Monday, March 16

Prepping for A Convention

My first convention of the year -- SC Comicon -- is this weekend, and I spent this past Saturday getting ready. It looked like this:

1. Taking artwork out of sketchbooks to sell. I'll display these in a portfolio on the convention tabletop. Most of it will be my Daily Art (which you can buy beforehand and pick up at the show or have mailed to you).

2. Check my money folder. I left the folder with my other convention supplies all winter (since October's ACE in Asheville). Seems like there's enough for this weekend's show. I put cardstock denomination separators inside the zippered bag and make a note of how much is in there. When the convention ends next Sunday, I'll count the money to see what I made. You need plenty of smaller denominations because most people grab money from an ATM right before or after they enter the show, and most ATMs spit out twenties. So you need change for a $20 minus your sale. Lots and lots of ones and fives. No, more than that. Maybe a little more than THAT. OK, now get two more of each.

3. Check my Square card reader. I plug it in the smartphone earphone jack, open the app, make sure I'm logged in, turn on the location setting, and make a test sale. It works great. I love the Square reader. It's free. The only cost is a small percentage of each transaction. There's no excuse for a convention table person to not have one. Square also allows offline sales AND you can now enter the card number manually. No excuse, people. This is also necessary when the convention ATM has been drained dry.

4. Confirm I have enough business cards. I do. Vistaprint runs sales virtually every week. You can get cards easily and cheaply.

5. Fill up my phone rechargers. Since last year, I upgraded my phone to a Galaxy Note, and it has a removable, rechargeable battery. A second battery costs $30. So I have plenty of battery life to find reference pictures for commissions and run Square transactions. But I still have my old phone's Duracell rechargers. ($8 each on Amazon.)

6. Check the snack supply. Done. I usually pack granola bars and some mini chocolate bites. I'll drink water during the convention. It's grazing food. I can wait until after the show to have a real meal.

7. Grab two trash bags. They can cover your materials in and out of the show if it's raining, and an bag split open will cover your table at night when you're gone.

8. Make sure I got a tablecloth. It's like a dollar from the grocery store. Disposable. Necessary. A lot of con tables get heavy use from other shows throughout the year, and they have staples and chunks missing. Tablecloths, especially a bright color tablecloth, will make it easy for attendees/customers to find your table again.

9. Make sure I have tape to affix the tablecloth. Masking tape is fine. I also use it to adhere signs and labels around the merchandise.

10. Check my drawing supplies. Got my pends, got my markers, probably should get at least one more sketchbook in my favorite size (8.5 x 5.5). Hey, I got a Jo Ann's coupon that's still good. I set that aside.

11. Secure my prints for the transport. I'm offering 11x17 prints for the first time, so I'm a little anxious.

12. Print and pack my state license. This convention's state requires a retail artist's license. I bought mine online last week for $20. It's a hassle, but I'm legal. I have a print out of the license in case anyone asks.

13. Set aside spare paper in my commission sizes. I use sketchbook paper or bristol board cut to size.

14. Plan out my table signs. This is when I set prices. I prefer to sell low in high volume. I'd rather sell 20 prints at $5 than 3 prints for $10. As long as I mark up the price above the printing cost to make money. That's the goal ultimately. But kids can only beg their parents for big-ticket items so many times. I'd rather that little girl get a print of her favorite hero at a 50% mark-up price than see her walk away empty-handed because of a 100% mark-up price.

15. Check last year's notes. I keep track of each con by individual sale and requests. I can tell you without checking that I will draw Batman, Deadpool, and Jokers. Those are the most common requests. I can have some ready between now and the show. Harley Quinns too.

16. And this year, because I'm focusing on selling my trade, I'll pack some single issues as giveaways. Freebies are appreciated. I'm also offering a cosplay discount for the first time. It's not my idea (Marc Lombardi was the first person I saw do that just a few weeks ago), but it's a good idea. And it's selfish: I want to see all the costumes. Maybe a discount will lure them to my table. I've dressed up in costume enough to think the gesture would be appreciated. I reject the argument that cosplayers don't spend money at conventions. I swear, half the people I sell to are in costume. I'll keep track of those sales at this show and see what the stats bear out.

I want to do as little as possible in the week leading up to the show. That leaves time for last-minute commission requests and last-second epiphanies.

Come by the show. It looks to be much bigger this year.

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