You’ll encounter all sorts of people at anime cons. You may already know that, because you’ve probably been attending cons for years, but here’s a few over-generalized stereotypes you may encounter in the artist alley. I’m alternating genders for ease of use here, although every single one of these people can be male, female, both, or neither.
Even though many congoers can be annoying, remember that every interaction you have is being watched by potential customers. If you snap and blow up at someone, your sales will drop. The customers won’t know or care if your freak-out was provoked or well-justified, they’ll just avoid your table. If you sense that you’re about to lose your cool, remove yourself from the situation. Ask your minion, the artist sitting next to you, or one of the artist alley staff to take over and mind the table for a few minutes, and go for a short walk and get a drink of water, or something else that will let you cool down.
That Creepy Guy
Every con has their own That Creepy Guy. And it’s usually a guy, although you occasionally get a creepy woman. This is a person who has specialized tastes in art, and is not shy about asking you to draw them or about showing you examples. This isn’t a problem if you’re secure enough to clearly express yourself when the requests get out of your comfort zone, and most times That Creepy Guy will go away when you say “I’m sorry, but I’m not comfortable with that,” leaving you with a great story to tell your friends (“A picture of a furry? With her feet stuck in glue? Really?” TRUE STORY).
If you don’t have a problem with drawing pictures tailored to his particular fetishes, he usually will be willing to spend a lot of money on commissions. But if you feel the least bit uncomfortable with any of his requests, or he crosses a line (like the one who asked female artists if they’d draw themselves with him), you should draw the line and say no. Usually, he complies and moves on to the next artist.
Occasionally, however, That Creepy Guy won’t take no for an answer. Maybe you’ve been socialized to try to stay nice to people and you hedge your refusal with so many words that he thinks he can persuade you to say yes. Or you are young and cute and he tries to bully you into agreeing. Or he just has a complete lack of social skills and doesn’t realize he’s crossed the line. Be firm and resolute! If he continues to push, use a loud, clear voice and ask your neighbor or a passer-by to go get Security. If he’s still there when Security arrives, tell them that this guy has trouble taking no for an answer, and let them take care of it. That’s what they’re there for.
If someone continues to harass you, consider escalating to the con’s administrative staff. You’re probably not the only person they’ve harassed at this or other cons, and people need to know this sort of behavior will not be tolerated.
The One Trying to Meet Your Agent
If you’re a professional artist or writer, you’ve met this one before. She thinks getting published is solely a matter of being introduced to the right person, *and* that you will introduce her to your agent or publisher without knowing her and without reading her book.
Luckily, if you claim you don’t have an agent or a publisher she will drop you like a hot potato and move on, and if you do have one, you’ve probably already developed strategies for politely getting rid of her. A writer I know eagerly recommends agent blogs and gives generic advice ad infinitum until the person gives up and goes away.
The Guy Who Wants You to Draw His Manga/Comic/Graphic Novel
Ah, yes. This is quite often the one who is convinced that he is the next Alan Moore or Grant Morrison, and is looking for an artist. He’s inevitably a super-hero writer, and when you protest that you don’t draw super-heroes, claims that his super-heroes are different. Or he really hasn’t the slightest idea about art, about how difficult it is to switch art styles, what he really ought to be looking for in an artist, how to write a sequential story (or how to write at all!), or about the realities of the publishing industry.
If you are an artist looking for a writer, you might find one at a convention. Talk to each potential writer for a while and feel out how much he knows about the publishing industry. If he talks about splitting the money once the book is published, think twice. If he talks about drawing the entire book before submitting it to the publisher, think twice. But if he mentions something about giving you a kill fee for your work on character design and the pitch package if the book isn’t picked up, he may actually have a clue about the business. If he wants to see samples of your sequential art before committing to a partnership, he might know a bit about comics.
If he looks at your entire table of manga-style art, then places a finger on the one non-manga style picture you have and says “I want you to draw the book in this style!” then thank him politely and send him on his way, because he’s obviously not paying attention to what your strength is. (Or does that only happen to me?)
At any rate, if he annoys you within thirty seconds of talking to him, think twice, because if you end up working with him, you’re going to have to deal with him a lot and he’s only going to get worse. You can always give him your email address, tell him to send the script, and then never reply to his email if it’s truly awful and you don’t want to say no directly.
The Kid Who Wants You To Look At a Sketchbook
I haven’t run into this one too much recently, but she was quite common in the past. This is usually a kid or teenager carrying a sketchbook around who shoves it at you with a mumbled “Mrbrmbmbrmrbrmbmrbrm” and then stands back and waits expectantly for you to do something.
You’re going to have to ask her to clarify whether she wants you to (a) draw in the sketchbook, (b) critique the sketchbook, or (c) look at the art and tell her how good an artist she is without critique. Because if you guess and get it wrong, she’s going to get offended.
The Guy Who Lectures You About Your Market
This is the guy who shows up, looks at all your artwork or crafts, and then tells you how much more money you would be making if you were just doing something else. It never occurs to him that you’ve been doing this for years and just might know what the hell you’re doing.
(It occurs to me that by writing this Survival Guide, I might be this guy. At least I’m not lecturing you at your table and I promise to listen to your experiences!)
