Are you looking for things to shiny up your convention table? Of course, you are!
As an author, I had to ask myself, “What can I do to help sell my books in the mysterious land of Artist Alley? Surely, books alone won’t be enough to draw in the eyeballs.”
I needed some eye candy!
While I am a lucky duck and can draw up my own visual amazingness for my display, you may not have that very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you, but if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you and I will kill you.
… um. Sorry?
Okay! Here we go! These are some things that you can do to help your table stand out from the crowd.
These shiny little gems are nerd currency. If you have characters, catchphrases, logos or symbols associated with your story, buttons are a cheap and easy way to attract customers. And while you can sell them and make some quick cash, their cost is low enough that you may be able to just give them away to promote your brand.
I used to offer custom buttons for people, but prices online are so cheap I really can’t compete. Here are some companies that will make buttons for you.
Since I illustrate my books, having lots of artwork was a no-brainer for me. But this is to help you non-doodlers, right?
A great thing about working in comic conventions is that you have immediate contact with tons of artists, all with their work on display so you can find the ones you like. Many of them aren’t just their to sell their art, but are there to take on commissions. Some will have signs displayed to let you know they’re available for freelance work. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to ask. Even if a certain artist doesn’t do commissions, you’ll probably make his or her day if you like their work enough to ask about it.
Warning: Here’s a shameless plug. If you’re looking for custom character illustration or illustrated book cover designs, check out Ratatat Graphics, where I offer these services. The artwork I do there is made with authors in mind so whatever I produce can be used in promotions across all sorts of platforms. Like maybe a big poster of your protagonist doing something rad that you can display next to your books at a show. Just sayin’.
And I don’t do all my own art. Click here to check out some of the pieces I’ve commissioned.
Mr. Fear by Jim Calafiore
Constance Adora by J. Scott Campbell
Since I just mention Ratatat Graphics, I may as well tell you how I screwed up for a real long time. When I first started doing the books and four years into it, I was putting them out under Ratatat, my graphic design company. So, I promoted Ratatat at shows, did cons under that name. That was a mistake. If the books have a big fat “Donovan Scherer” on the front cover and those are the things I want to focus on, “Donovan Scherer” is the brand I should be promoting.
And now, the banner shows it.
Your banner isn’t just important to get your name out there. It helps a lot to build recognition. I’ve had lots of people over the years come up to my table because they spotted that familiar site (not sure what they’ll think now that the old Ratatat banner is retired).
For creating your banner, there are a lot of “design your own banner” online things, generally available by companies that also do the printing. And if you’re getting some commissioned artwork done, be sure to talk to your artist about design your banner. Just remember, your banner should reflect your brand. The banner I have now is the exact same artwork on the homepage of this artwork. Build that recognition.
Some places to get custom banners that I’ve used and recommend:
http://www.vistaprint.com – Good prices and lots of options for all sorts of stuff.
http://www.bannerbuzz.com – GREAT prices and size options. Printing quality is right up there but the material is not as high quality as Vistaprint’s heavy duty vinyl. Something to keep in mind if you’re doing shows outdoors.
First off, I don’t think this is necessary in any way. It can help bring in a few more people but if you don’t already have some video and something to play it on, I can’t fully recommend adding this to your table.
I have ZomBeans, a game I made for iOS and Android, and needed some way to show it off. That’s why video plays a part on my stage. It does catch some eyeballs and since it’s animated, most of those eyeballs belong to kids. I tell the parents about the game, which is part of the Fear & Sunshine series, so it does serve to transition toward the books. But man, what if i want to fart around on my iPad during the slow parts of the show? Honestly, I think most of the people who come to check out the game would be equally interested by the artwork and other stuff. Plus, most of the kids that get super entranced by the moving pictures are too young for the books anyway.
That all said, if you do want video, here are some tips.
Don’t be reliant on audio. The convention floor gets loud and nobody is going to hear what your video is trying to say. And if you crank up the volume, you’re just going to annoy your neighbors. You’ll probably annoy yourself, too. Do you really want to listen to the same thing over and over for nine hours?
While you shouldn’t be reliant on the audio, it should have at least some music. Though quiet, if somebody is really checking it out, a little bit of music can help enhance the experience for them.
Keep it short. Let your video summarize what it’s there to say as quickly as possible. You want to keep your customer moving – either to you to check out more of your work, or away from the table if they aren’t interested. No reason to have people mulling about watching movies and blocking your table from potential customers.
Don’t go for the Oscars. The point of video at your table is to bring people over. As long as it’s eye-catching, even for a moment, that should do the trick. A lot of the generic book trailers provided on fiverr.com should be enough to work.
If you’re playing the video on an iPad, it’s probably gonna die. I can usually squeeze 7-8 hours of looping video out of mine (I use the app vLoop for mine). There are battery booster packs you can bring along but be sure to check that your model is compatible. Many of the phone boosters will not work on an iPad.
How would your characters look if you really brought them to life?
One of the first things I did when starting the show scene was to create a costume for Mr. Fear, the villain of my story. This was a bit of an undertaking but it was awesome to have him walking around the convention floor, getting pictures with fans and celebrities. Nowadays, I can’t talk anyone into wearing the costume (there’s a smell), but it was definitely a worthwhile investment of time.
And while it may seem a little silly to dress as a character who no one knows, especially if that character doesn’t have any real outstanding visual features, even the theme could play into your costume. If you’re promoting a steampunk series, bring out the gears and buckles. If you write horror, goth it up! High fantasy? Get some pointy ear things.
Click here if you want to check out the process of building the Mr. Fear costume. It’s pretty neat.
The Table Itself
Check out my article “Setting the Stage” for this one.
That’s it for now. If you have more ideas on how to shiny up your Artist Alley display, let me know in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!