April 8, 2012

How To Artist Alley: Overview

I'm a forum lurker. I'll admit it. I like watching the forums to get an idea on the atmosphere of a conventions. To me, the more active a forum is, the better involved the staff and attendees are - everybody's in it for the long haul. It's also a great way to meet people, learn immediate info and the like. But what does that have to do with the title of the post? A whole lot, actually.

Lately, I've been seeing a lot of "I've been thinking about joining the Alley. How do I do this?" 

(and this has been a smattering from legit questions, to mispelled "how i artist alley!" type posts.)

So I've decided to spend the next couple of weeks amassing all of my personal experiences, and possibly the experiences of others in "How to Artist Alley". Sounds fun, right? Right?

Anyway, there is a LOT of different things that go into having a booth in the Alley, and it can seem EXTREMELY overwhelming. I'm hoping to alleviate a lot of that through these posts. With that said, let's begin! 

Today's topic is:

A.K.A. Just what am I getting myself into?

This is how we all look on Friday. 

What IS an Artist's Alley?

The "Artist's Alley" is a sectioned off area in a convention (usually located near the dealer hall), where "amateur artists" purchase table spaces and use it to sell their own personal creations. 

What sort of things CAN I sell?

I like to think of it like the Etsy rule - did you make it? Did you make it by hand? If the answers are yes, then YES! You can sell it. (Prints, books, and the like are an exception to this rule - so long as you're the one who created the drawings/pictures involved.)

If you can think it and make it, there's no stopping you. The more unique your item is, the more you'll stand out. Now don't take this as "you can't do what everybody else is doing" - just do it with your own twist!

Here's some items I've seen (and this is just off the top of my head):

  • On-The-Spot commissions
  • Prints of all sizes
  • Comics
  • Buttons
  • Cell Phone Charms
  • Bookmarks
  • Jewelry
  • Hats
  • Accessories (gloves, hairbows, wings etc)
  • Pearler Bead Artwork
  • Amigirumi (Crochet) dolls
  • Sculpey Figures/Charms/Earrings
  • Stickers
  • Notebooks
Really, the sky's the limit, don't restrict yourself to just this list.

What sort of things CAN'T I sell?

Namely anything that's directly replicating something that's professionally made - plushies, cosplay parts, and what have you. If it's something you can find in the dealer hall, you better not be making it at your table. That's just not cool. (Also, some companies/artists have contacted conventions or put out general rules of "please don't sell this" - for example Ragnarok Online and Homestuck.)

You can't sell off old merchandise (figures, etc) you own either. The Alley's not a garage sale, thanks!

Also! Don't directly rip off a fellow Artist's ideas. It's just common sense and courtesy. Sure you may LIKE their products, but it's not fair to you or them if you create unfair competition by replicating what they do with minimal difference. If you respect your other Alleymates, then they'll respect you, and you'll make TONS of new friends.

What about Fan Art? I'm gonna talk about that in it's own post by itself. It deserves it's own spot, so hold on, and wait for that to show up next posting.

Can you make a lot of money doing this? How much do you make?

Arrrggghhhh. I hate this question. But I see it asked more and more. Seriously. Unless you're REALLY good at selling, I can't imagine having an Artist's Alley booth as a single viable source of income. If you get THAT far, you belong in the dealer hall. (Some of them have migrated there, so congrats to them! :) )

To me, an Artist's Alley booth is an extension of your art and promotion - it's not soley there to generate cash. The minute you start treating it like a money flow, your products will take a dive. Trust me. But I'll also give my dissertation talk on this later. It's more about getting your name out there, and networking than anything else.

What other topics are you going to cover?

I hadn't thought all the way through it yet, which is why I am pegging it as a 2 week feature (updating M-W-F) cause I have a LOT to talk about, and don't want to bog down the blog with GIANT ESSAYS. (Even if they have cute pictures)

Here's my list of possible topics (in no particular order):

  • Deciding on products and how to price them accordingly
  • How to actually SIGN UP for an alley spot
  • Fan Art and the Average Convention Attendee.
  • Booth Displays (and how they can make or break you)
  • Surviving the weekend at your booth - and how to sell everything you have!
  • Essential Items you'll need to have a successful booth
  • LINKS to supplies

Okay. Maybe it'll just be the feature until I leave for ACEN. Hahahaha.

I have a lot more to talk about than I thought.


  1. Another possible topic: Table manners and how to interact with potential customers.

    Also, that picture is adorable. I can't wait to see how we look on Sunday. :D

    1. I'm sure it'll show up somewhere!

      I could talk about this stuff for daaaaayyys. Oh wait. :P

  2. I am stupid excited to read about all these things. I'm hoping to pass your wisdom along to my eventual tablemates so we can decide if we are really ready for this yet.

    1. Hooray! I'm trying not to be too long-winded or scare people off by all my posts I'm getting ready.

      A lot of the advice I'll be giving is best taken a bit at a time, and you'll eventually get to all of the things I talk about. But it's at least good things to keep in mind as your table grows. :)

      Think of it almost like a big help manual - where you'll want to search and look for the items that you need at that time.

    2. We could use most of it considering we are currently flying blind. :P