Hello everyone! Welcome to Part 2 of my Artist Alley 101 guide!
This is meant to be a good start for those who have never been a part of an artist alley before, as well as a nice refresher to those of you who are veterans of alleys everywhere! I will try to be as detailed as possible while making the information easy to reference and read through!
Hope you enjoy, and feedback is definitely appreciated! Let me know your thoughts, reactions, some of your own alley stories, as well as if you have any suggestions to add to this tutorial! I definitely haven't thought of everything, so if you have new ideas to share, I'd love to hear them!
And if you'd like a refresher on part 1, feel free to go here theartslave.deviantart.com/jou…
-- ARTIST ALLEY 101
Planning What to Sell/Pricing
PLANNING WHAT TO SELL…
I decided to talk about this here because it would have been a bit too much to include it in the "things to think about" section! Naturally you would have already planned what to sell in advance, so I will go more into detail about it here. Fan Art vs. Original Art
Ah, the age-old debate. Should I do mostly fan art? Should I just sell my original work? What about a mix of both? Everyone goes through this when figuring out where they stand on the art-making spectrum. In my experience, there is that trend toward con goers making a beeline for someone's table because they've spotted a character they know and love. It's about that instant gratification from seeing something they are already familiar with, making it more likely that they will buy it right off the bat. You've probably experienced it too, whre you're walking around at the artist alley and then you see, "Oh my gosh! It's Loki! And he's on a print! And he's shirtless! I am buying it now!"
So when thinking of what to make, keep in mind how you react to other people's work! There is also something to be said for people who like original work and want to support local artists and their characters! So you're starting out, I'd say go half-fan art and half-original. You may be surprised by how well you do whichever way you choose to go. If your goal is to make new work or characters from a web comic you're promoting, people may be more likely to buy something smaller like a button from you versus a large expensive print of something they're not that familiar with yet. If the investment is small and reasonable, people will definitely gravitate toward impulse purchases of any kind. I would go this route when first starting out because it is cheaper to make smaller items in larger quantities than larger, more expensive ones that may not sell as well.
If you're inclining toward making print-based work like prints and stickers, I would say the more the merrier! Include fan characters of a diverse array of anime, manga, popular culture, street fashion, movies, and just about anything else you can think of! Also go this route if you're promoting a web comic because people will be more encouraged to buy a promotional item like a button that they can then wear around the convention!
If you are mostly looking toward making original art, jewelry, crafts, plushies and accessories, you may want to include a mix of original designs with designs that are loosely based on characters with recognizable color schemes or signature details! And don't forget that original art doesn't have to be limited to just your original characters. It can be cute animals, chibis dressed in Lolita, adorable food items, mustaches and much more! What sort of items should I make to sell at an anime convention?
When thinking about what to sell, you don't have to reinvent the wheel unless you absolutely want to! And have the time to do so. All you need to do is a simple online search for artist alleys and anime conventions to see what sort of items people make and sell the most.
But before anything else, the biggest question you should ask yourself is "How much time do I have to make said items, and what are my resources to make them?" This ensures that you don't get too ambitious and end up not being able to make everything you wanted to the best of your ability! If you're a beginner, I would choose a few things to start with and build from there. Some of the most common items you will see people make are buttons, stickers, keychains, prints of varying sizes, jewelry and plushies. So if you were starting out, I would choose one or two types of merchandise from the smaller end (ex. buttons and stickers), and one from a bigger scale category (ex. plushies and jewelry). The bigger scale category includes not only items that are larger in size, but might also be items you take more time to make. This means you may end up with only a few of them at first, but they will look really nice and attract people to your table.
