Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Artist or Author's Alley Booth Tips

Here's some advice on running a booth from someone who has done so once and therefore can now be considered an expert. These are general tips that are a supplement to some of the more common things you'll see in other advice for artist alleys.

My table with my lovely assistant, Sir William
  • Have fun! Working a table has been some of the most fun I've ever had a con. Talk to people, for reasons other than trying to get them to buy your stuff. Take someone with you so that you can take breaks and walk around, and go to panels after you close your table down.
  • Set up your table before you go. Ask how big the tables are going to be and make sure everything fits.  I had to leave some books behind, because they would have taken up too much space on the table.
  • Get a Pay Pal credit card reader. If you're a merchant, it's likely you already use Pay Pal for commissions or your Etsy store. Being able to take credit cards saved me 4 sales I wouldn't have made otherwise.
  • Rolling bags are your friends. Stuff's heavy, and you have to haul it from your car.

  • Use catchy wording. The two items that drew most of the attention at our tables were the Say No to Sparkles poster, and the Awesome like a Possum book. The simple wording and the graphic images pulled people over to our tables.

  • Clear labeling. We had almost no families stopping to look at the kids books the first day. My biggest display was of my prints, and I think they assumed the rest of my table was also prints. That night I went home and made a Kid's books sign to hang above my booth (we were lucky to have metal walls behind us to hang stuff on). The next day I could see it catching people's eyes, and they'd come over. (Yes it's really bad, I made it at midnight after working a booth for 8 hours, but it worked.)
  • Bring your own tablecloth. Some cons have a tablecloth already on the table, but you should bring your own, so that you stand out from those that haven't brought their own. Also, keeping a consistent branding is vital for a professional look.
  • Keep a log of what you sell, and if you're interested, the demographic of people you're selling to. This helps you figure out how well you did, and helps with book keeping afterward.
  • Have your free stuff clearly marked. 

  • End caps. Put something facing the direction people are coming from, so they see it from a little ways away, and they don't have to be standing right at your table to get the impact of your display.

  • Price SOMETHING at a dollar (or have something catchy to yell at people). I had miniature prints that were 2 dollars, and I wasn't doing well, so I lowered them to 1. After that, when someone walked by and looked interested, I could holler, "The little ones are a dollar!" and people would get all excited and come over. Then sometimes they bought the bigger ones instead.
  • Some people say to have a binder of your work for people to flip through. I had one on my table the first day and not a single person touched it. I found it better to one of each of my prints out. If you have too many to put on the table, scale it back. Pick your best ones, and put them out there.

  • Set your prices and have them listed, even if you're willing to barter with people. At a booth, I was interested in this old copy of Nichelle Nichols's book, and I asked the guy how much it was, and he clearly sized me up, and decided how much he should charge me. It made me very uncomfortable, and then when I expressed interest in another item, he put me on the spot and asked if I would still want to get the biography, and I didn't really have an answer. If I hadn't have desperately wanted the old magazine with the super weird illustration of Spock with his arm around Darth Vader and a Grey I would have just walked away.
    • What you should do is say something like, "Oh, that's 10, but you can have it for 8 if you still want the other book, too." It's a positive statement, and it makes the customer feel good, and also like they can also still say no.

  • Don't make off color jokes. I handed a girl a postcard I was giving away and I said, "The first taste is free," and I clearly made her really uncomfortable. She didn't come back to my booth, and I felt like a heel. In case you're really not sure what's inappropriate, here's a handy list:
    • drugs (as I learned)
    • how sexy someone is
    • how incorrect their costume is
    • how ugly someone else at the con is
    • quizzing someone about how much they know about a subject
    • Really just mean jokes in general
    • killing people

  • Good things to say:
    • Complement something they're wearing
    • ask them about the con
    • are they having fun?
    • what's been their favorite panel?
    • did they get a picture with the TARDIS?
    • did they see R2D2 around here?
    • Tell them about your buy three get one free deal!

