If you have been following, you know how happy I am with my experience at Cloudsdale. I also posted the following text as a Journel on my dA page and on Tumblr but will post it here as well.
While I will type up an after con report and post pictures later I want to talk about my experience in the vendors hall. I have been to non-pony cons as a con goer before, however this is my first time on the other side of the table as seller.
As this was my first time, I did not know what I should sell. I decided to sell posters, mini prints, and laminated stuff based on what I would buy. I also had some older prints of my tarot cards from Nightmare Night still left over that I brought.
Setting Up and Displays
First thing I learned is that I should have all my merchandise organized. I packed in a rush and when I got to the dealer's room had no idea how to arrange all the stuff I brought. I was probably the last artist to get organized and was still setting up even after the doors opened. I was lucky to be against the wall so I was able to hang up my posters. Even so, most people passed by all the items I had laid out flat on the table and moved on to other tables with vertical displays. People tend to ignore items laid flat on the table and tend to head to vertical displays. Other veteran vendors told me, simple wire displays are the best to display their items.
Getting Your Name Out
My first mistake. People had no idea who I was. Out of all the vendors, I was the only one without business cards. Many people where interested in following me to check out more of my art so I had to quickly write my dA and Tumblr out for them. Another problem is that I have no proper artist name, some people know me from my real name, Stratos on Equestria Daily, SouthParkTaoist on DeviantArt, or Chocolate Pony on Tumblr. Someone who knows my DevientArt page most likely did not know I was also Chocolate Pony on Tumblr. Even some people who follow my blogs like Fyrefly and Will Fly Higher did not know I was Chocolate Pony. So the problem is that I need one branching name that could cover all the fandom from Twitter to Facebook to Tumblr and DeviantArt. To add to this, since I have no one constant art style, from realistic looking art to woodcut style to cartoony style, there is no way for someone to spot of pony art right away as something unique to on artist. Second is that I need to print business cards. Even Lee Tockar asked for one and I had nothing to give him.
I thought that posters would be the best sellers and spent most of my initial cost in getting them printed. However that was not the case, while the Cloudsdale Congress posters all eventually sold out (though I did give a lot away as well) the other posters did not sell as much. Ironically it was the tarot cards that I did not get extras printed of and just took from my leftovers from the Nightmare Night event that sold the most. As I was the only person selling tarot cards, items that are unique to me sell. Like the plushies or customs unique to other artist. Here is what I learned sells the best from top to bottom.
1. Top Seller: MLP Tarot Cards (Sets sold out on the first day)
2. Non-art Stuff: Official merch, mostly Walmart posters
3. Mini Prints: Due to lower price for the mini prints ($5)
4. Large Posters: Not as popular aside from ones specific for the Event
5. Xmas/Halloween/Holiday Stuff: Out of Season Stuff DOES NOT SELL
What Type of Art Sells
I noticed from what others bought from me and the other tables near me, that the quality of art does not always mean they will sell. My works like my realistic detailed work which I put a lot of time into, I found was not as popular as my looser, quicker art work. I found this true, as other artist much better than me did not have their quality art sale as much. I noticed it is the subject matter that seems to be more important to the people buying. Artworks with a cute image or a joke and punchline sells, even if the art is very simple vectors. Novelty and whimsy is what sells, art is second in importance. So while I could draw a very detailed Rainbow Dash, it would be the Dash cuddling with Scootaloo or imitating an internet meme that sells the most. The button maker at the Cat and Tonic Industries gave me a lot of insight from his veteran experience from attending multiple pony cons, he noted that it is normally a mix between art and jokes on his buttons that sell. Though buttons with a punchline tend to be more popular. Another nice vendor at Vina's Geek Corner, who I have bought from at Otakon, also told me small, portable items that could be worn are most popular like her necklaces and keychains and Cat and Tonic's buttons and pins. One also has to take note of the popularity of the ponies. At the moment it seems like Fluttershy is the most popular of the Mane Six and while minor characters seem more popular than them. Old Twilight is now out, Alicorn Twilight is in. Also out of season stuff does not sell. So no Xmas or Halloween ponies in March.
Business vs. Generosity
I did get rid of a lot of my merchandise, however I believe I gave at least 25-50% of my stuff away for free or at a large discount. As a person from a military family, I give discounts to military bronies. The little military pins I made, I ended up giving free to any solider, sailor, airman, Marine, or ROTC cadet who stopped by as opposed to selling them. I also tend to give away free stuff to any younger brony who came to my table, as I always did feel that this show is for the younger audience I did give a lot of posters and toys away to them. I felt a bit bad as well since there was no events for the younger kids, I tried to entertain them with teaching them to draw and quizzing their MLP knowledge for prizes. They are really smart with their knowledge of their show and I was surprised one kid understood the theme of learning as you grow. I do know that one cannot always be generous when running a business, but this was my first pony con and was there for the fun and experience not really the money. And I really did enjoy interacting and meeting with other fans.
Learning from Other Vendors
I was surrounded by a lot of veteran vendors from previous pony cons, some I have bought from at Otakon and Comic Con. They were very nice to give a noobie like me so great advice. The people at Cat and Tonic, Vina's Geek Corner, J&K Crafting, Red Star East, Cutie Corral,Coventry Decor, and others were all very nice for giving me tips and telling me how they normally approach vending at cons. I do want to thank them for their help. While it is important to get first hand knowledge, if you learn from the experiences of others you can save yourself some trouble. I also wanted to add that Willdrawforfood and UC77 also gave me some tips over Skype.
Teams and Tables
What I learned is that it is hard to man a table by yourself. Most other artists teamed up with others or had friends to help. So one could leave the table and go to the bathroom or a panel for example, while the other could still sell stuff. I was very trusting with the bronies at such a small con and have left my table (and money) unattended for long periods of time, though nothing was stolen I know this is unwise and will probably not do this for larger cons. Though for me the issue was not people stealing stuff, but not being able to sale. I was gone on Saturday for almost three hours at one point because Lee Tockar (who is an awesome voice actor and person) requested to see me as he enjoyed my Cloudsdale poster and we talked about experimental media for abot fifteen minutes. Later I was called at the last minute to join the How to Draw Ponies panel, then I had to run the TumblrPon panel. I was told by other vendors people had passed by but were unable to buy stuff (they did however take the free apple pie I had on my table). So what I learned, running a table with other artist or friends is the best for a better con experience.
Overall it was a great learning experience and now I know what to do at BronyCon. I also heard from other vendors that new people normally are still in the read for their first con, I am happy to make back the cost of the table and badge in the first few hours. The experience was actually fun.