Never Underestimate the Power of Free
Since I’m spending this week sharing con tips I’d like to tell you about the power of having free stuff at your table. This past Wondercon, I experienced something extremely weird - I sold out of all my Valkyrie Squadron books. ALL OF THEM. Not that I took too many books to the show, but this has never happened to me. Having zero salable merch left on my table, I decided to pack everything up and leave the show.
Ha, PSYCHE! Selling out is exactly when you don’t leave, people! I switched into full-on marketing mode.
Selling or Marketing - Do it!
Having a table at a convention gives you the power to do two things: sell your merch and market your IP. Any time not spent doing either one of those things (aside from drunkenly setting up at the beginning of the day) is time wasted. When I sold out of books, I slapped my iPad on an easel behind my stacks of bookmarks and went to work spreading the word on Valkyrie instead. Everyone dive-bombed the bookmarks, and it’s no mystery why the majority of hits I get on the VS site come from here in California. Marketing.
You want to have free things on your table to pass out to people to get the word out on your piece. In the past, I’ve given out bookmarks, business cards, small preview books of my comics, and mini flyers. Free doodads that may not seem all that special, but if done on nice cardstock and feel substantial can possibly win you readers. If they leave the table with nothing, there’s an excellent chance they’ll forget about you, but if they leave with some kind of doodad reminding them of your website, there’s a chance they’ll check out your work.
I’ve found two things work very well for getting people interested in even silly things like bookmarks at my table: variation and quality paper stock. These are things that sound dumb, but can make your work that much more appealing.
For several years now, I’ve been printing bookmarks and business cards with more than one design on them. Both the Valkyrie bookmarks in the photo and the Misfortune High mini flyers sport multiple designs. I find people like the idea of choice. One person may like the look of Priss, the VS leader. Another person may like the look of Eve, the shy one with glasses. Another person yet may dig the look of Adia, the African-American tech officer. There’s something for everyone on these bookmarks. Same with Misfortune High. Different designs that show off different aspects of the story can cast a wider net. Plus, there’s a certain “trading card” quality that people at cons can’t resist. With certain printers offering the option to print more than one design per order, there isn’t a good reason not to.
This brings me to my next point of paper quality. If your freebies are printed on cruddy bond paper, people will be able to tell, and will be less likely to take your work seriously. Sure, XYZ printing house is offering a super sale you can’t pass up, but are you going to get quality freebies that people are genuinely going to want? Or will it be “junk” that people will throw away? Even the best design can be wrecked by low quality paper.
A couple of places i’ve used in the past:
- Moo.com - I am so fruity for Moo’s paper quality. Their business cards are an odd size, but the paper stock is LIKE SILK. They feel really nice to the touch, so people are more likely to treat them less like junk and more like something fun. They also offer people the opportunity to print several designs on one business card order. More than that, they sell stuff like mini cards, stickers, post cards and labels. I LURVE their stuff, and they are definitely who I’m going to use for the eventual Misfortune High promotional trading cards I’m printing.
- Overnight Prints - They’re the ones who did those Valkyrie bookmarks up there. Obviously, they offer the option to print more than one kind of bookmark per order, and they offer spot UV coating. In the case of the VS bookmarks, I put the UV on the logo. Admittedly, I wished the UV was a little more pronounced but otherwise they do nice work on bookmarks. I believe other folks use them for post cards too, but I haven’t just yet.
- PS Print - I remember using them for stickers a few years back and I remember they were pretty nice. How nice? I had one stuck to my car and drove around in the Florida sun for a year before the colors faded, and the black ink never did. NICE. Also, you’re not limited to size on their stickers. You print whatever size fits you. Their post cards are okay too. They also do short runs of posters in case you’re interested in larger prints of your art.
These are just a few companies I’ve used in the past. They do nice work and can help you get the nicest, neatest freebies to pass out at your con table. If you guys have a service you’d like to recommend to other weblings out here, shout it out. Otherwise, I’ve gotta get back to work coloring my scribbles.