Whether you’re a newcomer or a seasoned trader at conventions, there’s always something you could stand to forget when it comes to preparing for a comic convention. (As I write this, it’s also over two years since the last Dublin Comic Con, so a few of us are out of practice, to say the least.) In this post, we’ll take a look at the essentials for trading in an artist alley – though the same general categories apply for larger traders, too.
Making Your Check-List
To get started, the first thing to do is make a list of your stock. This can vary for everyone. Generally, artists and comic creators tend to bring some combination of the following:
- Comics and other books
- Prints, often in different sizes
- Button badges
- Enamel pins
Figuring out your stock list is vital to the next steps for packing for your next comic con.
While not essential, picking up a couple of book stands is helpful for showing off your wares. It adds some height to your display, and allows you to point the cover art at passers-by more easily than if they lay flat on the table.
Do you have a lot of books and limited space? A magazine rack is an excellent solution for showing off what you’ve got while reducing the demands on retail space. Be warned, though, that at a busy comic convention you don’t want to hide your best stuff behind other titles. A magazine rack is helpful for when you have multiple titles and the capacity to space them out a little bit to make them more visible.
A smaller version can be used for things like bookmarks, too; show off the artwork to the readers wandering the convention floor!
You’ll see these everywhere. How you set them up is entirely up to you, but they’re the perfect solution for displaying prints and other flat artwork. Often a single corner set-up is enough, but if you’re primarily selling prints, utilise both sides of your table. A personal preference of mine is to not have the cages join in the middle; they create a barrier between the artist and the audience, which can make communication awkward.
For everything else…
For the knick-knacks on the table, loose stickers, enamel pins and the like, if you don’t have backing boards or packs made for them, lay them flat on the table. One of each variety for the bulkier items is enough, but keep the stock handy.
Beyond Stock Display
Showing off your stock at a comic convention is one thing. But what about the rest of the set-up?
- A table cloth. Black if you don’t know what else to go with that suits your brand. Avoid white, if possible, as stains can show easily.
- A pull-up banner. Not essential, but they can add height to your display and allow people to spot you more easily.
- A cash float. Keep it either in a lock-box out of reach from people (not on the floor – they can still be stolen from there!) or in a belt bag. Avoid using your wallet at the table unless your float runs out of change and you happen to have some handy.
- A card reader or other electronic payment method. You don’t need a pandemic to realise more people are paying by card these days. A card reader, a Revolut sign, or a PayPal QR code are all handy ways of taking payment without cash exchanging hands. (Ed. note: I personally use Sum-Up.)
- Hand sanitiser and wipes. Again, you don’t need the pandemic to tell you why these are a good idea. People have been using them at conventions for a long time to help fight off germs.
- Bags and poly pockets. When someone buys a print from you, you want to make sure it stays safe don’t you? Poly pockets are great for A4 or smaller. You can also get large clear bags in art shops for your A3 prints. For books and comics, paper bags are a handy way to help your customers hold onto their stock.
- Business cards. Not essential, but they’re handy to have. Just be wary that kids like free things and will absolutely drain your stock of cards if you leave them out too close to the front of the table.
If you’re at a loss as to where to find certain things, as the people who trade at comic conventions where they go. Most will be happy to point you in the right direction.
The list is long. Longer than someone who hasn’t traded before might think it would have been. The fact that it’s all simple doesn’t help in the remembering of it. These are all the things you can prepare well in advance of a comic convention, and aside from restocking your wares and restoring your float, you’re unlikely to need to change much from your preparation in the future.
On the morning of setup, run through your list again. Stock, display items, essentials, and food and drink. Then relax and go have some fun.