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Insider’s guide for anime vendors

Book cover for Heroes, Villains, and Geeks

Front-Cover-TrimmedSelling to Heroes, Villains and Geeks is the upcoming and highly anticipated book by author and experienced anime convention vendor Jill M Lewis. If you are a convention vendor or have dreams of becoming one some day this book can be an important resource for you to use towards your path to success. If you are involved with anime conventions and are not aware of Jill, then you really you should be! She has been working in marketing for over 25 years and is highly successful in selling and launching new products for anime, comic, and sci-fi conventions world-wide. This book will teach you the steps you need to take to become a successful vendor and help you avoid the pitfalls new sellers tend to make.

Play’N’Swap would like to thank Jill for allowing us to post an excerpt from her new book and for inspiring thousands of self-made entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams.


Book excerpt:

Back-Cover-Trimmed-3D-website-850x1030So how do you get started as an anime vendor? What should you sell? What are the risks? Will you fail miserably? Can you eke out a living? Can you quit your job and still live comfortably? What information do you need? Where are the freakin’ books and blog posts on this subject? You can’t sign up for a class, get a degree, watch a webinar or even find a decent YouTube video on this topic. But don’t fret, that’s where this book comes in. Selling to Heroes, Villains and Geeks will guide you through the process of becoming a vendor. Selling to Heroes, Villains and Geeks eliminates most of the guesswork by pointing out things you need to investigate and spotlighting areas you didn’t even know were part of the start-up process.

Selling to Heroes, Villains and Geeks answers all of the crucial questions about merchandise, including what to sell and where to buy. Each chapter reveals answers to your questions through a combination of information about what works and what doesn’t, detailed instructions and examples. You’ll complete work assignments to help you get started and I’ve included color images and photos to make sure your mental picture of the information provided matches real-world situations. We cover all this in three easy-to-follow parts:

Part 1: The cardinal rules share the foundational principles of vending at conventions. This will give you all of the critical marketing knowledge you need before embarking on your vendor business. These rules are tested, tried and infallible!

Part 2: Business battle plan blueprint shows you how to do what you need to do and puts you in the driver’s seat to craft your business strategy. We’ll answer the cut-through questions of prime importance to your business and merchandise strategies. You’ll build your battle business plan, hands-on, by practicing everything you learned in Part 1.

Part 3: Initiate launch sequence marches you through the final steps of launching your business. We drop you off at your first convention prepared and ready to attract a slew of customers.  You will be all set for a fast, money-making start at your first convention.

So, let’s get started with PART 1: THE CARDINAL RULES

Overview: You probably already have potential merchandise ideas swirling around in your mind. Stop! Before you carve your merchandise plan in stone, it is well worth learning the cardinal rules. Each rule is a minefield of information that must be understood by everyone contemplating becoming a vendor.

These rules form the bedrock of every successful vendor business. We will weave our way through the five rules over the next several chapters. And remember, these cardinal rules of business are apropos to both vendors and artists. Here’s what’s in store:

  • Cardinal rule 1: Customer Con
    As a vendor, your focus has to be on the customer and giving them what they want. To quote P&G, ‘The customer is boss.’ Fans won’t purchase items because you love the stuff you’re selling. They want items from anime and manga they Duh!
  • Cardinal rule 2: Variety is the spice of life
    You need to carry items from several different anime because your customers love more than one anime series. They’ll be avid followers of many shows and will fall in love with a variety of human and nonhuman characters.
  • Cardinal rule 3: Think different
    Make sure you sell unique and exclusive items not carried by other vendors. Double duh! Convention-goers are magnetically pulled to vendors with exclusive, unique or cutting-edge merchandise.
  • Cardinal rule 4: Avoid customer price shock
    Do not overprice your items. Attendees set spending limits and vendors, artists and celebrity guests are all vying for a share of the attendee’s budget.
  • Cardinal rule 5: Ferocious bargain hunter
    Purchase items at a deep discount and sell at a higher price. This fundamental principle for generating eye-popping profit works flawlessly if the other cardinal rules are also practiced.

Rookie vendors often unwittingly choose what I call ‘the doomsday plan’ because they either overlook or ignore the cardinal rules. Regrettably, they fail miserably because they don’t grasp one or more of these essential rules.

