Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dragon*Con Part 2: So. Many. People.

Note: The purpose of these posts is to record notes for myself and share information that might be helpful to other artists.  If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask!

The art show is down in the basement, so you only really see the people who are intentionally coming into the art show.  One day everyone was complaining about how much it was raining, so I wanted to go upstairs and look.  I wasn't prepared for how many people were on the next level of the basement.  It was way too much for me and we were still in the basement!  I have no idea what the rest of the convention was like.  After that, I stayed in my dungeon.

The hours at the art show were also really long.  So we couldn't have gone to see anything anyway, really.  We had a lot of fun at the awards ceremony, but we missed part of the reception on Friday night since we desperately needed food.  We did find the best/cheapest food was in the mall food court.  We tried a couple of restaurants in the area but we weren't really impressed.  The restaurant in the Hyatt was okay, but $18 for a bowl of macaroni and cheese is pretty darn crazy where I come from.  I tried oysters at a local seafood restaurant (Ray's in the City).  They were the tiniest oysters I've ever had, and they were really overpriced.  I'll stick to Pacific oysters from here on out.

There was a restaurant selling gyros in the mall food court, and they were really, really good gyros.  The pasta salad and veggie stir-fry from the same place were also really good.  We also had some Chinese food in the food court that was really good.  Dinner at Ray's for 2 cost us about $60, but dinner for 2 at the Chinese or Greek restaurants was around $15.  You can guess what we ate a lot of during Dragon*Con!

The art show itself was pretty nuts.  My gallery and print shop stuff hardly sold at all, but my table was pretty steady.  With 2 people working at the table we almost couldn't keep up on Saturday and Sunday.  We had our best 1-day sales ever at Dragon*Con, and our best overall weekend as well.

We did have a lot of people who wanted to use credit cards, which was great, but at some point we had to institute a minimum order rule.  People wanted to charge $2 bookmarks and things like that, and we don't make any money after the credit card fees are taken out.  We'll probably put out a sign from now on that we won't charge any orders less than $10 to a credit card.

By far my most popular items were my cat paintings.  That's not really surprising, is it?  I'll definitely be working on more kitties this fall, since the demand was so incredibly high at Dragon*Con.  We made extra prints of the cats one night and still ran out of all sizes.

We took my printer along with us and I think next time we won't do that.  We did need it from time to time but it was back at our hotel room so if we ran out during the day it wasn't really helpful.  It was nice to restock at night though, so I am still torn about that.

We also took a lot of freebie postcards and gave them away.  I think we gave away around 1,500 postcards.  They were just printed on one side and had my website URL at the bottom.  I use them as if they were business cards and people really like it since they get some free artwork.  The postcards can be kind of expensive so I usually order them in massive quantities so I get a break on the price (2,500 or more).  I've also given away bookmarks in the past but I didn't feel like those were as well received and a lot of people commented that they have an e-reader and don't use bookmarks anymore.  So I suppose the bookmark is going the way of the dodo.

We had a lot of fun at the art show, though.  Our neighbors were all really wonderful guys and one in particular was so entertaining if we ever got bored all we had to do was wave at him and he would come tell us a crazy story.  So I hope that we'll be able to go back next year, but it's a juried show so we'll see!

Stay tuned for part 3 (oh yes, there's more!)...

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Dragon*Con Part 1: Over the Hills and Far Away

Note: The purpose of these posts is to record notes for myself and share information that might be helpful to other artists.  If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask!

Driving Vs. Flying

When I told people we were driving from Montana to Atlanta, a lot of people thought I was maybe a little crazy.  "Have you heard of airplanes?" I was asked more than once, but the fact is that living in Montana means airfare to anywhere other than Las Vegas is not cheap.  Most flights to Atlanta required multiple connections and a few flights on small commuter planes, and we were looking at nearly $1,500 just for airfare alone.

The next factor was the stuff we wanted to take.  With checked baggage rates going through the roof, and shipping costs what they are, sending all of the things we needed to get down there would have cost us several hundred more dollars.  We had someone local that we could ship things to, but if you have to ship to the hotel you are staying at, sometimes the hotels charge to receive those packages, so that is something else to consider.

We probably came out ahead on our travel and shipping costs by driving, even driving all the way from Montana.  We stayed in hotels on the way, and I found those through TripAdvisor.  We also used my husband's military ID to get the government rate, so that helped out a lot, too.

We could have done the drive in 2 days each way, stopping to sleep every night, but we were already sleep deprived when we hit the road and it took us 2.5 days to get there.  On the way back we went a lot slower and did some touristy things, so it took us about 2.5 days again.

The other benefit of driving instead of flying is the money we saved on a rental car and all of the things we got to see along the way.  If you stay in a hotel at the Atlanta airport, you can also get a 4-day MARTA pass and ride the subway back and forth.  This might be faster on days like Saturday, when the Dragon*Con parade clogs up most of downtown Atlanta.  I think we sat on the freeway for an hour that morning, just waiting to get on our exit ramp!

I also noticed my friends who were limited by what they could bring on a flight tended to have less to sell, which meant they had less profit.  If you want to make your money back at a show like this, you really need to have a lot of stuff with you for your customers to choose from.

Creative Displays

That said, I took too much stuff.  Next time I will probably just take things like prints, books, calendars, oracle decks and so on.  We took key chains, magnets, mugs, and bookmarks.  We didn't have room to display the key chains and while the rest of it did well (we're out of magnets now and nearly out of mugs), I think we would have sold more prints if we hadn't had those items.

Something else that really helped was having a vertical display.  We ordered 3 2'x7' gridwall panels and had them shipped to Atlanta ahead of us.  We got some picture frame hooks that attach to them and slide right through sawtooth hangers and provide a nice solid hanger for wire hangers.  We made a lot of sales of large, canvas, and expensive limited edition prints off of this display.  For Dragon*Con, you only have a 6' wide table, so this display fits behind it but doesn't leave a lot of room for sitting behind the table.  I was worried the 7' panels would be too tall, but I think they were actually the perfect height and maybe 8' would have been even better.  A lot of people used panels behind their tables and some of those displays were well over 8' tall.

We did get a lot of compliments on the set-up, and by the end of the weekend we had sold out of some things and the table was starting to empty out a little bit.  Some of the displays that worked the best were wrought iron easels I got at a craft store years ago on clearance.  I've also accumulated a lot of baskets from Ross and the dollar store, which I used for small prints, a little trunk that is just wide enough to stand my 16"x20" prints in and lean back against the lid, and a desk organizer with little drawers to store extra things in and shelves just the right size for extra books and tarot decks.

Another little trick is to use bulldog clips to hang prints from the front of your table.  Our tablecloth was a little slippery and occasionally a bulldog clip would just give up and drop the print on the floor, but it was a very short fall and everything was fine.  We also sold almost all of the prints on the front of the table.  A lot of people use that space for signage but I think 16x20 and 12x18 prints make much better signage, plus you can sell them!

The one thing I did forget was price tags, and then I accidentally bought clear ones at the office supply store, so most people couldn't see them anyway.  Oops.

I'll work on posting part 2 tomorrow!  I still have loads of unpacking to do and orders to ship!  :)