Dawn and I have now been exhibiting at various conventions for over five years. We’ve come a long way from where we started, and learned a lot, but I still have to admit this:
I have no idea how we’re going to do, sales-wise, at a given show. Even if it’s the exact same show and just a different year.
It’s possible this is because we’re not being meticulous enough in tracking our data, or just still don’t have enough data to work with, but if you look around at the veterans of the independent press circuit, you’ll often notice that it’s not just comics that they have for sale. There will be art prints, postcards, mugs, jewelry, buttons, t-shirts, plushies, etc. etc., all in a variety of price ranges. The net is cast wide, and although their brand is incorporated into the merch, it is hardly ever the primary selling point. You’re selling to people who like steampunk, or zombies, or unicorns, and while you hope the pendant they just bought might serve as a gateway drug to them getting into your brand or at least becoming a repeat customer to your table, for the moment it’s enough that they’re helping fund you being able to get a repeat table.
Sometimes they’ll want to buy the comics. Sometimes prints. Sometimes t-shirts. Sometimes Dawn will have to turn away people wanting sketch commissions because she’s already too busy with them, sometimes she goes an entire convention without anyone even talking to her. And this, my friends and neighbors, is why we diversify our selection. Even the types of prints people might be buying can vary wildly, sometimes with no apparent rhyme or reason. You can sit there and theorize all day, but in the end the only safe bet seems to be to spread your bets out as much as possible.
And well, sometimes even the safe bet isn’t safe. Sometimes you get bad placement at a show, or people just plain aren’t in a buying mood. And you will lose money on those. But as one of my fellow travelers told me: “We keep at it, and hope the good shows make up for the bad ones.” They’d been at it for over ten years at that point, and though they had a rocky start (as it seems we all do), in recent times have always ended the convention year more up than down.
So if you’re going to be an exhibitor, or are one already and have had some rough times, just keep that in mind.