Posts tagged ‘selling’

Put on Your Sales Face

Since there aren’t flashing signs over our heads that say our personality types, we really need to be careful of the front we present to the public when representing our brands. Joe Schmo who doesn’t know me at all may not give me the mercy of the introvert card. They may just think I’m rude or disinterested.

Continue Reading February 25, 2017 at 6:48 pm Leave a comment

Otakon 2015: Artist Alley Review

This was my second year at Otakon and things got off to a rough start and I didn’t make goal, but I survived. I kind of have mixed feelings about this weekend. At least my flight got me there without a hitch like what happened with Anime Boston!

Steamed Bun plush and Hamburger Bun plush toys on display.

Steamy rolls out the unwelcome wagon for Hammy.

A highlight of the weekend was that I got to meet a lot of artists I correspond with online in the Facebook artist alley group. I also got to finally meet Tonya from Shinedown Productions who’s been doing my Punny Buns plush. She brought me the final Hamburger Bun prototype on Saturday. I had Hammy out for display at my table and got a lot of positive reaction to him. Honey Bun didn’t make it to this con due to luggage space. I was able to get some pre-orders for him. I’m excited for 2016 when I have the Punny Buns with me for the con season. I think this will really help me get to the next level with Kimchi Kawaii.

I had planned on bringing over 100 plush, but due to the fast turnover time between Anime Expo and this one, I didn’t complete as many as I would have liked. I did rush through a bunch so I could send them ahead of me. Plush sell well, but boy are they bulky. Shipping has now become a part of my artist alley prep. I guess it keeps me on track, especially for east coast cons since I have to factor in cross country shipping time.

Sales seemed slower this year on the first day compared to the previous year and general sales all weekend seemed lower for everyone I spoke to in the AA. This year, Otakon only saw about 28,000 which was a significant drop in attendance. I think there were two main factors in this – they did away with one day passes so that meant someone who wanted to just come on say, Saturday, still had to pay around $100 for registration. Also, even though it was months ago, the riots in Baltimore seemed to keep some people away as well.

I had hoped that with the increased plush variety, I would make a certain sales goal, but I came in well short of it. Honestly, it was a bit disappointing with all the work and headache I had leading up to this con – extreme time crunches, other obligations cutting into prep time, wrong items being shipped, items missing all together from orders, etc. This is the last travel con for my 2015 season and I’m pretty happy to be putting the suitcases away until next year. I’ll have the Punny Buns arriving from the Kickstarter so will be focusing on that and getting ready for my dealers booth at SacAnime on Labor Day weekend.

My plush did sell out and this was the first con where I actually sold out of the Sweet Dreams Strawberries by the second day. Usually, those are a hard sell – lots of people think they’re super cute, but they just won’t buy. However, the prints were slow to move and I had a hard time selling the deco den phone cases that I carry.

Even before this con, I’ve decided to discontinue them as it’s just too difficult to keep up with the new models coming out everyArtist alley table for Kimchi Kawaii at Otakon, 2015. year. Plush making is also taking up a significant chunk of my time. Additionally, the market is just getting flooded and a lot of people are underpricing their cases which means I can’t compete. Side note to artists: PLEASE don’t undervalue your work! It just hurts you and your fellow artists and gives the buying public the expectation that they shouldn’t pay more than $5 for anything we do (ends soapbox).

So to sum it all up – for those of you considering selling at this con, it has had the potential for good sales, but this year was just an off year for whatever reason. It will be interesting to see if they lower prices or bring back the one day pass again for next year which could up sales again. They will also be moving to the D.C. area for 2017.

Also know that Otakon has some of the longest artist alley hours out there. Friday was from 1pm – 11pm. Saturday was from 10am – 11pm. Sunday is more normal in hours. If you can swing it, I definitely recommend bringing a helper to give you breaks or make sure you are neighbors with friends!

August 11, 2015 at 6:00 am 2 comments

Print on Demand: What is It?

I’ve had a few artists in the Artist Alley community ask me about the print on demand companies that I use for Kimchi Kawaii so thought it could be helpful to write up some blog posts comparing the pro’s and con’s of the ones I’m familiar with. Usually, my explanations are a bit TL;DR for a Facebook comment or reply. I’m going to break this into a multipart series, starting off with a little explanation how print on demand works.

Roary, Kimchi Kawaii's tiger mascot with a magpie.

My original logo when I started.