A good way to handle this guy is to politely say, “Thank you for your advice,” and then get busy doing something else: art, inventory, straightening the table, or getting a friend to watch the table while you get a drink of water. The idea is to remove yourself from the situation before you’re rude to him. You never know who might be watching.
The Photographer Who Steals Your Cosplaying Customers
I have lost more potential customers to her than I can count. (Second only to cosplayers’ cellphones.) She’s the one who, when a cosplayer is bending over your portfolio, comes up, interrupts him, and asks for a pose. Quite often the cosplayer’s attention is diverted, your table is forgotten, and he goes on his merry way. And then the photographer doesn’t even have the class to come look at your table in apology.
A tactic to combat this, provided you have a camera, is to tell the cosplayer, “She’s right: that’s a wonderful costume. Would you let me take your picture when she’s done?” Or offer to hold the cosplayer’s stuff while he poses. The cosplayer returns to your table after the other photographer is done, and you can continue.
The One With Some Sort Of Vague Business Proposition You Can’t Understand
He doesn’t seem to be a writer, and might fancy himself a publisher, or maybe an agent, or some sort of wholesaler, but has such a loose grasp of business (and, perhaps, reality) that he can’t communicate exactly what his business proposal is. (Or maybe it’s only me that encounters him?) Combat him by handing him a business card and saying “That sounds really interesting. Email me after the con and we can continue this discussion.” And then you can answer or ignore his email as you like.
The One Who Wants Free Art
Ah, yes. She comes up to you and asks for a picture, and when you indicate your commission prices, says, “Can I have a sketch for free?” This isn’t a problem if you’re offering free con sketches, or if she easily takes no for an answer, but she quite often tends to get miffed when you refuse and point out that you pay rent with the money you get.
But you’ve probably met her online: she’s the one who notes you on your DeviantArt account and asks for a free picture and then gets huffy at you when you turn the request down.
The One Who Wants a Discount on One Item
This guy is the one who subscribes to the policy of “if you don’t ask for it, you won’t get it,” and asks every merchant in every store he goes into to knock a bit off the price of the purchase. It’s not particularly annoying if he’s buying several items from you, and you might even agree in that case, but when he’s buying a $3 keychain and to knock a bit off the price would destroy all your profit, it’s more so. It especially becomes a pain when he won’t take no for an answer and starts to argue with you.
I have no idea why he thinks arguing is likely to make anyone give him a discount.
The One Who Wants an Art Lesson
She’s not bad, actually, except when she wants an art lesson and you’re trying to sell items to three people at once, or when she gets annoyed that you have to keep interrupting the lesson to talk to customers. It does feel nice when someone likes your art enough to want to draw like you.
If you don’t have time at the con, hand her a business card and ask her to email you later. Or you can ask her to come back at a specific time that you know will be a dead time, or you can say, “Why don’t you come back at x time. I’m going to be working on a commission then and would be happy to tell you some of my process while I work.”
The Control-Freak Commissioner
The issue here is that he has such a detailed picture in his mind of what he wants his commission to look like that he can’t let go and let the artist work. If you’re good at adapting your style to fit someone’s needs, then he’s not a problem, but if you need more room in which to work and to express your interpretation, then he might be a pain to work with.
Unfortunately, you often don’t realize which kind of artist you are and which kind of commissioner he is until you’re halfway through the picture, when you’re driving each other nuts.
The One Who Won’t Shut Up and Go Away
You are her new best friend! And she wants to tell you everything about her life, her favorite anime, her dog, her classes, the latest book she read, the artist down the way who did something weird, all the art she’s commissioned this year, her thoughts on yaoi, etc. etc. ad infinitum, until you are ready to clutch your hair and scream.
If you have commissions, you can get rid of her easily by waiting until she takes a breath and leaping in with “It’s been great talking to you, but I’ve got to get this done before the commissioner comes back! So nice to meet you! Enjoy the rest of the con!”
If you’re not doing commissions, it’s a bit harder.I usually start interrupting her to say hello to people browsing the table, and to sell things to them. She eventually gets bored and wanders off to talk to someone else. If it’s a slow day, however, and you’re not enough of a jerk to tell her to go away to her face, you may be stuck with her for a while.
The One Who Wants to Come Back Later
Every convention I’ve had a table at, someone has come up to me and asked me to hold an item for him so he can come back later and buy it. I’ve only had it happen one time, at one convention.
I’m still slightly optimistic and if I have plenty of copies of the item, I’ll hold one aside, but if I don’t, I’ll refuse. Maybe you’ve had better luck than I have with this guy.
The One Who Photographs Your Art
There’s a reason art shows don’t allow people to take photos: that way they can enjoy the art without paying for it. This person may not take her camera into the art show, but she sees nothing wrong with coming up to your table, snapping pictures of your artwork, and wandering off without buying.
It’s up to you whether you want to say anything to her. I don’t bother because my prints are in plastic sheets in a portfolio and I know the reflection from the camera’s flash will obscure most of the picture. She could get a better version for free from my DeviantArt gallery. Any photographer who’s experienced enough to own a fancy camera with the flash offset to the side enough to avoid the reflection, or to use a film speed fast enough to take a decent picture without the flash, is experienced enough to understand why taking photos of artwork that she doesn’t intend to buy is bad.