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Artist Alley Booths: 7 Awesome Tips to Take the ‘Starving’ Out of Artist

Artist Alley: a comic book artist’s best shot at appealing to a large, interested audience. The much beloved home of comic book pencillers, inkers, and colorists. Well, perhaps not so much “beloved home” as “ink-and-blood-stained battlefield of cutthroat marketing tactics.” With the economy sucking as hard as the Eric Bana Hulk movie, things like a print of Thor eating spaghetti while Batman crochets a new cowl kind of go on the backburner in favor of things like “rent” and “food.”

Want 7 tips to sell in Artist Alley anyway?

The folks who do make the financial and time commitment to attend comic book conventions and wander down Artist Alley are potential customers you want to snag. After all, you became a comic book artist for the big bucks, right?


Label prices prominentlyLabel-prices-prominently

When pricing is not provided on labels or a price sheet, a customer generally has one of three concerns: a) “It’s probably super expensive,” b) “The artist is going to size me up and try to fleece me. I shouldn’t have dressed as Bruce Wayne,” or c) “I may enter a zone of awkwardness if I ask for a price and then walk away.” In any event, you make the customers uncomfortable, and they’re gonna bolt. Be upfront with your pricing, and even include a “but let’s make a deal!” underneath to give those battle-ready negotiators a chance to spar for a bit. Selling in Artist Alley is a full-contact sport.

On the other side of the pricing spectrum (i.e., freebies), label those as well. People are shy about grabbing a bookmark or a pin, because some artists charge and others don’t. Make sure you’ve got the freebies labeled as such.

Speaking of freebies…

Offer freebies

Everyone loves them. Brand-wise, it’s good to have some form of your own art on there, which is why CMYK (full color process) printing is the way to go.

Customized mousepads with CMYK printing are unique, the full color processing ensures you won’t lose any detail, and it’s definitely appealing to nerds. Many personalized tote bags or custom messenger bags also offer full color printing, and they’re ideal at a convention where people expect to be toting around lots of stuff. By giving these away on their own or with purchase (or even selling them), you can create an army of walking billboards.

Have-popular-characters-AND-original-artHave popular characters AND original art

Great art of popular characters will definitely sell. Unfortunately, Artist Alley is also THE most competitive place to sell your art; your competition is literally steps away. What else do you have to offer?

Your original art!

Whether it’s in print form or comic form, it’s important to show that you’re not just an imitator; you’re an innovator. These conventions are filled with networking opportunities and industry professionals that could be the hook-up for your next gig. The best overall Artist Alley advice is this: make sure your imagination is as visible as your re-creations.

Engage passersby

This subsection should have an addendum: “But not like a construction worker in a sexual harassment training video.” Despite a claim made by my four-year-old self, negative attention is not better than no attention. I’ve heard everything from the generic “girl in the red shirt, c’mere,” to “hey, buy my comic” from well-meaning comic book artists without any finesse. This isn’t just advice for selling in Artist Alley. This is advice for LIFE.

While comic book enthusiasts are not widely renowned for their superior social skills, there are still plenty of ways to strike up a conversation with a total stranger. Comment (appropriately) on a cosplay outfit. Ask a question about a book they’re carrying or even relate it to your own work. Toss out your pitch, “How awesome would it be if zombies had the powers of snakes and spiders?” But make sure your attention-getters are broadly appealing enough that you’re not alienating potential buyers.

Speaking of which, you really ought to…

Know-your-audienceKnow your audience

Perhaps you sell pictures of bunnies snuggling in a basket of feathers. Or perhaps you prefer to draw barely-clothed vixens slowly peeling bananas with their mouths. Whatever. Beware the pros and cons to appealing to a niche within a niche. This lovely fellow appealed primarily to straight men (and perhaps lesbians and bisexuals) with his advertisement. And certainly that’s the largest makeup of comic book convention attendees.

Problem? Female attendees are growing in number, and statistically, we’re more interested in Superman’s arms and Batman’s buttcheeks than this little number. Plus, my inner feminist wanted to give him a lecture. I restrained myself… by going nowhere near his table.