  • Things to bring:
    • scissors
    • tape
    • a notebook (I used mine to write down people's information and to take notes on the business cards I was given)
    • a sonic screwdriver (and a real one)
    • food for lunch, dinner, and plenty of snacks (nothing kills profits like dropping 10 bucks on lunch from the cafeteria)

    • something to read or do (you will be there for 12 hours, three days in a row, and it makes some people uncomfortable if you stare at them from all the way down the hall until they're right next to your booth, though I have no idea why [I do know why, its creepy. Don't do it.])

    • pillows for you to sit on, those hard plastic or metal chairs they give you are not made to sit on for 8 hours.

For those of you that have stuck with me this far, thanks for reading my longwinded advice. Here's some numbers, so you know what you can expect at your own con.

It's hard to know how to price stuff, and I had a hard time finding out how well other people do at these things. So I'm going to tell you what I did and how I did, with numbers, real numbers, so you can make your own decisions based on my experience.

My con was in Birmingham Alabama, and it was it's second year of operation. Before the con they estimated about 3,000 people would come. I have not heard about the actual final count. I was in the author's section because of my children's books.

How many things I sold:

  • 32 mini prints (post card size)
  • 5 8x10
  • 2 11x17
  • 13 buttons
  • 14 children's books
The size of the con, your table's location, and your engagement techniqes are going to effect your sales.

Good Luck!

Some more good advice:

Take the Starving out of the Starving Artist
Artist Alley Beginner Guide
Big Truck's Massive list of things to think about
Pricing Advice

Monday, May 20, 2013

Phoenix Festival, or On Expectations

This weekend, from Friday, May 24 to Sunday, May 26 Matter Deep Publishing will be at The Alabama Phoenix Festival.

Last year, my family and I attended a Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention in Birmingham. It was the con's first year, and we figured, "Yeah a con in Birmingham, it's probably terrible." But we went anyway, because we wanted to check it out, and because we don't normally get a lot of opportunity to hang out with fellow fans.

To our surprise and delight, The Alabama Phoenix Festival was wonderful. It was small, as any start up con is going to be, but it was cute, and well run, and the Birmingham geeks had come out to play!

That's Sir William and I getting excited about the small blue box.
I love you TARDIS. You're my favorite. Don't tell Will.
They had a good guest: Adam Baldwin (Jayne from Firefly)!

For those who aren't sure what a Science Fiction/ Fantasy Convention entails:
  • Some people dress up as their favorite characters from tv shows and movies, but you don't have to. Come as you are!
  • There are people selling really super cool handmade things, some of which are nerdy and some of which are just super cool stuff you didn't know you needed til you saw it.
  • There are writers and artists selling their comics, art prints, sketches, paintings, and novels.
  • There are panels where experts talk in depth about getting published, theories about upcoming movies, comics, and shows, and lots of stuff!
  • A bunch of other things you can read about here!

We have three tables this year. My sister-in-law (author of Rescue, Olympia Heights, and Kissing Corpses) is going to be running an Amy Leigh Strickland Author table. My brother's running a Say No to Sparkles Table, where he will be asking people to sign a petition to stop Bad Vampire Fiction.

My table will have prints of my art, my children's books, and me!

If you're in the Birmingham Metro area, please come support a super cool community!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Buttons Galore, or Love is In the Air

Matter Deep is getting pumped for the Alabama Phoenix Festival! Amy and I have worked overtime to get our new books out in time for the Fest, Rescue and  Mothership Goose, and we've been order product like there's no tomorrow. One of the things I was most excited about ordering was buttons!

ooooh ahhhhh.
Buttons are cool because they're only a dollar or two, and often they're a little piece of wearable art. It's easy to drop a dollar at a con where there are so many expensive hand-made items.

SpockxScanners is totally canon.

I spruced up these two pieces, because they were graphic and I thought they were the most relatable pieces for a science fiction/fantasy conventions.
So is Hot ChickxRed Rocket

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mothership Goose, or Congratulations, It's a Book!

My new book Mothership Goose is out!

Follow Misha's mission of great import,
From Earth to Moon to farthest space port!

