So you want to know about Craft Fairs?

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On many of the Webcomic Alliance podcasts, we’ve talked at length about comic book conventions…  such as what goes in to securing a table in Artist Alley, what types of things sell well or how to develop an effective “elevator pitch” for your comic, to name just a few comic book convention topics we have covered.

We have also talked about other places where one might go in order to promote their work like Free Comic book day or finding a place to participate in the 24 hour comic book challenge. Robin has talked about getting involved with libraries while Dawn has talked about events in her own neighborhood.  I’ve even mentioned how, one summer, I set up a table at a local event called “Beagle Fest”, where people could bring their own beagles or adopt new ones.

But since this is the holiday season, I thought I’d talk a little bit about another kind of event people on Facebook and Twitter have asked me about and that is… Craft Fairs.

Last year was my first time attending any kind of craft fair and I did so mainly because Dawn said she had attended a few in and around Philadelphia and suggested I should look into them around my area, so I did. I did some research and ended up attending two craft fairs last year. I just finished attending both of those same craft fairs this year. Because of that, I thought I’d give you kind of a “Craft Fair Checklist”, if you will, explaining some things you’ll need to know if you’re interested in attending such an event.  Here are all of the things I discovered at the specific craft fairs I have attended:

    1.  Craft Fairs are completely different than Comic Book Conventions
      That should be pretty logical, right? But there’s more to it than that. Craft Fairs can have a completely different application process than a typical comic book convention.Some Craft Fairs required a juried process where you have to submit your art for approval while others simply want a description of what you are planning on selling. Last year, I didn’t have enough time to put together a sample pack of my art to send to a juried craft fair show so I mainly stuck to the two that just required me to fill out an application and send in my check
    2.  Craft Fairs can be VERY expensive or very economical
      One of the biggest craft shows in Virginia is held for a three day weekend in Fredericksburg, Virginia – about 45 minutes from my house.  I didn’t attend that particular show because the fee to attend such a show was greater than my most expensive show, Heroes Con.The numbers might have changed last year but I believe a 10×10 foot booth for the event would have been around $350. That’s not too bad but since I had never attended a Craft Fair before, I didn’t want to take such a large economical risk by attending a show where I knew people might not “get” what I was selling. I wanted to try my hand at a couple of smaller, local shows first to see how my stuff might go over before committing to something larger.I ended up getting accepted at two local shows that were being held for one day each at two different elementary schools. Getting a “spot” at both shows cost me less than $40 each.
    3. Invest in a foldable table
      For Craft Fairs, you rent a spot – not a table. For the most part, you are responsible for your own table and set-up. Nothing is provided for you. The first craft fair I attended last year did offer to rent me a  six foot cafeteria-style table for a total of $35. If I had my own table, the fee for the event would have only been $25.The day after the event, I went to my local Sam’s Club and bought a five foot foldable table for the same price, $35 because the second show wasn’t offering any tables and I needed something – plus, the extra table has actually come in handy for different family events such as a home party celebrating my daughter’s graduation from high school this past summer.
    4. You need to expect to donate something
      Since both of my events were being held at an elementary school, they each held raffles for various items throughout the day in order to generate revenue for each school’s PTO. On both applications, every attendee was asked to donate something equaling $10 or more.For both events last year – and the ones this year – I put together “goodie bags” that consisted of various things from my table… a couple of prints, a completed sketch card that hadn’t sold yet, a blank sketch card so the winner could make their own sketch card… things like that
    5. You really have to like kids
      Since both Craft Fairs were taking place at elementary schools, there were lots of kids attending. If you’re not into kids, you may want to re-think the possibility of attending a craft fair – especially if that craft fair is being held at a school.
    6. Your Craft Fair set-up has to be different than your Comic Book Convention set-up
      Not only do lots of kids attend craft fairs but so do MOMS. So, you better make sure your set-up caters to that particular crowd. For instance, I don’t set up my illustration banner because it prominently features the Earth-2 Catwoman that has an open v-shaped costume down to her belt buckle on her waist. For comic books, it is extremely tame – especially given my cartoony style – but for a craft fair attended by lots of kids and their moms… totally inappropriate. So, I just display my Capes & Babes banner featuring Roy using his cell phone camera. And, even though I tend to worry about the fact that my banner has a huge “BABES” on it, no one has said anything to me yet about that banner so I figure I’m safe with that one.
    7. Be prepared to explain what you do – A LOT
      This is even more true if you decide to have anything comic book-related on your table. Again, there will be a totally different audience at craft fairs so be fully prepared to explain, in great detail, exactly what a “sketch cover” is or even what a “sketch card” is because there will be lots of people there that simply won’t understand what you are talking about. It may even be beneficial to not even display your sketch covers.Why? Because…
    8. Big, pricey items usually don’t sell
      All of my sketch covers usually start in the $40 range. That tends to be way too pricey for a small, one-day craft fair. For these types of shows – remember – your audience usually consists of moms and kids. Moms are usually looking for some hand-made items that don’t cost an arm and a leg. They aren’t looking for any expensive, hand-drawn art – which is what a sketch cover usually is. I have had the most success at craft fairs making sure everything is priced in the $5 – $20 range. That typically includes individual prints, key chains, sketch cards and maybe an individual book or two.
    9. You will most likely be the only artist at a craft fair
      Usually, at comic book conventions, you’re competing with a large number of other artists but at craft fairs, your competition will usually consist of people who knit things or make quilts, make their own jellies and jams, sell woodworking items, make their own jewelry and things like that. You will most likely be the only artist or cartoonist there but that is neither a good thing nor bad. It some cases, it can be either.What I mean by that is although you won’t have any other artistic competition, you will most likely be an odd ball from what people are used to seeing at craft fairs so they may take a while to approach your table or be open to what you are offering and/or selling. But usually, their curiosity gets the better of them and once they approach your table and you explain what you do, they become very interested and accepting of it.
    10. Craft Fairs tend to have shorter hours
      Comic Book Conventions usually will run in the 5-7 hour range. They usually start around 10:00am and run from 5-7:00pm.The craft fairs I attended had very short hours. Both craft fairs I have attended had hours of 9:00am to 3:00pm. That’s not a whole lot of time to make a lot of sales so if you’re hoping to make a lot of money at a craft fairs, you should not consider them.However, if you’re just looking for some extra holiday spending money, craft fairs might just be the sort of thing to add to your end-of-the-year appearance list. The event hours are short so if you find a local craft fair in your area, it won’t be a huge time commitment and you could potentially make an extra $100 or so you didn’t have the week before.But another word of caution too…
    11. Be prepared for Christmas caroling
      At the two elementary schools that were holding the craft fairs I attended, they combined the craft fair with a holiday school event – which meant Santa and Mrs. Clause showed up to take pictures with all the kids and various classes had a holiday chorus where they sang various Christmas and holiday songs for 30-45 minutes.If you dislike any of these things, you may want to reconsider craft fairs or check out your local craft fairs before you decide to attend. If you like what you see, it would be the perfect opportunity to talk to the event’s organizer and see if you could get an application for next year.

