How to Pitch Yourself to Local Shops (fantasy illustrator)

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I’ve been asked by a few people how I got stores to invite me to attend in-store events such as the pre-release for Dragons of Tarkir. I am not a Magic: the Gathering artist… yet. How did I get noticed by local stores?

This post will talk about how I specifically made this happen, but the methods can be applied for many different types of artists. My hope is that you can get yourself in front of a local fanbase, which is the beginning of really taking control of your own art career!

1. Identify stores with products or art that is similar to your own.

First things first (I’m the realest). What type of art do you produce? For me, it was really easy to find which stores may be interested in my art, because I am a Fantasy RPG artist. My paintings already seem to fit well in games such as Magic: the Gathering, Lord of the Rings LCG, Pathfinder RPG, and Game of Thrones LCG. Knowing this, I located stores in my area (a radius of approximately 2 hours) that hold events that cater to games such as these. Friday Night Magic, Sunday D&D, Thursday Night Commander, etc. It does help that I have clients such as Fantasy Flight Games and Paizo, though, but that is just another bonus selling point. Figure out your specific bonus selling points!

2. Prepare your pitch.

These stores are running a business. While a few of them will be interested in supporting local artists (these gems are amazing to find, by the way, much love to store owners who want to showcase local talent.), most of them are going to be more interested in what your presence in their store will do for them. In my case, I sell playmats that tabletop gamers are interested in and I am open to sketch commissions. Custom ACEO sketch cards are a great low-dollar item you can offer to fans and gamers to decorate their card boxes or to be used as tokens in-game.

Before you go to the location, gather up your merchandise and do not forget business cards! At the very least, you can ask if you can leave behind a few cards, and customers may contact you for commissions. Take 1 or 2 of each item you want to offer into the store with you, but have more in the car! If they want to carry your merchandise, it’ll help if you have plenty on offer.

Knowing that many gamers are eager to pick up original art to show off during tournaments, you can talk to the owner/manager of the store about the possibility of advertising your appearance in conjunction with a tournament or expansion release date to draw in more players. Once you’ve had one successful in-store event, players generally ask the store employees when you’ll be returning!

Another thing I do as an incentive for the store is offer my merchandise at a discount for them to sell at retail. That way, everyone makes a cut of the profit. Some stores will go for this, especially if they want to support a local artist, and some will pass up the deal because my prices will generally be higher than, say, StarCityGames.com or another mass producer of playmats. That’s fine. Maybe they’ll do consignment. Or maybe they’re only interested in having you come by for appearances. Decide what you’re comfortable with, and be flexible!

Me upon introducing myself:

3. Ask yourself all of these questions, and have answers ready:

How much are you selling your item for at retail? How much are you willing to mark it down for retailers? For what percentage are you willing to sell it on consignment?

Generally, I mark off about 10% for retailers for consignment, and up to 20% for retail (meaning, they buy the item outright, and sell it for whatever they think it will sell). Keep in mind that, while you won’t make as much cash off of a transaction when dealing with the retailers, you are getting your products in front of the public in ways you may not have been able to before. The in-store appearances are where you’ll make the best cash!

4. Be presentable.

This seems like common sense, but I’m going to include it anyway. When I make the rounds to introduce myself to new store managers/owners, and especially when I show up for an in-store appearance, I make sure I’m at the top of my game. Not only does a kick ass outfit and on-point hair and makeup look nice, it makes me feel more confident! So, take the time to make yourself look amazing, and you’ll feel amazing.

5. Follow up!

One of the best things you can do, especially if you left the store with a lot of maybes, is to follow up with either an email or a phone call. I tend to lean toward email for myself, because I’m better with the written word than the spoken. I can review what I’m going to say, as well as have a record of the conversation afterward.

Remind them of who you are, who you spoke with at the store, and what you discussed. Let them know of your availability. Assert yourself, politely, on the assumption that of course they want you to attend an in-store event!