Visit alien planets with sentient beings.
While you're hitchhiking, don't miss all that's worth seeing:

They’ve got jet packs and rockets and more to see,
A brilliant sci-fi reverie!

So go on a journey through space and time
For a new take on lovely Old Mother Goose rhyme!

Buy on Amazon!

"Why on Earth have you made a book of nursery rhymes that has jet packs in it?" you ask? I shall tell you.

I discovered Star Trek in high school, but it wasn’t until college that a mild appreciation turned into a full-blown obsession. The Original Series soon wasn’t enough, and I consumed The Next Generation at a frankly alarming rate. I’m currently making my way through the other series at a more sedate pace. 

With my Trekmania came an appreciation for retro pulp art (particularly of the sci-fi variety) and a greater appreciation for Science Fiction as a genre. My love for speculative fiction grew to be my absolute favorite form of escapism. I took a Sci-fi Literature Class in college, I worked my way down a list of top sci-fi movies, and there’s a hundred years of literature that I haven’t even begun to make a dent in (never mind all the fiction being written right now!) and I hope I never run out!

It’s incredibly easy to be pessimistic when thinking about the future, and while I love the dystopic 1984, Blade Runner, and THX-1138, my one true love is still Star Trek because of the clearly hopeful message it makes about humanity. Someday we will use our technology to explore, not to harm. Someday we will accept and embrace other cultures and their differences. The Federation is not perfect, but they try. The opening of the show has always inspired me to stand on my couch like a conquistador claiming a new land and speak the words aloud, earnestly and with much gravitas.

Mothership Goose is my vision of the future, while still considering the past.

Watch a video of the whole book here:

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Victorian Newspapers, or AHMAHGAD SO MANY TYPEFACES

I had so much fun making this back cover that was yet another exercise in finding the line between just enough and tribble levels of typefaces.

"I know they're cute, but for all that is holy stop feeding them!"

Buy Rescue on Kindle!

An example of some sweet Victorian graphic design, so you know I'm not just making it up!
Leading and kerning have certainly gotten more refined over the years. Thank God for Adobe.

I wanted to stick with the trompe l'oeil and the informal feel of a dime novels that I started on the cover. I dug out a book an ex of mine got me on a trip to France. It's a book of poems printed in 1891, with an uncovered sewn spine. Poor thing didn't quite survive the scanning experience intact. Your sacrifice wasn't in vain little book of French poems I can't read! You made a beautiful piece of design!

Because my little book suffered for my art, I decided to post my scans as paper textures for anyone to use for whatever they want so Le Lutrin can be immortalized in cyberspace forever.

Click on the images to get the full size, high DPI scan. If you use it to make something, let me know! I want to see! :)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


The Mothership's proof landed this week. There was much rejoicing. You can see it here grudgingly modeled by my soon-to-be-stepcat (my fiance and his cat just moved in with us this week too! Busy busy!)

I'm napping here! Stop bothering me!

You're not my real mom.

Proofs can be a little traumatic. You've been looking at something for months and it's a very specific, calculated color. You give it to someone else. You trust them with your baby. And when it somes back from them sometimes it's a mangeled mess. Your screen's calibrated a certain way, their printers are calibrated another way, and everything is way too dark or slightly pink or blown up by half an inch! you can go crazy trying to get everything to look exactly right. I try to only really worry about the big stuff. If my colors are so dark, you can't see certain details, I make it lighter. However, if I've got a nice unified palette and all the colors a little cool it's still going to look great, even if it doesn't look exactly the way it does on my screen.

Left is the official proof, right is from our home Epson.
Too dark!

This time around it wasn't so bad, because recently I figured out that one of my monitors (the Cintiq the one I use mostly for doing art and not the one I use for Netflix or Google Photosearch) is super, super light compared to print and other monitors. I now have to make sure to color correct on my screen that's closer to real life. 

(Yes I tried to calibrate it, somehow it made it worse and then there was panicing for some times while I couldn't get it to go back to the way it was before.)

Edit: Now available for sale on Amazon!