• Selling Arts and Crafts Part 4: What to ask the promoter

    Meet your promoter ahead of showtime. Entering a craft show you invest much of yourself and your resources, so it is not more than logic to ask questions before you enter.
    Once you have decided you are selling your arts and crafts and where to participate, there are a few things you need to know, because the more you know the better prepared you will be.

    First, let me share about our first experience, so you will not be taken to the cleans applying to an expensive show:

    We really were going to do this show, since we knew all about good and bad shows (Oh really). So we applied to a “big” show at Baltimore fairground. Artisans from all over the world were advertised!!! We were TOLD all the “great” shows were hard to get into, so we applied to this great expensive show and  glory be: We were chosen!!! Our confidence was boosted by that and we were ready to sell out!

    Yes, it was showtime! Well, we got the worst spot on the show, behind the garbage cans of the food section. But of course, who would have known to ASK first???!!! The show begins and they talk over the loudspeakers about all the great artisans, which exhibit in their prestigious show: The finest of the best!

    First my husband walked around to see what all is out there to compete with. He came back and was very disappointed. Then I took my round. Sure enough, we were in agreement: This was not much of anything. People took one piece of China and glued it to a doodad from Taiwan and called it a craft. Artists were selling prints. Who knows if they ever had a paintbrush in their hand. People were buying little things and

    F U R N I T U R E. (We made furniture, hand painted  by me- anything that fits in a trunk of a car). Very few people found us in our horrible spot, but we managed to make 3 x our booth fee – barely enough to cover expenses. Rule of thumb is to make 10 times your booth fee. So the lesson we learn is do NOT rely on your promoter. This particular promoter juried by the check book number. You do not need those shows, no matter what they say in their promotional materials.

    Exhibitor that is worth their salt have rules, one has to comply with.

    As I said before the shows that have large show fees are mostly shows where you stand to make money, because they are well promoted and people attend them in droves. It does not hurt to ask the promoter WHERE they advertise their exhibit, BEFORE you enter. However, with most of the good shows are a waiting list to get into, which is thrown aside immediately if you have an outstanding product nobody else has and that brings interest and balance to the show.
    Exhibitors do not want 50 jewelry artists, 50 furniture makers, 50 painters, 50 photographers in 200 exhibition spaces. A good show is well balanced and those shows have usually very few spaces available, because the promoter has loyalty to his exhibitor and the exhibitors return, because they had a good show previously. That is the show you want to be in. So don’t hesitate to ask the promoter questions, like:

    How many people attend their show?

    How many openings do they have?

    How many crafters/ artists sell what you sell?

    How early can you set up?

    Is security provided?

    Can you obtain hotel coupons or discounts  for exhibitors or other perks you are entitled to? (We exhibited in a different town every weekend and it was nice to be in a hotel close the show, with friends in the craft show business, paying reasonable hotel fees.)

    This is what good promoters ask for:

    1. You will submit pictures as you apply to the show. Make those the best samples of your work they can be, Same if you have an Etsy/ online store: People can only see your picture, not the finished product, so try to have exquisite pictures to help them see what is outstanding about your item. I am a lousy photographer and can’t even take a clear picture of something that doesn’t move. So what I do is take a zillion pictures and then show it to friends and relatives and weigh out their reaction to what they like best. Those are the pictures I choose to present my items, since it is often only the ONE glance our product gets to be selected or rejected.

    2. Be prepared to answer questions about your space requirements to exhibit. That will depend on your booth set up. Most exhibit spaces are 10 feet deep. You can take a single space or a double space. Be prepared with a layout BEFORE you enter the show, because as you get into the show, you will be so frazzled, what all you have to do to fill up the booth. Contemplate props such as ladders, tables, curtain rods, steps, shelves FIRST. Kind of mathematically lay out how much of this and that you will exhibit here and on the back wall and there. Figure out your “eye-catcher”. Make every space count, even over your head hanging stuff down, if need be. Utilize every little space as you plan in advance. Consider HOW you will put it all up: Make it lightweight, so it is easy to carry, because you want to be smiling as you sell your things and not have knocked yourself out over the preliminaries. Lighting is to be considered, because even the coolest product doesn’t sell in the dark. A good  promoter will ask you, if you want a corner space, wall space or free standing. Will ask you, if you require electricity.
    3. Get a tax number in advance. Some event managers ask for it on their application, some don’t.

    4. Be prepared to show sample products, if you have a category where many people enter. Jewelry for example, is very competitive and good promoter asks for samples, which they will return after the jury process is over.

    You need to inquire if this is a consignment show, where the event management get a percentage for working your booth. With some events the show fee is low and the promoter takes a percentage of your sales. You need to know that in advance, so you can estimate your inventory and your prices.
    There might be other things you need to know: Like, will you have access to electricity for your lights (extension cords needed)? Does you booth have to be fire retardant? Are you required to demonstrate?

    Trust me, the more informed you better the show you will have and not enter surprises like you will be charged for electricity or a professional mover will unload your truck at your expense……..

    Don’t take anything for granted until the show is over and you have your money in your pocket. Having done shows for 20 years, I can tell you there are all kinds of marvels to deal with and nothing is as easy as it looks, but certainly it is very rewarding once you are in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. You will make awesome experiences and meet a lot of cool folks.

    And of course: if you make 10 times your booth fee it will be worth it. Aim for it.





    Please share what you think in the comments. I would love to know.