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!

 

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How I Use Pinterest for Reference (and Inspiration)

Gooooooood evening sweet angel kittens.

I figured I’d spread some knowledge around like Nutella on a Ritz for you today. I know you’re all DYING to know how Pinterest can benefit you as an artist. It keeps you up at night, I know. Well, fret no more, for I shall teach you my ways. By the way, if you’re interested to see what I’ve pinned, each first mention of a board will include a link. Feel free to browse my boards and follow me if you like.

The idea to use Pinterest as an artist came to me during my first meeting with my mentor, Jon Schindehette. He suggested I gather all of the art that I feel is kind of similar to what I aim to do with my own art. When he mentioned possibly sticking art to a corkboard, my mind went immediately to the virtual corkboard on which I’ve sunk hours of time on collecting recipes and pictures of cute animals. Thus began my Character Inspiration board.

The biggest benefit of using Pinterest, in my opinion, is that I can collect and save reference and inspiration while mobile, using my smartphone or tablet, via the handy dandy and much user friendly Pinterest app. Here are the boards I have created so far that I use most often for art related activities (and, admittedly, as a time sink when I’m bored). Click the image to visit that board!:

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So, if you’re new to Pinterest, here is a step by step guide to how you can create boards of your own. You’re on your own figuring out how to register… Sorry.

First things first, decide what type of board this one will be.

For this walkthrough, I’ll create a Reference board for Materials, such as gold, gemstones, and marble. I’ll include everything from stone and fur in the future. On your pinterest page, under “Your Profile & Pins”, click the Create New Board square at the top.

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A window will pop up that looks like this:

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Name your board whatever you like. You can also add a description and select what type of board it is. The only thing you truly need is a Name, everything else is extra.

Once you create the board, it will be empty like so:

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Now comes the fun part… finding things to pin! In the top left corner, type in what you want to search. I chose gemstone first. Autofill can often help out:

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A plethora of search results should turn up, unless you’re too specific. Sometimes, you may have to try a variation of search terms to find what you need.

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Look at all the pretty colors

When you see something that tickles your fancy, you can either click it and a window will pop up, or you can hover over it and options for “Pin it” or “Send” will appear. Click Pin It:

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Ooooh, sparkly. Get to hoarding allofthethings! This is where all my time goes. I spend way too much time pinning things, but it comes in handy later. Even if you don’t need something now, if you like it at all and can think of any reason ever you may need it for reference, pin it.

Once you’ve collected a whole bunch of things, your board should look something like this:

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Voila! Super easy and super convenient. Instead of wading through folders on your desktop, everything is right there with a preview image, for easy browsing. If you keep it well organized, you’ll find what you need quicker than a bunny fart.

omgw

Happy pinning!

If you pinned this post… it would be like Pinception.