A Little History
I started Kimchi Kawaii through Cafe Press over 5 years ago. I had heard about the company through a newspaper article via my mom. She’s great about saving stories for me that would be of interest. It seemed like a really good way to go about getting my art out there on products and to a global audience that I would have had a lot more difficulty reaching on my own. I work a full time graphic design job and I was familiar with the somewhat prohibitive costs of screen printing for an artist like me who was just starting out and didn’t have a huge operating budget.

At the time, Cafe Press had two levels of shops – there was a free basic one and a premium shop for something like $59 a month (can’t remember the exact cost off the top of my head and they’ve since changed their shop levels and fees). This meant that I could sell my stuff on shirts and many other products all from this one shop for one fee*. Sounded like a pretty sweat deal to get my feet wet!

So What is Print on Demand?
Basically, you create your artwork and upload it to the website offering the services. You select the items you want your piece to sell on. Cafe Press and similar companies like Zazzle have TONS of product to pick from and your design may not fit well on certain things. Items you can pick from range from clothing to housewares like pillows, kitchen utensils; electronics accessories (cases for all your mobile devices); to stationary items (stickers, post-its, greeting cards, etc.). Once you’ve put your product on the items you like, you put your items up in your shop. When a customer buys an item, Cafe Press will print, process the payment and ship the item. You don’t have to stock inventory or worry about finding production time.

Show Me the Money!
You get paid by setting up your mark-up on top of the base price set by the company. Here’s an example: say you want to sell Design A on a t-shirt. It’s base price is $12.99. You set your mark up for  15% (the general recommended percentage) which is about $1.95. The company posts the shirt with a price that reflects their base and your mark up, in this case $14.94. A customer, let’s call them John, finds your design on the site and buys it. The site keeps their base price and sends you your mark up of $1.95. Usually, they will hold all your profits until you reach a minimum amount like $25 and then cut you a monthly check or direct deposit into an account like Paypal.

Note that these companies often have a customer satisfaction guarantee, so your commission won’t clear for 30 days.

Now, at this point, you’re probably thinking ‘$1.95 isn’t much of a profit. I can’t even get a Starbucks with that’! This is true. However, I think of it this way to take the ‘sting’ out – I only had to create the design once. So maybe I put in about 2-3 hours of work on my art. I upload it once and set it on all the products I want once and then let it do it’s thing. Sure, I do market it on my own as well as take advantage of the site’s own search engine optimization (SEO), but my work is largely done. I sell one product and get my 15% tiny mark up. But then, fast forward a year or more to when I’ve sold that same design that I did all the work for ONCE multiple times over. Those 15%’s start to add up in the big picture. On some of my more popular designs, I’ve sold enough instances of them to be making a pretty decent profit off those initial 2-3 hours.

I will say this – it is NOT a get rich quick by any stretch of the imagination. Sales will trickle in very  slowly for the first year or so unless you are either A) extremely well connected to people with money and influence and/or B) the Gandalf of SEO and can wiz traffic to your shop. Let’s face it, most of us are not, lol! So it’s the slow and steady road for us.

Get Out There and Sell!
The other thing to keep in mind is the fact that you do have to do some leg work yourself. Sure sites like Cafe Press and Zazzle have people dedicated to developing their sites’ SEO cause obviously, they want your products to sell cause they also get a cut. However, if you want your shop to grow, you need to do some marketing work of your own. Spread the word through social media like Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and Wanelo. Tell your friends. Buy your own products and become walking advertising. Do what you gotta do, but do it and don’t just sit on your laurels.

I see a lot of people saying ‘I set up my shop a month ago and I’ve not had ONE sale’ and then they get frustrated and chalk it up as a waste of time. Like I said, it’s going to take at least a year to get stuff going depending on how much effort you also throw in. When I started, there were months at a time where nothing happened and I didn’t even get a check. But I kept on marketing and adding new designs and by a year, started to get monthly checks. Not all of them were huge, but I was making sales!

So, hopefully this intro helped you understand a bit of what it is these sites like Cafe Press and Zazzle do and if it’s something you want to jump into. I definitely recommend print on demand as a way to get started. It’s low overhead (you’re not stuck buying a ton of inventory with money you don’t have yet) and allows you to sell your designs on a huge variety of products. Most of these sites have global reach that people starting out rarely have. For a while, I had a world map and would color in the countries where I made sales. I remember feeling really excited when I sold to a customer in the U.A.E. I never thought I would have product selling there!

 

In the following entries, I’ll start to review the pro’s and con’s of specific sites that I’ve used. First up will be Cafe Press 🙂

 

Side note: I only mention Cafe Press and Zazzle in this entry as those are the two large ones and the ones I’m most familiar with. There are a lot of other print on demand companies out there to chose from. Some offer more items than others. Take a look at them and figure out which works best for you to set up shop.

