As I start writing this post. Its been 4 days since NovaCon and coming off a string of mediocre to bad cons and shows. Now let me start off by saying that I bear no ill will towards the shows Ive had a poor performance at. To label conventions as some sort of monolithic boogeyman responsible for all my ill fortune is both childish and counter-productive. I acknowledge that the scene has changed drastically since I started setting up as a creator and vendor back in October of 2002. Costs have gone up, the hardcore 20-30 something male fan that was there for commerce has been replaced by the casual fan who is there with family or looking at the convention much like a theme park. Is attendance up and shows more plentiful...SURE! Has that always equated to better sales for me. In more cases than not...Not really?
Ive taken a lot of time to analyze and scrutinize why my con and show performances have been lackluster this past year or so. Its not just the money. Though that is a major component of the equation. Its the being ignored by the general public there, or being told I am talented, groundbreaking, innovative, funny, witty, and inspiring. But that not translating to people becoming fans and patrons. The "I DID NOT SEE YOU AT THE CON/COULD NOT FIND YOUR TABLE" is becoming an all too familiar cliche. This happened to me on about a half dozen or more occasions at NovaCon last weekend. This seems like a ridiculous proposition considering that event was not very large in terms of size.
So I am stuck with figuring out: WHY? Why does this happen? Why am I repeating the same scenario with the textbook definition of insanity being played out? Is the product no good? Do I just make crappy art and comics and am deluding myself. I tend to think no, and whether this is flagrant denial or affirmation of talent remains to be seen. This is also coupled with the fact that my sales from projects and home commissions has skyrocketed in this year to where it will for the first time, count for over 50% of my income. So if I am assuming that its not lack of good product. Then what is the problem? Why do I go unnoticed at shows and cons? Well Ive had some time and effort to reflect on it and Ive come to several conclusions and resolutions. Here is how I plan to deal with my percieved problem in the next 6 months.
-NO MORE SKETCHCARD BOOK: I will over the next 2 months be phasing out the sketchcards in my sketchbook. Honestly replacing them is very time consuming for me. It is to the point where it interferes with projects, commission work and me even having a semblance of a private life. I like doing them and I have no intention of discontinuing them as a commission item. I will however focus more on BRANDING myself and as such have my sketchcards with logo and contact info. In short I wont be offering finished cards at shows. But you are totally free to commission me for them at shows or for delivery. Also I will be selling off what I have left and not replacing them. You will also start to see MYSTERY SKETCHCARD sets. They will be in sealed envelopes and you will be able to pick them up for $15. You will get 3 to 5 cards which you will not know what they are until you open them.
-SIGNAGE: I've always set up my booth with a SECOND HAND TRENDY RECORD SHOP or PUNK ROCK CLUB like feel. I did this to reflect my personality and the personality of my work. It showed off my humor and wit I felt and drew the people I wanted in on such humor and wit. The problem is, I feel, that people see those hand written signs and shabby chic attire and think that there is a lack of quality in the product or don't get the sarcasm. I want to start looking a bit more professional. NOW DON'T GET ME WRONG! I AIN'T SELLING OUT! But I want to be noticed and taken seriously by people with cash and the predisposition to spend it. I DO NOT WANT TO BE INVISIBLE! So while Chicken is definately still part of the picture. My personal aesthetics are still going to be there! But I really want a table cloth and backdrop as well that both draws attention my way but lets people know what I am all about. That will hopefully be remedied in the last couple of months.
-BOOKS: I usually have trouble with keeping these items on the shelf. THOSE items are what I most want to sell. They are creator owned and why I am in this business and craft in the first place. I am doing two things to try and keep them there on a regular basis. 1) I will have to raise the price up slightly. The big problem is that my profit margins are too small for what I spend. I tend to thing the price raising is VERY reasonable, and I need to make enough to keep books on the shelves on a consistent basis. Prints will not be offered with books. But an exclusive mini-print will be for at con purchases. 2) The books will be part of the main drive to brand both myself and creative endeavors. Ive had other stuff on my table. Sometimes at the expense of my books and main creative drive. That is going to change.
-SKETCHCOVERS: Now I make pretty good money off sketchcovers! But I still feel like I am promoting Marvel, DC and other companies at my own expense by drawing on their sketchcovers instead of my own. I recently just published my 15th Anniversary Sketchbook, which has a perfectly good sketchcover for commissions. As a good friend pointed out to me: I SHOULD BE SELLING THOSE. PEOPLE ARE NOT BUYING THE COMIC. THEY ARE BUYING THE ART. My Sandshark Sketchbook are literally artistic billboards for me. I should be promoting myself with them instead of popping for Marvel, DC and Image stuff. So effective immediately I will be phasing out my sketchcover collection. I will be more than happy to draw on any sketchcover provided to me by clients. So if you bring in your Deadpool or Batman sketchcover. I will be more than happy to do you up a commission as I always have. I just will not be keeping those in stock. I will be focused, as I said earlier to branding and promoting myself. I will draw anything you want on a Sandshark Sketchbook Sketchcover just as on a Marvel or DC one. Big difference: You will have to provide the Marvel and DC sketchcover. While I will provide my own. Also to my regular clients who have sketchcover commissions in the que. You will NOT be affected. I will meet my obligations with said covers. No problems on that front!
-PRINTS: Last year I started phasing out fan art prints. Now let me state clearly that I HAVE NO OBJECTION AGAINST PEOPLE WHO DO FAN ART PRINTS. My conclusion to getting rid of them was both artistic and personal. I felt like I was competing with a bunch of other dogs in who could chase their tail the best. To elaborate. I feel like I was competing with people to put out the Harley Quinn, Deadpool, or Baby Groot print people wanted the most. It was playing in a stagnant pond when there was a giant lake of creativity and personal reward if I was just willing to walk an extra couple of minutes. So I dumped my fan art prints and put out ones that were creator owned, I had permission to use, or were public domain. My goal now is to continue that trend and work towards at least 48 prints in the next 6 months. Also to put those prints in a more front and center display for people to see and take notice of.
-BRANDING ME: What it all breaks down to is I want to promote and market me. I want to put out to the public, what makes me unique and what I feel worth picking up from at a show. Now I know there are people out there that say that "I shouldn't worry about making money at a show or convention. That it should be about promoting myself and having a good time." I have heard this line more than once and honestly I find it a crap philosophy. Booth space costs MONEY. Hotels cost MONEY. Food costs MONEY. Gas costs MONEY. Now while I agree that part of the endeavor to vend at an event is to get fans and patrons for the long term and promote your project. But I also need to justify my costs short term and actually get people to walk up to the table, So the end goal right now is to make me more noticeable and appealing at shows. I still want to maintain my independent, gritty, do it yourself, shabby chic visage that I feel both comfortable with and got me this far. But I also want people to take notice of that image and think its awesome enough to come over to my table and see what I am all about.
Well that's it folks! Onward and upwards and lets see where this little experiment goes!
21st Century Sandshark Studios