You might be thinking, ‘Ok, that’s great, rules are good. But I need specifics on how to execute these ideas.’ Well, keep reading – it’s all included in this book.

We need to cover the cardinal rules first so you can implement these as a part of your business plan. Then we’ll get right into the step-by-step instructions on how to put the cardinal rules into action in Part 2: Business battle plan blueprint. Then in Part 3: Initiate launch sequence, we cover the remaining details to get your business off to a fast start. And by fast, I mean profitable. You’ll find numerous real-life vendor examples laced throughout this book, both their good decisions and some that were not so good.

So let’s take a quick look at our first cardinal rule. This rule shines a light on the items customers want and frequently purchase at conventions.

Cardinal rule 1: Customer Con

It doesn’t matter if you’re vending at Comic Con, Super Con, Mega Con or any other con, it’s always ‘Customer Con’ for vendors. While the customer backstory exposed the emotional component of the convention experience for attendees, this cardinal rule is all about what the customer wants to buy.

The attendees need to be your sole focus and what merchandise they want is what’s important. You’ll uncover this through research and hard work – not guesswork. However, too many new vendors make the critical mistake of selling merchandise they love and expect convention attendees to love it too. Or they offer merchandise they think is going to be a hot-seller based on their own personal taste instead of what the customer truly wants. This is where pride and lack of research can cost new vendors lots of money.

Etch this in your brain: It’s not about what you like. I understand that most vendors get involved in cons because they love anime or manga as much as the attendees. And every vendor has their personal favorite anime. But you’re not selling to yourself; you’re selling to other people. You need to stock items that the convention attendees want to purchase. Period. Enter Cardinal rule 1: Customer Con. Make sure you’re selling merchandise customers want. You’re laughing, right? You’re thinking, ‘This is too obvious.’ But just wait until you read about new vendors who arrived at a con supremely confident that they had merchandise customers would want to buy – and were wrong.

Every dealer room has its share of vendors who can’t seem to sell anything – all weekend. I’ve seen instances where no one, not one single person, was interested in their merchandise. I’ve seen vendors take naps at their booths during three-day conventions because there was nothing else for them to do. These vendors didn’t do their homework. They guessed at what the customer wanted and they got it wrong. As you can understand, a bad show for a new vendor can completely crush their spirit. They leave the convention utterly defeated.

Attendees will always purchase merchandise that appeals to them emotionally. They bypass products that don’t. Merchandise from their favorite anime, comic, sci-fi, horror and paranormal series stirs up feelings of excitement. And the vendors who sell it enjoy crazy-mad foot traffic. The vendors who don’t, don’t. Attendees know exactly what they want and if you’re not selling their favorite items, they’ll get them from another vendor.

Let’s dissect one vendor’s merchandise selection at a one-day comic book convention I stopped by recently. This vendor was attempting to sell chess sets where the game was played using magic cards. Can you immediately spot the problem? Besides the issue that only chess players would be interested, perhaps the bigger problem was the amount of time needed to explain the concept to anyone who happened to show interest. I hung out for a few hours in the dealer room and guess how much he sold? Nada. Hmm, that vendor’s merchandise selection boggles the mind. Did I mention the convention was a comic book memorabilia show?

The core problem was that he tried to sell items he was in love with. He was a chess player and clearly loved magic. But no one else did. Alas, selling chess sets played with magic cards as his only merchandise flunks cardinal rule 1 (and a few more to boot). For him, this was a financially-painful strikeout…

So, that’s just a preview of Selling to Heroes, Villains and Geeks; An Insider’s guide for new anime vendors. You’ll also find ‘Sensei tips’ sprinkled throughout the book that share insider secrets you won’t find anywhere else. There are also ‘Oops alerts’ that point out regrettable new-vendor decisions that led to disastrous sales results (names have been omitted in these to protect their identities). The ‘Oops alerts’ point out some of the more head-scratching new-vendor faux pas I witness over and over again.

Selling to Heroes, Villains and Geeks is available in paperback, eBook and audio book formats.  So, pop over to animevendor.com and purchase your copy today. A 10% discount is available for subscribers of Play’N’Swap. Just enter the code “villains” at checkout  and, be sure to watch the awesome video trailer starring Vampy Bit Me, Peter Sudarso and Tian Wang.

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