*Not all sites charge a fee to have a shop. Zazzle and Redbubble, the other sites I use are currently free.

April 4, 2014 at 6:38 am 4 comments

Hello from Crazy Land!

I know it’s been really quiet here for the last month or so. Since Fanime, I’ve been doing crazy, mad prep for Anime Expo which is coming up in a few days. I’ll be selling at table B28 in the artist alley so come see me if you’re attending. The Storenvy shop is currently in maintenance mode as they don’t have a vacation mode. Zazzle of course, is open 24/7 so no changes there.

Big news is that I just found out that I’m off the wait list and in at Anime Weekend Atlanta’s artist alley! Super excited about that one cause this will be my first time selling on the eastern half of the US and I’ll get to see some of my deviantART friends that I’ve only corresponded with online so far. I’ll post the table number as soon as I have it and hope to see some of you there.

In other news, Zazzle just launched their new site redesign. I went in and formatted all my stuff for banners and whatnot the other night so things are nice and clean. I really like the new layout. I think it fits in well with my website and the whole Kimchi Kawaii brand look. For some reason, I can’t get a picture of it to upload here, grr. I’ve got a laundry list of stuff to get done for Anime Expo and about 6 more hours to do it all in, so I’ll have to figure that out later. In the meantime, you can click on the link above.

July 2, 2013 at 1:49 am Leave a comment

Why I do Artist Alleys

The other day I took a night off and just laid around and read one of my all time favorite mangas – Dramacon. It’s about Christie and her adventures selling in the artist alley at an anime con. The series is three books long and starts with her first con experience ever and progresses from there. Of course, there is a love interest angle too. As cheesy as it sounds I think one of the reasons that I love these books (other than the fact that they are well written) is it just takes me back to my artist alley experiences.

Granted, I’ve never met the love of my life or been offered a dream job at any of the AA’s I’ve attended (I can only hope that one or the other will happen at a future con when the time is right), but so many other aspects of the books I can relate to.

When you look at it from a purely financial viewpoint, it probably doesn’t make much sense to do these things. We are fighting an uphill battle against a public who is trained in what I call the Walmart Mentality. EVERYTHING should be as cheap as Walmart and if not, it’s too expensive or overpriced. And yet, most of us are setting our prices to be competitive, but working for way lower than minimum wage. When you throw in the cost of cons – registration, AA table, travel, hotel and food, a lot of us are barely breaking even.

We work marathon hours often right up to con on creating inventory. We all freak out and sweat when registration time approaches, canceling social engagements and praying that the power won’t go out or the internet won’t go down. Then, if we get in, we agonize over our table placement and how to get all our stuff there to the con. It can be quite a chaotic ride!

And yet, I keep going back and trying to find more cons to attend. You just can’t put a price on the feeling of interacting with your customers face to face or seeing people getting genuine enjoyment out of your designs. I sell prints with bad puns and I love seeing people halt in their rushing by to look at get a good laugh. And it’s just an awesome atmosphere to be surrounded by 100-300 other creative people. Often, I sit next to total strangers, but by the end of con we’re talking about all kinds of things and exchanging cards. I just feel an ease in an Artist Alley that I don’t get anywhere else. It really is my mother ship 🙂

I’m eagerly awaiting my next con!

May 2, 2013 at 5:21 am 4 comments

Artist Alley Check List: Part 1

Ah yes, it’s a new year and though it’s still freezing outside (for me, literally), you can almost taste the anime con excitement even though the main season is still 4-5 months off. Many cons are launching their registration and home pages now. I have a few that I’m keeping an eye on. I even put them in my calendar so I don’t miss them. With LOTS of alarms to keep me on top of it. Yes, I like attending cons.

I am going into my third year of selling in various artist alleys. AA’s are my best outlet for sales and exposure for my brand. When I first started out, I scoured the internet looking for advice on selling at my own table. Obviously, it’s a constant work in progress, but thought I would compile a list from what I’ve learned online and through personal experience.

Make a List. There are a ton of anime cons out there (at least in my country – the USA) and it can be easy to say ‘I’m gonna do ALL of them!!!!’. Animecons.com has a very good list that is searchable by many different criteria. I went through this site and wrote down the names and dates of the ones that seemed like good choices. I keep this list tacked to my bulletin board by my computer. Things to consider when making this list: smaller ones may be less competitive to get into, but it will be harder to cover expenses, especially if you travel from afar. Don’t discount the small cons, they can be great opportunities to test out your AA strategy, but stay closer to home for those. The further away the con, for me, the bigger it needs to be to increase my chances of covering costs. Sure travel will also increase, but it does expose you to a whole new group of people who may not make it to your hometown. Just make sure to chose wisely and it can pay out in more ways than one.

