C-conventions that is! Have you ever wanted to be behind the booth in an artist alley at one of the MANY fandom/pop culture conventions out there? This little column aims to help ease you into this wacky world.
Now that conventions are coming back, even seasoned vets are trying to get their footing again so now is as good a time as any to jump into the fray. A lot of big shows might still be booked from the longest year on record but it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye out for todays big big topic: applications.
Many shows open applications half a year in advance. Looking at the dates (which tend to be announced a year ahead, normally right after the current show ends) you can figure out when to start looking for apps to open. Most shows will have a mailing list or announce via social media, catching the window can be tricky since the organizers have a lot of options and the people that had booths the previous year know what to look for already.
Once you find your dream show has opened their applications the next important step is to keep
(a little~) professionalism in mind. You’re going up against potentially hundreds of other applicants and you need to stand out (in a good way!).
I’ve found that applying as a business name has better luck than just applying with my own name. If you don’t have a business you can use your social media handle or (and this sounds terrifying to me) come up with one that feels right on the spot. You CAN change it later, but keep in mind that that can be a headache and you could lose some of the customer recognition you built up. Just keep in mind these are pop-up shops after all. Your name is important and needs to be memorable in the sea of creators that is artist alley.
Some applications can be pretty daunting.
Don’t give up if multiple questions include checklists that you don’t have an answer to
(Who have you been published by? Have you had a booth at any of these big name events? Etc etc) they don’t outweigh the rest of the application and you still have a shot!
The most important part is the portfolio! Showcasing your work can be VERY daunting. I’ll have to go in-depth about this another day, but, the amount of options to build your portfolio with can be overwhelming! You already put your social handles elsewhere, so just showing your Instagram again might feel a little cheaty. Best case scenario is using a click-n-drag website builder to truly customize the look and feel of your digital gallery. I tend to build out a PDF and self-host that. The ease of scrolling through a PDF feels better to me than clicking around on a webpage, but both are great options compared to repeating your social page of choice.
Most applications will tell you what they want/do not want in your portfolio (and tell you what will automatically disqualify your application) so be sure to read what they are looking for very closely! Remember these apps are not a race, you can read it and come back once you feel prepared.
Many will also require a booth shot. If this is your first time doing a convention you can cheat and use a folding table at a library or accessible school or office space (with permission!) or if you have a folding table you can even build your prototype at home! Showing them what you plan on building on the con floor always feels like the most important part of the application to me, that’s the face your selling to entice customers!
I hope this helps, and feel free to send questions for future installments! We can ALL be con artists!