This guide started life in several posts I’ve made over the years in various forums, especially the forums at Manga Revolution, a site now sadly defunct. It’s an ever-changing set of documents, and I hope to keep updating it with new suggestions as time goes by. Please let me know by using the contact form or by leaving a comment at the end of any page here if you have anything you’d like to add, argue with, or comment on.
This guide is aimed at the anime convention market, as that’s what I’ve got the most experience in. I’m betting that most of the advice can be useful to other types of conventions or art and craft shows, but I’m sure each one has its own quirks.
Don’t be scared off by the sheer amount of information in here. Nobody is going to be able to follow all of it, and much of it may not be applicable to your particular intentions or situation. Pick and choose the tips you feel are appropriate and ignore the rest.
The first thing you want to do is to decide why you’re getting a table in the artist alley. For the purposes of this guide, I’ve overgeneralized and arbitrarily put convention artists into two types: Hobby and Pro:
- Hobby Artist: If you’re just there to meet people, have fun, watch the world go by, and maybe get enough money to fund your hobby a little bit or to pay part or all of the costs of attending the convention, then you’re a Hobby Artist.
- Pro Artist: If you’re there for all of that but in addition you’re trying to make enough money that the profit from the convention will pay part of your daily life expenses and you’re interested in maximizing your sales, then you’re a Pro Artist.
Hobby Artists can cherry-pick at random from the ideas in this guide, while Pro Artists probably should pay a little closer attention. I’ll also point out areas in the guide that apply more to Hobby or to Pro Artists. But don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right to you: I think we can say that we’re all primarily in this to have fun.
But I’m An Artist, Not a Salesperson!
I’m a semi-pro artist. I make part of my living by selling art. The selling bit is not my favorite part of the process, but it’s essential to paying rent. However, I’m not saying you should be a salesperson.
You don’t feel like an artist when you’re flogging your works to the public? Not a problem! You’re not the audience for the part of this guide about selling. Read the other parts and have fun at the convention.
But for those of you who’d like to increase your sales, or try to get enough income to cover your con expenses, go for it. It’s a big enough world that there’s room for everyone.
A Note on Legality
Many anime conventions allow the selling of fan art – art created using characters and/or setting from professional properties. If you’re looking for advice on whether it’s legal or not to sell it, you won’t find that here, because I don’t have an answer for you. If you’re looking for a place to argue about it, please go to any of the extensive number of threads on the DeviantArt forums, my Copyright FAQ on Livejournal or DeviantArt (note that it’s over 5 years out of date!), or create your own blog and rant there.
Many thanks to all the friends and artists who have helped me over the years and contributed thoughts on the business of selling art. This guide exists thanks to them. A few of the contributors I’ve stolen advice from are: Rachel Manija Brown, Jessica Douglas, Vom Marlowe, Rene Brandt-Barr (The Z), Brandi Owen (PZB), and my friends on LiveJournal, Dreamwidth, DeviantArt (and my other DA account for original work), and MangaRevolution (defunct now, alas). I also thank all the artists I’ve talked to, and sat next to, in artist alleys over the years, even if my memory is as leaky as a leaky thing with holes in and I don’t remember your names. Editing props go to Yoon Ha Lee, Jessica Douglas, and Yamiko Michi. Any bad grammar, weird phrasing, or wonky advice left is my own damn fault.