Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Con Prep: Lining Up Commissions, Funds, & Making A Plan

Boston Comicon is now 3 weeks away which means I am in full preparation mode. I have three more Con Prep posts in mind, including todays.

So far I have discussed:

1) Commissions and sketch decisions
2) Source material for commissions

Today I will talk about lining up commissions and making a plan. My last two Con Prep posts will talk about signature preparations and then overall con survival. I guarantee you, by the end of this blog series you will see the tiny bit of obsession and over-preparation that invades my mind around conventions.

The first thing I think needs to be discussed is squirreling away funds for commissions and the convention in general.

Remember that when at a con, there are innumerable ways to hemorrhage cash. The tickets. The comics and merchandise on sale. Parking costs (if applicable). Eating out. And then commissions if you go to a con to get artist sketches.  I think it is imperative to plan ahead when it comes to how much money you are willing to bring to the con and make sure to add the costs of those ancillary things into the budget. Remember that for most of us, there is a limit to how much you can spend. Money spent on sketches cannot be spent on comics and vice versa. Figure out what your goals for the convention are.

I will admit that I am lucky enough to have a job that has extra shifts available. I always plan to work an extra shift the month before con season to try to have a little slush fund for the con.

Now, for me, the primary goal for conventions is often to get commissions from artists whose work I love. And so I do some prep work before the convention to try to set things up.

1) Make a list of potential commission artists. I take a look at the guests and make a list of artists who I would like to get a commission from. Often times the list is long. So I try to prioritize the artists into tiers. Who do I really want?

2) Do the research. Head to the web and see if the artist has a site.
  • Does the artist do convention sketches? 
  • Is there a price guide for them (often there are different prices based on size, type of sketch (head sketch vs body vs color, etc)? 
  • Does the artist limit to a certain number per day? 
  • Is there a way to get onto the sketch list early?  
The answer to these questions might change your initial list. Some artists have been too expensive for me. Others don't do sketches at all. Be prepared to alter your plans.

A couple of things to consider when looking at artist's web sites.
  • Web sites might talk about commissions but that might not be talking about sketches done at    the convention itself
  •  The artist might be able to do the commission before the show. These can be pricier but higher quality pieces. This doesn't work for me given my use of a sketch book
 3) Reach out.
  • Many web sites have a way to contact the artist via a question section or email
  • Twitter is also a good way to reach out to the artist personally if you want to try
Usually when I email the artist, I discuss some of the questions above. Often I can't find the answers to the questions I try to answer in the research phase without reaching out. I will tell the artist which days I'll be at the con, the fact that I use a sketch book, etc. Sometimes the artist will hold a spot for you on their commission list up front.

And then, understand, sometimes steps 2 and 3 come up empty. Sometimes you just don't know about availability or pricing or anything.

4) Process and make a plan.
This is perhaps the hardest step. Because the truth you have to juggle a lot of moving parts.
  • Price - sometimes this is the simplest make or break step
  • Popularity - understand that popular artists are going to most likely have lots of people asking for commissions. If you are looking at a popular artist, you should get to the con early and head to the table early
  • Availability - understand that if the artist only does a handful of commissions that the list may fill early. If you are looking at an artist with limited availability, you should head to that table early.
  • The unknown - if you know nothing about the artist's commission schedule but a piece from that artist is the primary goal of the convention, you should head to that table early. Just be aware that you may walk away despondent if it turns out that the artist isn't sketching. Also, in the time you were there, you may have lost out on another opportunity with another artist. 
  • If the convention has a map of artist alley available before the con, map out where people are.
The plan is primary. Who do you head to first? And then who? And then who?

So what have I done for Boston? Well, I contacted an artist and secured a spot on their commission list already. I contacted another artist I was very interested in and learned they only do three commissions per day at the show. Since there is a limitation, I will head to that artist's table first. The last artist in the top tier is a complete unknown, although there are YouTube videos of them sketching at shows.

So the plan of attack for my three sketch books will be:
1) Artist who limits to three commissions first. Hopefully make the cut.
2) Then artist I secured the spot with second. I think as a show of good faith and so the artist can get started in the book, I need to drop of the book early in the show with them. I don't want to keep that artist waiting.
3) Then the unknown artist third, knowing they might not sketch at all or that their list is already filled.

Based on the outcome of this early strategy (both success and funds), I sometimes will start to think about possibly getting other commissions.

Lastly, although I know it is highly unlikely that she will be sketching, Amanda Conner remains the Grail piece. Wish me luck.

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