Sunday 17 March 2024

Caricaturing at events - I start charging, but also a complaint

It was on the second day of the LFCC con in July last year that I started doing caricatures of passers by, in order to attract them to my table which they were otherwise ignoring. At that time I had to nip out to a nearby shop to get some paper at short notice. This time round I turn up with 100 pre-printed sheets with my website address on. By stoppeth-ing one of three and drawing their faces, I do a very good job of ensuring they don't pass me by, and that turns into book sales, a good percentage of the time.

But I was giving the caricatures away for free. I have felt bad about this a few times, especially when I realise my fellow artists on neighbouring tables are trying to make money by charging for doing drawings of people. And it was a conversation with fellow artist Grant Perkins on this very subject, while setting up for Saturday's one day UK Comics & Gaming Convention at Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol, that made me realise quite what I was doing and how I really ought to change my practice.

So, as you can see above, some nifty last minute modifications of a cardboard box turned it into a donations box. Then all that was needed was a change to my spiel when approaching punters - from "let me draw you, it's free" to "you don't need to keep this, it's free if you buy a book, or a small donation in the box and it's yours, or I can keep it" (or permutations thereof, which I experimented with through the day) and suddenly I had changed what I do at comic and bookselling events.

Now I'm no longer giving my art away free, I'm not drastically undermining my fellow artists' businesses, and - revelation of revelations - I'm taking in more money. Quite a lot more money, when you do the simple maths. I arrive with 100 pre-printed pages and I use all of those and more during the course of the day. Which means, charging two quid for each drawing, I'm suddenly taking a minimum of £200 from the drawings alone, with a good few of those then turning into book sales. Re - as they say - sult.

My takings for the day are recorded and itemised here in my March Live Book Sales blog, and I can say I'm happy with them.

Oh and, for the record, only two people out over over a hundred left me their caricatures without paying for them, and they were a couple of Spanish students, so possibly hadn't quite understood the nature of my garbled proposition (or thought their drawings were crap, who knows?). The next test of my convention practices will be at Swansea in April.

UPDATE: March 28th. I may need to think yet again about my caricaturing at events, having learned that it's not universally popular. As I noted above, it was at LFCC in July 2023 that I first came up with the idea of drawing people's caricatures to draw them to my table. As my blog from that day records, I'd sold only one book on the Friday (though I'd sold some original art), and sold £118 worth of books on the Saturday (£50 less than the same day the previous year). So on the Sunday I started "reaching out" by drawing passers by, and using that to entice them to my table, and lo by the end of that day I'd sold more than at any previous event. 

Everyone was happy, it seemed. So I used this technique again at NICE in September and The Lakes in October, all to great effect, and returned to LFCC in November to do more of the same. It went well I thought. Until today, four months later, when I asked about coming to LFCC July. Tony replied...

"...Back in November, you attended the London Comic Con Winter, and after the event had finished, I learned from Showmasters that we'd had several complaints about you. Two of which had come from separate members of the audience, and one had come from one of the Artist Alley exhibitors on the other side of the walkway from us. 

In a nutshell, it was your selling technique that caused the issues. 

The two complaints were from people who felt uncomfortable that you'd accosted them in the middle of the area, walking from your table, and hijacking them for a sketch they didn't want, and both felt uncomfortable and obligated to walk over and look at your table.

Now having been with you for most of the weekend, sitting next to you, I know you were just doing selling techniques, and you weren't that forceful. But obviously, some people out of the day had issues with you doing this.

In addition to this, one of the artist alley exhibitors had complained that at least  two people who were considering whether to approach their stand, were stolen by you, walking out over to their side of the area, and bringing the people across to your table. 

Now I've known you for years, Kevin, and I know you're very enthusiastic, and sometimes your enthusiasm does overspill, and I shot this one down - they can’t prove their low sales were down do you, for example :)

But I've been told by showmasters that if you are returning, you have to tone this level of sales down. Yes, you can of course go to the other side of the table and talk to people, but you cannot stalk the walkways, bringing people to your table...."

So, what to do? I've said I'd like to return to LFCC, but should I? And will this technique turn out to be upsetting people at every event I go to, and I've just been oblivious to it? My next event is a week away in Swansea, so I shall give it some thought before then.

UPDATE: (March 31) Having spent a few days over Easter weekend troubled by the email above, feeling like I'd really done something wrong, and agonising over how to proceed, I've processed my thoughts. I think I can put the complaint in context.

I've received one complaint, from two punters and one exhibitor, at one event. Complaints so serious that nobody mentioned them to me at the time, and have only brought them up now, four months later, when I ask about returning to the event. Now, since I started doing this free caricaturing to entice people to my table, at their event in July, I've done exactly the same thing at a dozen events since. I've calculated that I draw 100 caricatures per day at these events. So, since last summer, I've given away over 1000 such caricatures.

And of the 1000 people to whom I've given the gift of a caricature, only two have subsequently gone to the organisers and said they "felt uncomfortable that you'd accosted them" and "felt uncomfortable and obligated to walk over and look at your table". Two. Out of a thousand. And both of them at the same event, in London. Does this say something universally damning about my technique? Or does this suggest that those punters at that event were, possibly, an outlier?

I shall proceed with caution, obviously, and be extra aware of the sensitivity of any potential caricaturee. And, if I've ever "stalked the walkways" I'll definitely dial down the stalkerness. But if, as I suspect, 998 out of every 1000 recipients of one of my caricatures doesn't mind it that much, I might just stop beating myself up about it.

My Books and where to get them:

Richard The Third Amazon - Etsy - Barnes & Noble - Waterstones
Findlay Macbeth - Amazon  - Etsy 
Prince Of Denmark Street - Amazon - Etsy - Kindle
Midsummer Nights Dream Team  - Amazon Etsy 
Shakespeare Omnibus Collection (all 3 books) - Amazon

Tales From The Bible - Amazon -  Etsy - Webtoons
The Book Of Esther - Lulu  - Amazon Webtoons
Captain Clevedon - Amazon
Tales Of Nambygate - Amazon  

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...