[RAMBLES] Artist Alley?! Is it possible?

A few weeks ago I had a bit of a freak out inside of me, realizing if I didn’t change certain things in my life, I wouldn’t never even have a chance to do some of my dreams. I need to at least try to — otherwise, I’m most certainly going to end up with regrets and that’s no fun!

I realized I need to be more assertive and more social. This doesn’t necessarily mean going out with friends and trying to hang out with them more, but I just need to talk to people more with a friendly attitude and start advertising my goods and services to them. I don’t think a whole lot of people know I draw and that I do sell that ability so I can make something in their mind a reality. I think it should be a bit more known, in a way. Kind of.

One of my dreams is to be my own boss and to produce stuff that I choose to make, rather than making what other people choose (although, that’s not to say people’s suggestions won’t ever influence me — if I get a bunch of people requesting me to draw a gorgeous boy posing like a pin-up model on the back of a red elephant, I’ll draw a gorgeous boy posing like a pin-up model on the back of a red elephant since it’s in high demand (dunno why it would be)…which I kind of want to draw now). I can’t do that though if I 1.) don’t produce anything to sell and 2.) people don’t know it exists!

Just like when people see my original story characters and either automatically assume they’re for Pokémon or go like “you should write a story with them”. Like, uh, no duh. I’m already way ahead of you in that thought department, hon. I’ve already got their family, their friends, their history, and the basic gist of their story planned out — I just need to gain some more knowledge in certain areas in order to even go ahead in writing it.

*ahem* Sorry, that went a bit off topic.

Anyway, since I do want to achieve that dream and realized that a key to that is the need to be more assertive and social (I’m not saying that’s the only thing, but oh, it will certainly help), I began to brainstorm what would be a good place to begin to promote what I do.

It quickly came to me: Artist Alley at anime conventions!

2015_aathoughts1

Artist Alley are sections of anime conventions where people go and sell their artwork, along with other things such keychains, buttons, etc.

What better place could there be for an anime artist than an anime convention Artist Alley table? And who’s better to advertise anime drawings to than to anime fans themselves?

Theoretically no one.

That’s why I’m legitimately considering it.

I personally do want to go back to anime conventions too (I quit them after 2009), but I don’t really want to participate as a con-goer, since it’s too stressful for me. But as a vendor-sorta person? Yeah, sure, why not?

I’ve also had a few people in the past suggest I do it, but I turned down the idea because my art skills are too weak (I still feel that) and I really want an original story out or something.

Although, right now, I’m feeling like…I should just go ahead and do. Some people are going to look at my drawings and go “wow! you’re amazing!” and other people (probably mostly everyone) are going to look at it and go “wow, you can’t draw for crap” (in which I respond — “uh, no duh!”).

Before Any of This

Before I even go ahead and go for an anime convention or start figuring out what I’m going to sell, I think it’s important for me to just lay down some ground work. There’s still a few things I feel I need to get done before I start going to anime conventions to sell my stuff or become more assertive to the people I talk to.

First, I just need to get my website finished. It’s almost there. I want to revamp my art commissions site because I feel like it’s too confusing.

I’m sure some people are wondering why I need to get my website done before doing all of this or why I can’t just leave it the way it is. I’m sure some are wondering why I need a website in the first place!

My website is meant to be a center for my activity. A portal. It’s suppose to be a one-stop place where one can go and see what I’m doing and what I have to offer. If someone is there to order a commission, they can go order one. Perhaps when they’re done, with not really much else to do, they’ll want to go and explore my blog or my Creative Works website. For me, it’s a chance to make my dreams REALLY come true and have it all in one wonderful place.

I feel like I can’t heavily advertise my website just yet due to it still being incomplete. I still have to finish three sections of the website. Once they are finished, I can start advertising! All of these sections are super important to me, as one advertises additional things I do, while the other two are there to help the visitor.

2015_aathoughts2

I’m sure a lot of these are just excuses, but I already feel awkward giving people my website and am horrified that I’m probably losing out on people checking out my Creative Works because it’s not up yet. Ick.

The second thing would be business cards! I feel like after my website (Phase 1 of it, at least) is completed, the business cards are the next key! It’s what I can give to people who express interest. I can have them out on my table at Artist Alley for people to take. Just some awesome things, in mind.

Then, lastly, is…money.

I think the hardest thing for me would be related to money. I have a super limited amount of time it seems like to save for a house, pay bills, pay gas, and pay for food with. I’m attempting to keep my bank account a float. My paycheck every week is sucked from me fast. I’m lucky that I’m even able to put away $10 for my business fund. My budget is already really tight. And this is ignoring my desire to go places like NYC and Florida. I don’t even save for those because I don’t really have the money to do so.