I would like take some time now to break down these suggested items into more detail. The way I will do this is by listing each one and discussing its scale, how much time you should give yourself to make the item, the costs related to producing the item, how many you should generally make, and other special traits about the item. Here we go!Buttons Scale
This is a very small-scale item. Traits
Buttons are a very common item to sell because the investment is worth it in the long run. You can create as many designs as you want and the process of making them is almost instantaneous. They are also great promotional tools for your art, because buyers can pin them to bags and clothes! Time
You should take some time to make the designs you want, preferably on computer programs such as Photoshop for an even finish. You can print several designs on a few sheets of paper and be good to go in an hour or two! Cost
To make buttons, you need a button maker! These can be found in most craft stores and prices may be on the higher end depending on the model you want, averaging $100—$200. There are also smaller versions of button-making machines that can be found online. A standard button maker machine will make buttons about 1 inch in size, but some can make buttons as large as 6 inches. You will also need to purchase the backing for the button, but most button makers come with a starter pack. If you decide to keep making more, however, you will have to buy those separately. Quantity
Once you purchase the button maker machine, you can make thousands of buttons! (Not all at once, of course!) This is a tool that you can keep going back to again and again to make as many buttons as you want! For a first-timer I would begin by making about 5 or 6 buttons of each character. Pretty soon you'll have over 100 buttons to work with! And you can keep building up your range of characters, making for an easy and fun way to make a good profit. And if your goal is promotion, what better way to do it than to make sure everyone is wearing your button!StickersScale
This is a small-scale item. Traits
Stickers are also common to see for sale because they are very practical. The buyer can stick them to almost anything, making it a versatile and fun purchase. Time
You can make these through traditional media or digitally. You may want to allow some time for these to be made if you are ordering them from an online service. Cost
The cost can actually range quite a bit. Like I mentioned earlier, if you are getting an online service to print these for you, you may have to pay more, and you might take risks with the quality of the result. However, you can also do them yourself, as there are several brands of sticker paper you can buy at supply stores like Staples. The cost of each pack can average about $15 for about 30 sheets. Quantity
You can get lots of stickers per sheet of paper, depending on the size you want. So you can definitely go for the 5 or 6 of each character ratio I mentioned with buttons when you're starting to make them. You can also draw directly on the sticker paper if you want to for a "doodle sticker" effect.KeychainsScale
This is a somewhat small-scale item. Traits
Keychains are also common items for their versatility. They can be a little trickier to make but are also cost-effective, and you can make a large array of characters for buyers to choose from. Time
There is no way around it. If you want a key chain to be durable, you have to laminate it. So allow some time between making your designs and getting them to a print service that can laminate them for you. For this, you will have to pre-cut all the designs so that they will be able to arrange several per sheet. Cost
This can also vary. To make a key chain, you can use any good printing paper (cardstock might be a good option for extra durability), a laminating service, a hole-puncher, and the actual keychains. Laminating costs can be determined by how many sheets they will need to laminate all your designs, and the last time I did this at Office Max it turned out to be about $20 or so for about 8 sheets. For the keychains, you may want to use an actual key ring for durability, although you get few of them per pack. I prefer to use the 4 inch nickel plated chains, because I can get lots of them and the cost is cheaper in the long run. I order mine from an army surplus store on Ebay, who sells packs of 100 chains for about $10. As for the hole-puncher, you can get one at any craft store. Quantity
Because these take a little bit more time to produce, I would start by making maybe 3 or 4 of each character. You can build on that in the future, and even with that amount per character you can still end up with a lot to sell!Prints Scale
This can vary from a small to a large-scale item. Traits
Prints are common mostly because of the ability to produce varying scales, ranging from postcard size to a full-on poster. I find that this item takes a lot of time if you want to do it right, and if you want to do this one on a large scale you will have to give yourself a lot of time to build a portfolio for this. These items also sell mainly for their quality. If someone is going to put this on their wall, it has to be really well done or have a good charm to them. Time
Like I said earlier, these do take time to make. If you want to make many different prints, I would suggest going for just a full-body character with little to no background. You will thank yourself later. Cost
These aren't very costly to make, as all you really need is a printing service. Most places charge about $1 per color print, and that is if you are aiming for an 11 in x 17 in paper. For this (and everything else), I would stay away from Kinko's. Their colors usually don't turn out very good, and you pay a lot for not very much in return. (Trust me, the first time I sold at an artist alley I spent $400 to run my prints at Kinko's!!! You don't want to do this.) I would trust places like Office Max and Staples, because they are surprisingly inexpensive and have good service. Quantity
I would start out with only a few, but really well done prints. I find that it doesn't really matter if it's fan art or original work, but the overall quality that sells prints. It will take a lot of time to build a solid portfolio on just prints alone, so I would suggest going with other items from this list for the bulk of your stock for now. And if you're promoting a comic, unless it's already well known by the time you sell them at conventions, I'd stick to smaller scale prints.Jewelry Scale
This may look small in size, but I define it as a larger scale item because it takes a lot of time to make. Traits