Keep Up to Date. Most cons have Facebook pages, Tumblrs, Twitters or other social media pages where you can stay on top of the latest news and announcements. If nothing else, they almost always have a forum on their actual site where you can interact and ask questions. I follow most of the cons I’m interested in through FB. I made an interests list called ‘Anime Cons’ and made sure that all cons I like are categorized in that list. This makes it easy for me to get all my news in one area and not miss an announcement in my general FB newsfeed which can get super cluttered. (This is also a great idea for other pages you like on FB. I have other lists for shopping and ‘Kawaii Artists’).

Note the Date Registration Opens. AA’s can be very competitive to get into. While some are actually juried – meaning they grant you acceptance based on your works – many are based on being vigilant and lucky. It’s not uncommon for an AA to launch their AA registration at the top of the hour and sell all 300 tables in 5 minutes. I’m not kidding! So being ready to go and in front of a computer or with a reliable WiFi connection on your mobile device is essential. I actually put the dates in my iPhone calendar with alarms set to remind me the day of. Have all your paperwork ready like permit numbers, registration badge numbers (some cons require you to buy an attendee badge prior to registering for a table and will ask for the number at AA reg). Most of the time, you have a grace period to get in seller’s permit numbers, but I like to take care of as much stuff as I can right then and there. Less to forget about later.

Make sure you are online and ready to go the minute reg opens up. I actually worked it out with my friend for her to come up here instead of me going down there when an AA reg opened up the same weekend we were supposed to hang out. I can’t stress how important it is to get your application in as fast as you can. Fanime last year sold out in about 7 minutes. I heard that SakuraCon for 2013 sold out even faster. It can be a bit stressful, but if you have as much information gathered and at your finger tips as you can, it definitely helps.

Ok, to prevent this from becoming a TL;DR (I suspect that I may have lost some readers already by this point, lol), I am going to break this up into sections. I know I don’t blog that regularly, but I promise, I will be completing this series! I am actually going to start the draft for Part 2 right now, but will just publish it later so as not to scare you off. 🙂

January 23, 2013 at 5:26 am Leave a comment

Fanime: The TL;DR Review

As promised, here is my long, in-depth summary of Fanime weekend, 2012. It’s gonna probably be a long account, so kudos to those who make it to the end of this post, lol!

Friday
Got up at 5:40am so my friend could drop me off at the train station at 6:30 and then took the 7:15 train out for San Jose. It’s about a 3 hour train ride. I really like it actually. It goes along the water for about half of it and some wetlands and so I always get in some impromptu bird watching. I actually saw a swan on the way home. Anyway, I really wanted to take the later train, but then realized that I had two lines to go through before I could get to my table and set up so it was the early train. Well, turns out I had like 30 minutes to set up anyway! There had been some technical issues on Day 0 and then a power outage at the convention center and so there were A LOT more people waiting to get their pre-reg badges on Friday than originally planned. My sis picked me up at 10:13 at the San Jose train station and then we unloaded, parked and waited for nearly 2.5 hours. It was like a line at Disneyland. Just when you think you are almost there, you turn a corner and find that actually, there are about 20 more very long switchbacks still to go through! I saw a lot of fellow artists with all their wares stuck in line before and behind me. Finally, we got checked in and then headed up to the AA. Since most of them were still stuck in line, AA check -in was a breeze. When the Alley opened at 2, some were still filtering in and getting set up as customers came in and out.

This was my first Friday selling, so I really had no idea what to expect. Last year, I just sold Saturday and Sunday. My sis loaded me up with survival rations and then took off for home. I decided that getting up at 5:40, riding the train for 3 hours and then waiting in lines and setting up a table was enough for one day so didn’t cosplay.