Create a series for upselling

I got suckered in big time on this one. And I say that without a hint of buyer’s remorse. Artist Terry Huddleston has a gorgeous series of headshots featuring the good guys and bad guys from both Marvel and DC. He’s even got Robocop and Speed Racer for good measure. He traditionally sets them up as a large mural behind his booth, drawing attention from nearby rows.

He offered prices for individual prints as well as sets in various increments. And based on the 37 minutes I spent haggling, he’s also open to negotiation. I walked away with 10 prints, which is 10 more than I had planned on buying when I approached his table. In fact, this list of Artist Alley advice could just be replaced with: “Ask Terry Huddleston how he does it.” Check out interviews with Huddleston to reveal some insights on how he maximizes his space in order to maximize his profits and shows that talent, passion, and knowledge combined can make selling in Artist Alley a successful, full-time business endeavor.

The appeal was that he had a variety of styles, but within those styles, he offered several possible combinations to create a unique collection tailored to each buyer’s interests.

The result? I have the entire Justice League hanging on my wall.

Take it from Terry: a collectible series makes sales multiply.

Don’t set up anywhere near Northern Illinois Lego Train Club

Dont-set-up-anywhere-near-Northern-Illinois-Lego-Train-ClubSeriously. There’s just no competing for attention with these guys.

Artists, how do your marketing strategies and art prints fare in the Artist Alley? Any advice for selling in Artist Alley for newbies? Buyers, what do you find attractive about a booth? How can artists convert an interested passerby into a customer? Sound off in the comments below.

Until next time, keep expanding your brand!

Kyrsten Ledger

Kyrsten loves the great outdoors (as long as there's no snow on the ground), and spends a good amount of her free time traveling. When she isn't traveling, she's spending time with her family, reading a new book, or working on her next home improvement project. If she could live anywhere in the world, you'd find her moving into Cinderella's Castle at Walt Disney World.


  1. josh wurtz

    I am a sucker for the artist alley, I have spent a few $$ there myself. An these are what get me as well. Someone that will come out and engage me, have the prices already set so you don’t have to ask, etc. One of my favorite artsits there, Cory Smith, did pencil sketches and would color in the eyes for you for free. Everyone one of these tips definitely get me to stop at someone’s booth!

  2. Amber Graves

    Thanks so much for this! I’m going to be selling my stuff in Artist Alley for the first time for this coming Anime Expo, and possibly the Long Beach Comic Expo and I am quite nervous about the whole thing.

    Now I just need to figure out where to get stuff printed and how to figure out how many prints to make of each image. I also still need to figure out what the best button maker and size to get is, although due to the detail in my art I’m leaning towards the 2 1/4 inch one.

    • Gina

      I’ve heard you shouldn’t make more than 10 prints per design. I also heard that buttons in the 1.5″ size sell best, but I guess it depends on the con. Good luck!

  3. Len Robertson

    I find all the advice interesting. I’ve been to Chicago Comicon three times now and had a portion of a table with Matt Hansel, but I was more observer than marketer. I was so not with marketing that when a local TV station found I had an award winning sic fi novel and interviewed me, I had no idea what to say. At the time, I told myself it would not happen again. Your advice helps hugely.

    By the way, if you see go to this years Chicago Comicon and see a blond haired, white bearded contestant for an Earnest Hemingway look-alike contest, it’s probably me.

  4. Byron Wilkins

    Greetings. I’m the creator of that 1977 the Comic banner you used as an example of “bad” marketing. First, my artwork is rather tame compared to other artists. Second, that banner was the most successful one I’ve used so far. I sold more books that year than any other year.

    I retired the banner thinking I would offend folks like you. But, it did work. For MY market. You’re simply not my market.

    The real point is an artist has to know their market, and understand that, yes, you may offend some people if you draw the subject matter that I do. That’s the problem with Artist Alley, it is a huge conglomerate of styles and subject matters. If my poster offended you, I’m sorry, but my bank account was very happy.

  5. Noble

    Good tips! Make sure you have a license for those popular characters! We don’t want to send a vague message that copyright infringement at cons is acceptable 😉

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