Convention Report: SpartanCon 2014

It’s been about a year and more since I worked a convention!  To be quite honest with you guys, I was feeling really burnt out by them.  They never seemed to be worth the physical effort and preparation put into them.  Sales were bad, morale was down, and they were absolutely no fun for me anymore.

I wrote a post a long time ago about my thoughts on whether conventions are worthwhile and I have been thinking a lot about how I could improve my convention experience.  
For one, (and this is huge) it helped to have a positive table partner along.  In the past, I’ve worked with a table buddy who had good intentions, but who was usually bored and focused only on the money-making aspect of the venture, which is an attitude that became quite toxic for me over time.  Unfortunately, you can’t expect to become a millionaire at a convention and doing so is the fastest way to burnout.
My new table partner with a more positive attitude aka. my significant other, Kevin, also gave me some great tips on selling learned from his years in retail.  Nobody likes to feel like they’re being sold to.  If you can casually chat people up, learn their interests, and find something that would help improve their lives, selling is easy.  Even if they don’t have interest aligned with yours, then you still have had a good conversation!
Positivity is key!

Another area of improvement for me this con was my display.  I used to throw everything but the kitchen sink onto my table, from masks to prints, in an effort to appeal to anybody.  My display greatly lacked brand consistency, which I suspect left most folks unable to remember my specialty.  Was it masks? Art Nouveau?  Original fantasy characters?  Who could say?  There wasn’t a consistent theme across my products.
Simplifying things helped greatly, especially when describing to customers what exactly it is I do.  It was much easier to say “I work in fantasy art and book covers” than “I work in fantasy, book covers, masks, Art Nouveau, and oh yeah I do this other thing too!”.
More is less!  My new simplified display.
As for SpartanCon, it was a great test run for me so that I could try new tactics and a new display with renewed enthusiasm!  It felt wonderful to be less concerned about money and more focused on just having a good conversation with fellow kindred spirits in geekery.  SpartanCon fills a gap within our driving distance for cons that aren’t anime-focused, as it features not just anime, but horror, sci-fi, and fantasy, which has a wider cross-section with the kind of art I do.
Imagine our surprise when we arrived at the venue to find that SpartanCon didn’t take place at just any public library, but a beautiful three level building with a gallery and a fantastic setting of skylights and books!  The staff were all well organized and setup went very smoothly.  Foot traffic was decent the entire event and we were surprised to sell enough at this one-day, first year event to make back gas, lunch, and more.  Something that rarely happens at first year events!  

Other Lessons Learned:

– I tried out a tip jar, which I thought was a silly idea.  Imagine my surprise when I ended up with a $1.10 tip!  It’s not a lot, but something unexpected happened.  As a con-goer mentioned to me, they tipped me because they didn’t have a lot of money, but still wanted to support me somehow, thus they tipped what they could afford just to support me in making art.  That gesture of kindness itself was uplifting moreso than the actual tip!
– I also tried out a new tactic for enticing con-goers to sign-up for my mailing list by hosting a giveaway for one of my books.  I came away with half a page of e-mails, so I’d say this was a success!

Final Thoughts

SpartanCon was a promising event that I hope to see more of!  I learned valuable lessons about how to present myself as a professional and met some wonderful enthusiastic authors and fans.  I hope the event will be returning next year.  The atmosphere is friendly and if the first year traffic is any indication, it’s only going to get better from here on out!

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