Saturday
My sis helped out on Saturday. She was Pikachu with cute ears and tail made by her husband who is pretty crafty with felt, paint and glue! Saturday was definitely the busiest day for me out of all four days. My fake cupcakes were once again a huge draw. They get a lot of attention and so despite them being kind of a pain to pack due to their fragile nature and just bulky shape, I still pack them and bring them with me. I scent them and so when they are all together like at my table the whole area smells like frosting. It’s kind of funny because once people were told they were fake, they were saying ‘Wow, they look so real! I’m even imagining they smell real!’. This year, I had the deluxe ones, medium and minis. The mediums were priced at $10 and sold the best. In the end, I sold about half the cupcakes I took with me. I was actually surprised that my minis didn’t sell as well. I’ve heard from other artists at the AA who were saying that they sold more of what they didn’t think they were going to sell and their expected best sellers barely moved. Strange…

Sunday
Sunday, I had my friend Anne helping me out. She was Jem from the 80’s cartoon, Jem and the Holograms and got lots of comments on her costume. She was originally afraid that no one would recognize her, but there were enough children of the 80’s there 🙂 One person did think she was Pinkie Pie though, lol! Sunday was a lot slower than I expected. I think it was due to my location. I was on the first row on the right side and it wasn’t in direct line with the front door so that meant that traffic was a lot less. When I looked behind me, the middle was a lot busier. I wish we had more control over where we are seated, but it’s pretty much luck of the draw and when you sign up.

Monday
This was the last day of con and only ran til 3. Anne was with me once again. I cosplayed as Esmeralda from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. Got some pretty decent sales as people made their last minute purchases. I ran a button sale in the last 30 minutes and pulled in some 11th hour income. Then, it was time to pack up and head home on the train again. I sent half my stock with Anne who drove. She’s going to repack it and ship it down to my friend’s house in Los Angeles so it will be ready for Anime Expo. Got to talk to some fellow con goers in the train station. We were all joking how we all survived for 4 days off of con vibes and Pocky. I’m pretty sure I ate the equivalent of 3 full meals in the 4 days I was down there. One thing’s for sure, am pretty tired of Subway!

So, what did I think? Well, I’ve always loved Fanime. It was the first con I ever went to and the first one I sold at, so it has a special place in my heart. I love the feel of the Artist Alley. Not to sound too much like a geek, but I really do feel at home there. It’s just so cool to be in a room with 300 other artists who also share a love for Japanese pop culture. I took my list with me of people from dA who I wanted to meet in person. I got to meet a bunch of artists from deviantART for the first time and saw some that I had met last year. Bought some things in the AA. As time goes on, I find myself buying more from the AA than the dealers’ hall. I find so much more original stuff there and I want to support my fellow artists!

I had a much better table set up this year, but I think I don’t register with the lolita community as much as my table isn’t the expected pinks and pastels that are usually associated with lolita. When you’re walking through a room with that many artists and that much visual overload, you start to look for certain things that tell you a table may or will have what you are looking for. I was tabling under Kimchi Kawaii and my colors are primarily green and blue (see my blog banner). I saw a lot of lolitas just walking by. I did get some more of them actually stopping when I was dressed in lolita on Sunday, but I don’t want to lock myself into only wearing lolita at cons. I like to cosplay too. Although, it is kind of funny that this year, I had more people ask to take my picture when I was in lolita than when I was a character. Anyway, my necklaces and hair bows didn’t sell as well as I would have liked, which was a bit of a disappointment. Maybe the loli community is already saturated or already have their favorites.

I did notice that of the things that I sold the most of, it was things with my artwork on it – like my acrylic charms and the buttons were a HUGE seller. Sold out of the pho design again despite taking double of what I took last year. Need to print a TON off for AX. So that made me feel good that people do like my art! The cake boxes did pretty well since they were useful. That was one thing that sometimes turned people away from the cupcakes – they are just decoration whereas the cake box you can store stuff inside. I’m in a bit of a pickle for AX since I sold out of a lot of charms and my supplier takes 5 weeks to turnaround an order. Last year, I didn’t sell many charms and so this year, I did an order right before Fanime once I got checks from my online shops and ordered charms without holes for rings and hair clips. ARGH! So I may take my tools with me and the cell phone straps and just start taking apart earrings if people want the designs on charms. Who knows? AX could be totally opposite and everyone could want earrings there!

I lost a few sales due to the fact that I don’t have a cell phone and credit card reader. Am going to finally get a cell so I can have the Square app for Anime Expo.

On the train ride home, I did my tallies and started making notes for AX. I’ve got 3 weekends to restock and get things ready. Am kinda scared. I heard AX is HUGE and it already took me 3 months to get ready for Fanime! Eek! Am taking these two nights off, but then it’s back to hitting it full time after my day job and all weekend, every weekend. Am setting a financial goal for sales so we’ll see if I make that one. We still don’t have table assignments for that one, but I will post my location as soon as I know! The fact that I’m on crash course for AX means that new digital art from me is still going to be on a bit of hiatus as I frantically work to restock. Hoping to get back to doing some new art though in July! So many designs and ideas! Whew, you made it to the bottom of the novel, I mean journal entry! Congrats!

May 30, 2012 at 6:58 am 1 comment

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