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 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…
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 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.
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 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
Seriously. 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!