Jewelry is popular because the buyer can choose to instantly wear your item around, and pair it with many things in their wardrobe. This is an especially great item to experiment with, as you can create original pieces as well as pieces inspired by popular characters. Time
It will take some time to make jewelry, because it is like prints, where you want to do a good job on them and not slap them together at the last minute. Focus on quality over quantity! I am not as familiar with jewelry making as I am with the other items on this list, but you can probably imagine it takes prep work and planning before you even start to make a necklace. Cost
This varies depending on the materials you want to use. You can go traditional and buy pendants and chains. You could also decide that you're really good at making Kandi bracelets, so you will need a lot of elastic and colorful beads. And if you like those clay-based rings and necklaces, you will have to pay for clay and clay-sculpting tools. You can also do them 2-dimensionally and get a printing service to create a resin of your pieces. As far as prices and where you can find a lot of these tools, I would shop around way before you decide to try your hand at selling them. Quantity
If you're really savvy with jewelry, then by all means, make as much of it and with as much variety as you like! If you are not, however, I would start small. Make a few earrings, necklaces and rings and see how it does. You don't want to make a huge investment in jewelry-making tools and supplies if it turns out you weren't as into it as you thought.Plushies Scale
This is definitely a large-scale item. Traits
These are tricky to sell because the buyer's investment will more than likely be larger than if they were to purchase a bunch of smaller items. Buyers are looking for durability and good craft in a plushie, but if you work really hard on them you may gain a loyal following who will want to commission you for them later! Time
Plushies definitely take a lot of time to make. You may end up making only one a week, or every other week, if you want to do a really good job. While they will slow your productivity down, they will attract people to your table even if you have only a few really nice ones. Cost
If you want to make a lot of plushies, it will cost you. The price of fabric can be outrageous these days, but with a few basic colors, stuffing and a lot of thread, you can make your way around. You will definitely need to buy a sewing machine, or get acquainted with one you might already own. The price of the sewing machine my family just bought was about $150. Get a good quality machine with a good warranty and it will give you great mileage, making it a worthwhile investment. Quantity
If you're new to this, start small. If you aren't, then I would gradually increase your stock, and I wouldn't make more than 2 or 3 of one character. I have found that although fan art plushies are cute, people are more likely to buy those in the Dealer's Room where the "official" merchandise is located. At the artist's alley, it's the idea that counts, so get creative! Mustaches, narwhals, bats, squids, sushi, tofu, if you can think it, you can make it into a plushie!
Other common items similar to these listed above are magnets, paper children, T-shirts, small comics, badges, hair accessories, one-of-a-kind items such as sketches, on-the-spot commissions and original art. The key to making any of these is to plan, plan, plan! So make your decisions based on the considerations above and you'll be on your way! And if you want me to go more in depth about any of these other items, or you have more to suggest for me, feel free to let me know!
What is safe to assume, however, is that your merchandise should appeal to as many people as you can. Having a specific audience in mind is good when you're a beginner, but as you continue to sell at more conventions, you should definitely make sure you're hitting a lot more target audiences. Once you get a good flow you'll start to notice that certain types of people enjoy your work and buy it more frequently than others. Your job is to find out who those people are, and figure out a way to entice other types of people to come to your table. PRICING
This is probably one of the most obscure territories up for discussion, because there are so many considerations when pricing an item. You don't want to price your work too low, given that you've spent at least some amount of money to generate your merchandise! You want to make sure you're not just breaking even. You also may not want to price your items too much on the high end. Even though you calculate that your sales would cover your expenses with plenty to spare, you're probably not going to be good competition for the rest of the alley. People may like your work, but they won't buy it if it's not within their budget. Either extreme will leave you with poor sales!
So how to find the happy medium, where both you and the customer will be happy? Here are a few key points to consider. Convention Attendance
Is it a one-day convention? Is it a two-or-more-day convention? This may be a good judgment of attendance. If the convention is only a one-day festival, you may get a few hundred people, and that means you should make less merchandise. The reason is because not a lot of people may know about the convention long enough to bring extra money with them, or they may have a lot less saved up to spend there. So don't spend too much money on too much merchandise that you won't be able to sell later. If the convention is a two or three day affair, then definitely make the investment because there will be a lot more people attending, with numbers sometimes going up into the thousands! And chances are more likely they will have saved up a lot more money to spend here. Your Audience
Consider the audience of the convention you want to sell at. Is it mostly teenagers? Adults? Or have you found there's a wider range, from really young kids to older folk? This will affect the average budget that your customers will have put away to spend at the convention. Younger people tend to have less money with them, or end up having to ask their parents to buy stuff for them. Teens often bring money to spend on food and stuff at the dealer's room, leaving little in the way of a budget for art. Young adults and older will usually leave a little bit of spending money for the artist alley, and some will even save up exclusively to buy merchandise at the alley. Keeping this in mind, because you want to make sure you have something for everyone at any budget! Your Investment
Remember the formula I made to figure out if a convention will be well worth your time? Well, we can also use that formula to determine how much you should price your work.
