C2E2 is in less than a week and I couldn’t be more excited!  I’ve spent a lot of time the last two years hitting as many conventions as I can (both big and small) in my quest to promote “Oh Goodie!“.  Without a doubt though, C2E2 is easily my favorite, and I’ve been trying to promote myself there even before I was allowed to properly have a table.

Last year, when I first shared a table with Nathan Lueth and Nadja Bear of “Impure Blood”, I was still coming off my grim experience at the Chicago Comic Con in 2010 when I didn’t sell too well and Illinois’ disgraced former governor Rod Blagojevich was the guest of honor.  If the Chicago Comic Con made me want to kill myself, C2E2 made me want to live again.  I had a fantastic time and miraculously broke even for my table.  Since I’m still firmly in the “Nobody” category for comic artists, that’s a feat in itself.

Recently though, I was contacted by a fellow MCAD alumnus who said he had gotten a table as well, and he asked me for any advice I might have on the show.  I’ve had my ups and downs the last two years doing shows, and though I don’t consider myself an expert, there are a few pitfalls I’ve learned to avoid (or at least try to).  So I thought I’d put together some nice general advice for future artists if you get the chance to have a table at a show like this.

1.  Go lean.  You’re going to be sitting at your table most of the day for three days in a row.  If you eat really fatty food, you’re going to start feeling really gross really fast.  Last C2E2 I survived most of the weekend on bottled water and Twizzlers.  Remember kids, Trail Mix is your friend.

2.  Be careful navigating the floor.  Especially on the big days (Saturday and Sunday) it can get really crowded when the attendance reaches five figures.  Saturday in particular I was terrified to carry my coffee on the floor least I bump into someone and spill it on some poor kid in a Spiderman costume.

3.  Always have someone watching your table.  Sharing a table with a friend or fellow artist?  Bringing your significant other?  If you are, always make sure at least one of you is watching the table so sticky-fingered attendees don’t walk off with your product.  Asking the guy at the table next to yours to “keep an eye on it” can only go so far.  And there’s so much to do and see at shows like this, you’re entitled to walk around and check it out a bit.  Just make sure everyone gets their turn.

4.  Pinch your pennies best you can.  You’re there to try to make a profit selling your art, so watch your overhead.  Set up your booth early so you can spend the rest of the weekend carpooling with other artists to save on parking.  In Chicago, where parking at McCormick Place can be upwards of $30, this is especially important.

5.  Network!  Network!  Network!  I cannot stress this enough.  You’re not just appearing at a convention to sell your wares and interact with fans; you’re there to mingle with your peers.  Take a little time every morning before the doors open to check out the other tables.  Shake hands, talk shop, make a connection for Pete’s sake.

6.  Be genuine.  When I first starting showing off at conventions, I was stuck too much in dry professional mode (quick to whip out my resume or portfolio, talk about where I saw myself in five years, etc).  I only started getting ahead when I dropped the facade and made a genuine connection with fans and artists.  Let them know who you are and where you’re coming from.  Relating on a human level always pays off better in the long run than crap on your resume.

7.  Always have confidence in your art.  If a big artist or writer asks what you’ve done but you sheepishly say “Oh, it’s not very good…”, they’ll take you at your word and believe you, thinking your art isn’t worth your time.  Even if you’re extremely self-critical, just hold your tongue and be grateful for any and all compliments that come your way.

8.  Don’t be disappointed if your stuff doesn’t sell right away.  For new artists especially, I can understand the crushing disappointment of putting a lot of effort and money into a book or a print and then it doesn’t move when you finally get to the show.  You can do stuff like create product you know will appeal to that particular crowd, but really its a crap shoot what will sell and what won’t.  Making a connection with fans and your fellow artists (like I mentioned earlier) will pay off in the long run though, trust me.

9.  Have a little something that’ll entice people to your table.  This year I’ll be trying $1 sketches.  Try that, or hell, even free sketches!  While they’re waiting for you to finish, it’ll give them time to peruse what else you have available.  Also try selling things covering a bunch of different price points ($1, $5, $10, $20, etc) so there’s a little something that will fit everyone’s budget.

10.  Have FUN!  Isn’t that why we go to cons?  Artists, special guests, and patrons alike?  Nerd out to your heart’s content, meet people, and go to the after parties!  Get pictures of the cute girls in costume!  The world is your extremely geeky oyster at shows like this.

See you in the city!