to be shaking hands with a lot of people, and each one of them has shaken hands with a lot of people. For your own sake and others, bring hand sanitizer.
    • Cough Drops: You are going to be speaking a lot, make sure to keep your throat soothed.
    • Water: Conventions often have long lines at food/drink stands. Bring water!
    • Tissues: They always come in handy.
    • Tape: It also comes in handy and will make immediate display problem solving so much easier for you.
    • Pen: You are going to need a pen, either for signing or just taking notes.
    • Scissors: Always handy!
    • Paper: To take notes on or make notes of.
    • Painkillers: Just in case you get a headache. You don’t want it to ruin your day.
    • Band-aid: You never know when you might need it!
Kiri Leonard's Artists Alley Booth at Gencon

11. Fans and repeat customers are wonderful – these are your bread and butter so make sure to reward them. There are multiple ways to reward your fans and loyal customers, you can offer them discounts, free prints or postcards, coupons, or something else.

Let these wonderful people know they’re special to you!

12. Have a mailing list sign up at your table.
Mailing lists are great for your illustration business because people who put willingly sign up for your newsletter, are people who are genuinely interested in hearing more about your work, these are the exact people you want to connect with as an artist so get started on that mailing list.

13. Make eye contact.
If you make eye contact with people as they walk by they are much more likely to take interest in you and stop at your table. Conventions are packed with people and art so do your best to be personable and give out a positive vibe. Eye contact and smile until your cheeks get sore!

14. Practice your elevator pitch beforehand and practice speaking about your art.
There are going to be a lot of people asking about the inspiration, thoughts, feelings, and stories behind your work, so make sure you have this well thought out beforehand.

When you encounter prospective clients you also want to have your elevator pitch ready.

15. Not all value is in sales.
Sometimes you have great sales at conventions, other times you do not. Realize not all value is in sales. There is value in both the experiences of learning what works and what doesn’t and there is even great value in connections you make. There is also a huge value in the new fans you meet, who will be excited to see your work in the future, even if they cannot afford to purchase something right this moment.

16. Take breaks.
It’s important to take breaks, also during conventions. Otherwise, you will tire yourself out horribly and it’ll impact your mood and the experience. Treat yourself and take breaks, you’ll have a better time for it.

Good luck at your convention, I hope these tips have been helpful!

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