It seems like it would be really hard for me to gather money to even go to anime conventions, let alone make enough product to sell. I would have to pay for gas, for a table, for a pass, for a room if the convention is far away, for anything I would need for display. How much money would I need just to simply get myself to an anime convention to sell? How much would I need to make product?

I would love to use my commission money to help with that, but it’s usually my commission money that helps to stretch my budget when it’s tight. It usually ends up going to my gas and some extra food that I really needed two weeks, but didn’t get because of budgeting reasons. Argh.

I mean, I’m sure I could figure this out, but how many months would it take to even have enough to go ahead and start attending anime conventions?

Perhaps I shouldn’t even worry about this until my website is done and I have business cards in my hand.

Picking an Anime Convention

If I begin doing Artist Alley at all, I want to do small, local conventions. I feel like they would be a great place to start, test what sells/doesn’t sell, and I think the chances of people buying something are tiny bit higher than at a bigger convention. I think bigger conventions would have more competition and obviously, much better artists than a silly drawer like me.

I’ll most likely aim to stay at conventions that are around my state or are close enough to friends/family in other states, in a bit of hopes that maybe they’ll let me stay there during convention times so I don’t have to book a hotel room. That would be nice.

I’m sure some people are laughing like “HAHAHAHA, SMALL ANIME CONVENTIONS! They don’t exist!” except…yeah, they do. There’s local ones. There are FREE, local anime conventions. And I want to start there. Gotta figure out what people like and don’t like though!

Making Products

The focus of an Artist Alley table is selling one’s artwork. I think some conventions only allow prints, but others allow for a variety of things, including craft items. A lot of them that I’ve seen sell things like buttons and keychains, which I think is cool.

When I think about what I would like to sell, this immediate list comes to mind:
– art prints
– bookmarks
– keychains
– cellphone straps
– stationary
– postcards
– buttons
– stickers
– *clear files

*if you don’t know what these are, these are really durable, really flexible file folders that are popular in Japan

I’m sure Artist Alley veterans are yanking me back by the collar right now and are going “WHOA, WHOA, WHOA, that’s too much!”. I kind of agree. I think the only thing I would drop from that list though are postcards.

Art prints are a must. I know people liked the bookmarks I made for myself (ooo, maybe I can sell a holder with them! No? No. Okay), so I feel like that’s good to sell. I love the idea of keychains and cellphone straps. Buttons I think could do for cheap. Stationary is also something I would love to do. Postcards? Eh, not as exciting, but still might be a good idea (does anybody even USE postcards anymore?). And Clear Files…those call to me. So much.

If I can do all of them, I will. If I can’t, I’ll just stick to art prints/bookmarks/keychains/cell phone straps/buttons. I really want Clear Files though…

Then comes the next question: how much would everything cost.

I know, starting out, I want no more than 50 items per each item type. It will be less if it has to be, but I think 50 per each item type is good enough.

Huh? 50 is too high you say?

I would’ve thought that too if it was 50 per characters. But it is NOT. It’s per item type. Still confused? Let’s say I decided to draw 6 individual characters and put them on keychains. I would have to divide 50 (the maximum number of items I’ll get for selling per item type) by 6 (the number of characters) and get about 8 (8.3 repeating to be exact, but let’s round down to 8). That means that there is only up to 8 keychains per character. And I think that’s small enough, don’t you?

After deciding on that quantity, I start to wonder: how will I go about making the product? Is it cheaper to send it out to be made or cheaper to make them at home? Or is it cheaper to go 50/50? What will be better quality? Do I need to sacrifice quality for cost? Or am I able to budget myself to get the best quality I can find?

I can’t figure that out.

I feel like it definitely would be cheaper (although, much more time consuming) to make all the products at home, especially at first. I think for some things, the quality would be fine, while for others, the quality will most certainly suffer. And I think that’s sad.

The quality I’m most worried about are those of the keychains and cellphone straps, which will most likely have the same images, just different ways of attaching to items. I’ll probably have to go with the Shrinky Dink method, although I feel like my quality will be super cheap and dismissed if I go with it.

Maybe I’m wrong though. Maybe the quality will be fine.

There’s actually a special way I want to make the keychains/cellphone straps in my head, but I don’t think that’s possible right now.

I was going to alternately purchase acrylic charms of my artwork for them, but between the costs and my limits, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Not right now, at least.

