That depends on whether you’re there as an individual artist or as a representative of your small-press publishing efforts.
As you know if you’ve attended a con as a fan, artists at comic conventions sell a variety of work, from original creations to drawings of familiar characters.
Selling unlicensed prints and products of characters that you don’t hold the rights to may not always be legal. But that doesn’t stop many artists, pro and amateur alike, from selling commissioned drawings, prints and merchandise of properties which are not owned by them.
As a publisher, you should focus primarily on your own works
Since people naturally gravitate toward what’s familiar, you run the risk of diluting their interest by mixing in too many unpublished prints and merchandise you may have made of familiar characters such as Spider-man or Batman.
The best way to deal with this is to simply not give customers a choice. If they approach your booth, they’ll see your work and your work alone.
For an independent artist, it’s a harder decision
As an independent artist, you could take the same view. If you are primarily interested in promoting your creations, why distract interested readers from your products with more recognizable alternatives?
But here’s the problem. If your characters are too new, you might not generate enough interest and pull in enough customers to justify the cost of going to the convention. In that case, you might have to supplement newer creative work with more familiar illustrations.
Don’t focus on what people say, focus on what they actually buy.
Ignore the complainers
Whether you focus on your own creations or stay with the tried-and-true, there will be a few people who aren’t happy. Artists are often faced with complaints that they aren’t providing enough “original” material. On the other hand, they also deal with potential customers who are disappointed if they don’t see recognizable, established characters.
Whichever choice you make, don’t worry too much about generalized complaints. Don’t focus on what people say, focus on what they actually buy. Worry about figuring out what sells the best, because as an artist or vendor that’s your mission. It’s a business.
The high road may feel good, but it doesn’t pay the bills
There’s little point in showing up to a comic convention with product that very few people want and then complaining that the crowds are foolish for not wanting what you think they should… unless you enjoy spending the foreseeable future feeling artistically superior to the masses while eating packets of ‘Mr. Noodles’.
Taking the artistic high road may feel good for a moment, but if you wanted to be a starving artist you wouldn’t be pursuing a commercial area of art. Give people what interests them, so that you can make a living doing the work you enjoy.
Your purpose at a smaller convention is not to be ‘discovered’. It’s to figure out what sells.
I discovered early on that smaller cons are rarely a place to go to be ‘discovered.’ Again, your job there is to figure out what people will buy from you. What do they respond to, and what do they ignore?
After you’re more established, you’ll have a larger demand for your original creations. Once you reach the tipping point where your original work becomes your biggest seller, then start selling your own creations exclusively.
Ultimately, what you bring to sell at a convention is based on trial and error. Figuring out what works best for you may take a bit of time. After spending time at a few conventions, you’ll get a better feel for what works for you and what doesn’t.
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