When I started my Total Babesville coloring book project, my main goal was just to finish the book. The book took ten months from start to finish. I had the final goal of selling it at Blythecon Brooklyn this past October.
Originally, I drew a character for the Brooklyn Blythecon mascot contest. The winning Blythe illustration would be on all the convention branding and swag. My friend Maggie insisted that I enter the contest. My drawing didn’t get selected as the convention’s imagery, but it did start the discussion between Maggie and I about what we could do with this imagery.
Maggie had the brilliant idea to make a coloring book of similar drawings with a New York theme. I instantly took to the idea because it was a manageable project. In the past, I have tried to start personal projects that were too large in scope for one person to tackle without taking time off from my day job. Doing a series of black and white line drawings seemed like a more realistic goal for one person. And as I look into the idea more, the scale-ability of the art. Having a library of drawings would make it possible to make other salable items, like shirts and enamel pins.
Support from the top
The chief organizer of Blythecon Brooklyn, Heidi Corely Barto, was very supportive of my project from the jump. Heidi was gracious enough to let me promote my illustrations on the convention’s closed Facebook page as I finished them. She actually was grateful for the contribution and felt that my posting helped boost interest in the convention.
Heidi was also nice enough to hold a vendor space for me at the event even though I had no prior vending track record. To have that kind of support and encouragement only helped me reach my goal faster. I can’t thank Heidi enough for answering all my questions tirelessly, helping this newbie get his first convention under his belt. Special thanks also goes to Julie Blythe for helping at every turn while at the convention!
Setting goals and a production schedule
I’ve started many personal projects over the year, but never quite reached the finish line. My day job and personal work has always overshadowed my personal work. To keep myself on task, I created a timeline, productions schedule and goals. Based on the handful of illustration I stared with, I was able to determine that I could complete 1.5 finished illustrations per week. I also decided on a minimum number of illustrations for the book: 32. Completing 1.5 illustrations weekly for 32 illustrations would set my baseline completion date in the middle of May. Breaking things down into weekly and monthly goals helped me keep on task and adjust my output for the following week if my current week was less productive.
Once I hit my base goal of 32 illustrations in May, I was able to assess if I had enough in me to make it to at least 40 illustrations. In the end, I was able to complete 42 illustrations for the book and I was able to get the printers in early September.
I’ve never tried to sell any of my work. The thought of simple tasks like counting change or setting up a Square account seemed scary. I didn’t know where to start when it came to creating an inviting sales space. Since I was selling only the coloring book at the event, I decided to take a simplified approach and have a minimal space. Maggie helped me decorate the table with her girls in clothing inspired by the covers of the coloring book.
I was happy to have my first vending experience close to home. Maggie and I decided to drive up to Brooklyn instead of taking the train. There would have been no way to take the inventory that we took on mass transit. I packed my SMART car to the gills with books and transferred everything into Maggie’s Jeep for a more comfortable ride to New York.
The weekend started as soon as we got to New York. We started our day at the pre-meet in the park and followed that with a pre-arranged dinner before we even checked in to our hotel.
There were many people that I knew from previous conventions that attended but I also got to meet a lot of people that I’ve met over this year online. It was great to spend time with everyone and laugh and have fun before the convention. It really helped set the tone for the weekend.
The hotel that we stayed at felt more like an apartment than a hotel room. Our friend Jeannette scored us lodging at The Box House in Brooklyn. The actual room was two floors and we even lucked out with street parking for the duration of our stay. The staff and accommodations exceeded all expectations for the weekend. And it turns out that we realized after we stayed there that the constants of this season’s Project Runway also stays at The Box house! It’s a shame that there were no Tim Gunn sightings while we were there.
The early bird
One of the best things that I did before the event was advertise a pre-sale of the the book on Facebook and made pick up available at the convention. This ended up being about half of the sales for the day. Since the convention is geared towards Blythe doll collectors, my friend Nico convinced me that buying a coloring book would be less of a necessity. And if attendees only have a certain budget to spend on toys, it would be wise to capitalize on making the book available before people start focusing in on mandatory items. Plus, the more sought after vendors will be mobbed and people would appreciate convenience and being able to pick up a pre-paid book without having to waste time in my line and potentially miss out on other opportunities. My friend and fellow Blythe vendor, Kimberly Munn (Rosiee Gelutie,) was nice enough to step me through how to set up pre-sales on Etsy.
And then the event
The convention was only one day and the time really flew buy. I helped other vendors before the doors opened because my booth was so simple I need to occupy my time in order to settle my nerves.
Dressing the part to stand out was one of the most fun parts of the weekend. It was cool to get the chance to make clothing on RedBubble for the event. Maggie wanted me to make her a dress with custom fabric. Since we were up to the wire on preparations, I discovered RedBubble and it was a much easier solution. On the site, you can just upload you imagery, position it on the items that you want to create, and buy them! Wearing my book covers throughout the weekend helped connect me to my work with people, making a more direct connection. And as an unexpected outcome, people actually bought t-shirt, dresses and tote bags from RedBubble.
The response was overwhelming the entire weekend, but especially on the actual day of the convention. I got to meet so many people and it was so great to hear first hand how my work has touched people. It made me feel great that the work resonated with others and that people enjoyed my work.
The weekend was one of the most magical experiences that I’ve had so far. It’s so satisfying to have event that you’ve been working so had to get to over the past year exceeds what you could have ever dreamed.
I come off as outgoing by nature, but I wish I would have put myself out there more and talked to more people. There are people that I’ve known for years from the activity that I never got a chance to speak to. I was so worried to be at my booth that I didn’t spend as much time as I could have mingling during the event.
This year, it was difficult to get away form work to attend the convention. Many people spend up to a week on location and hang out and do tourist things. I want to spend more time next year so that I can see and hang out with as many people as possible. Next year the convention is going to be in Los Angeles. I would love to be able to spend more time with everyone than just 24 hours.
I would also try to get the book online for free earlier. I spent a lot of time working out printing and last minute design issues. Now that I have one book under my belt, I think I’ll be able to reduce production time since all the kinks have been worked out.
Next up: Total Babesville: Los Angeles Edition!