2015_aathoughts3

I think though, ultimately to start out, I’m just gonna have to buy myself a better printer (which is already on my list — I’m currently eying the Epson Workforce WF-7610, but still don’t feel quite settled about it) and use that for a majourity of the products. I’m also going to have to get a decent button maker.

If I do decide to go with clear files, I’m going to have to have those sent out to be made…but that’s okay, especially if it’s one thing. I may have to do that with stationary too (I want to make a notepad really badly). Otherwise, I’ll make them myself using this tutorial. I’m sure stickers are going to have to be made elsewhere too, unless my cutting skills get better or I get an electronic cutting machine, like Silhouette.

If I do have clear files, stationary, and stickers made…where do I purchase them from? What has good quality? What’s going to be cheap?

Well, clear files, I already have an answer because almost no one makes them. There’s literally two places I can find that makes them and one wants you to make a minimum of 1,000 copies (ICK), the other one, 100 (that’s better). They’re also super expensive to make too, so if I’m gonna make them…I better make ones that I REALLY like, huh? So when they don’t sell, I’m not gonna be like “aaarrrggggh, all that moneh for NUTTIN’!”…

Slightly discouraging to make clear files, but that’s okay. They’re still calling to me though…stupid conflicts. It’s gonna take a bite out of my budget though if I go with them.

Is it weird that I want to do doodle sketch commissions for a $1 in B&W, $3 in colour too right there at the convention? Maybe that will be too much. I don’t know.

So, overall, I DEFINITELY would like to sell art prints, buttons, keychains, cellphone straps, and bookmarks. Everything else can be considered for the future.

The next question for the products are: what’s going on them?

Some people would suggest only fan-art, while others suggest a mix of original and fan art. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone suggestion just original, unless it’s an anime convention guideline.

I’ve seen a lot of people too say bring more fan art than original, which I suppose does make sense.

Personally, I’m considering going 50/50 with everything my first few times. That way I can gauge what really works for me. I mean, there could be a really off chance my original works sell better than my fan art, right? I know that’s unlikely, but there’s always a chance! (I’m sure fan art is going to sell better though.)

Then what/who to put on them is another question of mine. I don’t even know what anime series are popular right now. Even if I did…have I seen it? If I did, did I like it enough to draw fan art? I have no idea.

I’m pretty sure Pokémon would end up taking up my artwork, to be honest.

Erm…yeah.

So, 50/50 with everything in terms of the original and fan art I’ll be offering.

Does all this make sense? Does this all work? What do you guys think? I think this is making sense to me, but I don’t know. I never sold in Artist Alley before.

All the Other Stuff

I’m probably CRAZY for wanting to do this for the first time at Artist Alley, but I want the following promotional material for my website:
– pens
– reusable bags
– brochure explaining my art commissions
– I’m crazy and kind of want lanyards, but I think they may be going too far for everyone but me

I feel like pens are pretty standard. Reusable bags, definitely not standard. The lanyards and brochures aren’t either. Why not do those though?

…I’m crazy.

I like the idea of the brochure, so people who want to commission me in the future have a good place to see what I offer without having to go to my website.

I don’t know. Heavily considering all that stuff. ’cause, why not? Other than the money it will cost and how much product I’m going to have left over, inevitably.

2015_aathoughts4

And, to be completely honest, I believe I’m going to sell NOTHING. I expect I will sell NOTHING when I do this. I would love to, sure, but I expect I will sell ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. I’ll be lucky if people come and look at my stuff, but I’ll probably be passed over.

I plan on having my budget for everything be $900. This excludes business cards and my printer (and anything I need with it initially) though, since those are going to be purchased separately. Everything else though — the product I’m selling, the other promotional materials, transportation, cash box stuff, etc. — will be included in that ONE budget. I’ll aim to spend no more than $500.

Oh man, another thing I think about too in relation to this is…what am I going to use to accept cards?! I could use PayPal, Square, or Flint. Or should I just use them all?

SO MANY QUESTIONS. SO MANY THOUGHTS.

And so much artwork potentially to do.

Things. And stuff. And things.

argh.

I probably shouldn’t even be WORRYING about all this right now, but I am. I think part of it is that I definitely want to do all this. Preferably this year.

However…there’s so many other things to do and concentrate on. I doubt I’ll make it without some type of miracle or a majour sacrifice.

I also have to be careful because I can feel Japanese slipping out of my hands and frankly, that isn’t cool.

I suppose it’s time to rebalance myself.