Here is the formula: Net profit = Your gross profit — fees to get to the convention + fees to attend the convention + cost of materials to make your work
Based on whatever the costs are, let's assume you have an idea of how much merchandise you want to make. As an example, I will use my own personal template. So, at an average convention, I will make up to 300 magnets and 100 key chains. I know that sounds like a lot, but it's all about that building up factor! I didn't get there overnight. I'm pretty sure the first time I decided to make magnets I made less than 20 different characters. Starting small on the first try is key!
I generally price both my magnets and key chains similarly, at $4 each. I usually don't completely sell out, but let's pretend that I did. $4 multiplied by 300 sounds like pretty great profit, doesn't it? Not so much if I was attending an out-of-state convention, or a three-day convention that was far away from home and had to spend a few nights at a hotel! Usually we don't think about it, but you invest a lot in a convention! Now, if the convention I was selling at was close enough to home that I could drive there and back, and not spend money at a hotel, then the profit margin sounds a whole lot better.
Please refer to the breakdown I did earlier of common items to sell for your own version of this formula! Comparing Prices
How much are other people charging for the same type of work? Look around the artist alley or online, and you'll see lots of people have different opinions on what something should be priced as. I'll break it down by item again, as I did with the common items. Buttons
(can be as low as $1 to $2. $3 is a little on the high end unless the size of the button is larger.) Stickers
(can be as low as $1 to $3. $4 is also a bit high unless it's a big sticker.) Keychains
(should be about $2 to $4, as you want to cover the cost of getting the materials. I'd also price the same for magnets.) Prints
(small scale can be $5 on the semi-low end, and large prints should probably not exceed $20. You may think it's worth more based on the work you put into it, but believe me when I say that for someone to put $20 on a 2-dimensional item is difficult unless they absolutely love it.) Jewelry
(rings and earrings can be about $4 to $5, bracelets and necklaces can go higher, up to $20 should be the limit. If you're making elaborate accessories like headbands and hats, use the amount of time you spend per item as an estimate, as well as how much official stores or the Dealer's Room are selling them for.)Plushies
(small scale should start at $5, and depending on the detail and number of hours spent per plushie, the price could go up to $30 or $40. Why higher than $20? Because it's a 3-dimensional, tangible object that people get emotionally attached to. This makes them want to shell out a little extra without question.) The Golden Rule
Whether you have a lot of old merchandise you want to get rid of or not sell anymore, a few defective items or really small work, people will buy it for a dollar.
Believe me on this one. I had some really old merchandise from my early years selling at the alley that wouldn't sell anymore, as well as a few magnet characters that were not as popular as they used to be, so I decided to mark them down in a special bin for $1. Everything
sold. This is a sure way to get customers to buy at least one thing from your table, because everybody has a dollar, or four quarters, or a few dimes left over that they can get with their friends to add up to a dollar. The most common phrase you'll hear from someone if they see that one piece for that price is, "Now I have
to buy it!" A final word on pricing
Notice that I ended all of my price estimations with rounded numbers. Especially when you're starting out, you don't want to price an item for $1.35 or some weird number like that. Nice rounded numbers are for your benefit, so you don't end up with a headache when you're calculating your final tally for the day, and also for your customer's convenience so they don't have to scrounge up some weird amount of change. You can price your items with either an odd or even number, but usually customers will respond better to even numbers. Just make sure you're not delving too much into the cents category.
Some people have asked me about taxes. Some larger conventions may require you to have a temporary seller ID to participate in their artist alley due to tax purposes. If you are a professional artist and you make a living selling your work professionally, you may also have to register for taxes. But if this is a hobby, or you do it on the side along with having other forms of employment, then you don't have to worry about it! Do double-check the artist alley policies for information on taxes just in case.
Hope this has continued to be helpful! CLICK HERE FOR PART 3 theartslave.deviantart.com/jou…