6. Extra Credit!

Another way to get “in” with local shops is to become a frequent flyer. Go to the location, play their games or interact with the employees. Be friendly and develop a (friendly, professional) relationship. Networking is key, and it will get you everywhere you want to go. I have an entire blog post about networking planned, so check back for that!

I hope this has helped you, and remember to be creative in your approach. Put yourself in their shoes and figure out what will benefit everyone involved. Do you have any suggestions that should be included in this post, or any creative ideas for what works for you? Post them in the comments!

In another post, I’ll talk about how to have a successful event and what kind of merchandise I’ve learned moves well!

 

If You’re Not Already Aware… (today we’re dreaming big)

…Jeremy Jarvis, art director for Magic: the Gathering, announced this week that changes have been made to the perks that MtG artists enjoy. It’s being talked about all over, for good reason. Read more about it on these blogs, because Jon and Dan. That’s it, just… because Jon and Dan.

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I read on Muddy Colors that Jeremy’s response when asked why they made these changes was this:

A huge part of Magic: the Gathering, both as part of the game and as a hallmark of the brand as a whole, is the incredible quality of the artwork. We realize what an enormous contribution the artwork makes. We also realize that we are dependent on a healthy, happy group of professional illustrators to create this amazing work. I literally can not do my job with out the strong drawing arms of men and women more talented than myself bracing me up. Magic strives to be a great client for these artists, and it is very exciting to be able to add a dollar value to that sentiment.

So the breakdown is this. Based on what I’ve read on ArtPact (you do have an account there, right? If you’re a freelancer, you neeeeeeeed to have an account there!), Wizards pays anywhere from $850 to $1500 depending on the card and the artist they’ve hired to work on said card (my numbers may not be accurate, but those are what I’ve read). That’s a pretty chunk of change, if you ask my humble opinion. That buys a whole lot of pizza rolls.

Now, MtG has increased their pay rates by 20%.

Let’s do some math here… 850 x .20 = 170. 850 + 170 = 1,020. That’s for the low end of the spectrum. So now, 1500 x .20 = 300. $1800 for one card.

Now, obviously we do our art all for the love of it, right? Right. But, we all have bills to pay (thanks OBAMA! just kidding). What if it only takes you a week turnaround on a card and you start getting hired by a company that pays $1800 a week?

Let’s dream big and say you do one Magic card every week for a year. Know what you’d make that year?

$93,000.

Moving on.

I’m not aware of how many artist proofs (also know as “whitebacks” because the card is sent to the artist with a blank, white back, and the artist is free to keep or sell them) the MtG artists were allowed before, but they have increased the number of artist proofs for limited run products by 55%.

Magic already allows for the artist to sign, alter, sketch on the back, etc., and sell their artist proofs at conventions. Now, they get moooaaaaarrrr proofs to sell. Woo!

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Thirdsly, their policy on how much WoTC/M:tG artwork you can include in your personal artbook was 25%. What this meant for artist was that if your primary income was from Magic cards… you couldn’t really produce your own artbook to sell to your fans.

Guess what, you guys. That has all changed.

They now allow for 75% of an artist’s artbook to contain WoTC owned work.

That is HUGE for those elite artist’s who have portfolios chock full of Planeswalkers. So happy for those guys.

Lastly, if you’re not already in the know, WoTC allows the artist to sell the original painting, which is already awesome. I’ve seen paintings by Terese Nielsen listed for $2,900. By the way, her art is amazing. Srsly.

With the existence of ArtPact, where artists are able to review their working experience with every company imaginable, this will likely cause other companies to have to improve their perks and pay for the artists, if they want to attract the big hitters and have great art.

Magic the Gathering has become more awesome, and being the industry leader, the likelihood that this will flow downhill and force other companies to change their policies is high. One can hope!

Ok, so I’ve used an exorbitant amount of gifs to say not a whole lot, so I’ll bid you adieu.