And now a final few words about my own personal experiences going to craft fairs…

As I mentioned above, craft fairs are VERY different than comic book conventions. Your audience will be completely different than what you might be accustomed to and you may not be able to sell everything you have to offer, but they can be just as much fun as conventions if you have the right attitude.

Personally, I wasn’t expecting to make a huge amount of money. I simply wanted to try craft fairs out to see what they might be like and also make a little bit of extra Christmas spending money. As far as I’m concerned, there really isn’t a downside to attending the small craft fairs. Both of the shows I attended are in short driving distance from my house, the time commitment is minimal and, because I only have a five foot table for these shows, my set-up and break down is very easy and extremely manageable. The cost of attending the craft fairs I attended were very minimal as well. I can easily handle a $25 fee for space and a $10 donation of anything of my choice.

For me, attending a couple of local craft fairs at the end of the year – and right before Christmas – makes all of the sense in the world to me. If you have found any (or all) of the previous tips helpful, perhaps craft fairs are something you should consider adding to your appearance list.

You can easily find craft fair listings in your area with a simple Google search or do as I did… if you see a sign for a craft fair on the side of the road, write down the phone number or call the school that is holding the event, and then ask what steps you have to take in order to attend and participate. Usually, it’s that simple.

I wish you guys all the luck!

Posted in Business, Conventions, Featured News, Helpful Hints.


    • I’ll chime in. I tend to sell more actual books at craft fairs, art/book festivals. The prints, button packs, Tshirts, commissions– they have a more of a place at comic cons. I think the typical crowd at craft fairs “get” a comic book or kids book, but prints/commissions make little sense to them. However, my prints will still get attention, which is good.

    • Huh… I never saw this reply show up in my inbox until Dawn posted her reply. Sorry about that Rod.

      Okay, for the last two years, I’ve gone to the same two craft fairs held at relatively local elementary schools. Unlike Dawn, my books did nada… the best things for me – by far – have been my caricature sketch cards. I did a lot of them last year and quite a few this year.

      The first year, I didn’t have any prints or any Minion mash-up work. I was expecting to sell a lot of my Minion prints this year. One craft fair was really good in terms of print sales – the other one, not so much.

      So, for me, my caricature sketch cards and some of my minion mash-up prints were my best sellers.

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