Insider’s guide for anime vendors

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 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.


For any of you who used early Windows PC’s, I am sure many of you have played the game of solitaire. In fact, Solitaire recently celebrated its 25th year anniversary on May 18, 2015. To celebrate its anniversary here are some interesting facts you may not have known about Solitaire.


1. The card game Solitaire was included in Windows because Microsoft wanted to teach people how to drag and drop. 

The game was developed in 1989 by then intern Wes Cherry, who famously received no royalties from his work and the card deck was designed by Macintosh pioneer Susan Kare. The main intention of Windows Solitaire was to “soothe people intimidated by the operating system” at a time where many users were still unfamiliar with graphical user interfaces. It helped users become familiar with using a mouse and taught them drag-and-drop techniques which was required for moving the cards. Later versions of solitaire such as the version included in Windows 2000, allowed user to right-click on open spaces to automatically move available cards to the four foundations in the upper right-hand corner (later versions you can simply double click). Since its debut, lost business productivity by employees playing Solitaire has become a common concern since it is included in many standard Microsoft Windows operating systems. Check out this article about one famous incident regarding solitaire that happened in 2006. 

2.  Solitaire was not included in Windows 8 and in order to play it you had to download it from the Windows Store

Despite Solitaire being included for free for 25 years, it was not included in Windows 8 or Windows 8.1. After some outcry, Microsoft produced a new adware version of the game called the Microsoft Solitaire Collection, which required users to download it through the windows store. The “free version” of the game was embedded with ads and forced you to watch advertisement videos before you were able to play. The game even included a valueless in-game currency in order to increase monetization of users. In order remove them you had to pay $1.49 /month or $10/ year. Gizmodo characterized Microsoft’s behavior as a way to “nickel and dime” users, writing that “something with used to come on your PC for free is now corrupted by ad buys”. PC gamer commented too stating that “the ads in question aren’t small banners that appear at the bottom of the screen while you play. They run over the full solitaire window, some for as long as 30 seconds, and while they don’t seem to pop up very often…they can’t be aborted. Rock, Paper, Shotgun said that the changes are a “particularly heartbreaking sign of the times” and that some users would find it “profoundly sinister “a large corporation is gather and storing vast amounts of data on your computing habits, and not simply what you do in a browser”. (Apparently this behavior has seemed to continue in Windows 10, which tracks everything from your keystrokes to your speech). For any of you may fall into this category I suggest you play Solitaire online for free at


3. There are five main variations of Solitaire

The five main variations of solitaire are Klondike, Freecell, Spider, Tripeaks, and Pyramid. In fact there are even more variations of the game, but these are the most well known. Many variations allow different customization options for users.

4. The highest score you can earn in the original version of Microsoft Solitaire is 24,113.

You get 10 points for each card added to the aces pile (also known as the “home stack”) and five points for each time you move a card from the deck to a column (correctly). There is also a time bonus for games that last longer than 30 seconds (700,000 divided by the total time in seconds it took you to finish.) The high score changes from version to version. Below is a video of someone reaching the high score of 745 in the Windows 7 version of Solitaire:

5. It’s not all luck – you really can increase your chances of winning

There are several strategies to help you win at solitaire. By keeping the vertical line of visible cards evenly distributed instead of focusing on completing one at a time, it enable syou to make more moves elsewhere and can improve your time. Focus on the face-down cards so you know what your working with, instead of moving cards just because you can. For three card draws, playing all three cards in the dealt pile is also not the best idea, as you want to be able to see as many cards as possible in that deck to know what options you have there and playing all three will keep them all in the same order. Finally, don’t be too eager with the stockpile. Only play a card from that pile if there are no other options available within the other stacks You can find more helpful tips on this handy list from MSN Games or here from Solitaire Bliss. 

6. Winning is more likely than you may think

Though the chance of this is low it is possible to receive a solitaire deck that is unsolvable. Three factors can play into this: No aces are in the fifteen playable cards, none of the seven playable cards in the row stacks can be moved to a different row-stack, or none of the eight playable cards in the deck can be moved to any of the seven row-stacks. The chances of this happening are about 1 in every 400 solitaire games…so as it turns out, most games are lost because of user error.


7. The origins of the game of Solitaire date way back to the 19th century

Solitaire, also known as “Patience” in many European countries was most likely German or Scandinavian in origin. The game became popular in France in the early 19th century reaching England and America in the later half. Patience was first mentioned in literature shortly after fortune-telling layouts were developed around 1765. The earliest known recording of a game of patience occurred in 1783 in the German game anthology Das neue Königliche L’Hombre-SpielSome people use the game of “Patience” as a guide to the future. This assumes that a person’s luck will vary and important matters should not be initiated when the cards are not favorable. If you want to learn more information about the game of Patience view the Wikipedia page.


The Educational Benefits of Games

Everyone knows video games can be played for fun, but many studies have found that some video games can have substantial benefits beyond that of entertainment.


1. Games improve critical thinking and reading skills.

Many video games offer challenging puzzles for players forcing them to think outside the box to solve them. Many games involve reading, whether it is to examine equipment or dialogue, words are often included in games. Whether you realize it or not, you could actually be improving your vocabulary. In fact one study by Italian researchers found evidence that playing fast-paced video games can improve the reading skills of children with dyslexia. Puzzle games and word games are excellent examples of this….and you thought Words with Friends was just for fun!

2. Games can provide educational benefits without participants being aware of it.

Every tried to get a child to do his or her homework? What do you think a typical teenager’s response would be you went up them and asked if they would like to have some fun solving this math equation? Most teens today are technology focused, and educators have started asking kids to complete educational exercises through video games. Many times students are not even focused on the fact that they are learning, instead they are enjoying the video game. I really good example of this is when I was in high school and I played video games that involved typing fast. Many typing games involve typing specific words as fast and accurately as you can to defeat enemies and quite a few are even made for adults (Check out The Typing of the Dead: Overkill on Steam. Here is an example of the gameplay.)

3. Gaming can be a highly sociable activity.

Believe it or not gaming can actually increase sociability in teens. Everyone knows playing video games online or in person with friends is extremely popularl; however, did you know that participating in those activities can actually improve a kid’s social skills? Most games involve some kind of goal achievement, and players must communicate and use interpersonal skills in order to progress through them. Video games can increase teens’ ability to work together as a team. In fact, studies have shown that Children who play video games with others often receive positive social skills from it. They are even more likely to have higher self-esteem, good peer relationships, and achievements in school.

Checkout SnailRush, a multiplayer trivia racing game developed by Eduisfun which is currently trending on the Google Play store. It is one of the best in class “edutainment” apps available and is played all over the world; it currently has a rating of over 4.9 stars. You can compete in math and science competitions while having the potential to win real life rewards and scholarships while doing so.

Try it now exclusively on the Google Play store!



4. Video games can relieve stress and promote happiness.

Ever get home and just want to relax in front of your TV and beat up some bad guys? For many playing video games are a relaxing way to entertain oneself. Relaxation reduces teh risk of heart problems and stroke, boosts memory, and helps fight against depression. People can use video games as a chance to tune out the daily stresses of life and decompress. Giving your mind time to rest is very important for overall emotional and mental well-being.

5. Video games can be individually customized for players.

Every student is different; some develop fast others start slow. Video game difficulties and other settings can be used to have players of all ages gain educational benefits from them. Games allow students to learn at their own pace without constant parental oversight.

“By balancing gameplay ennjoyment with an appropriate level of challenge, games have the ability to keep plaeyrs in their own unique optimally challenging and engaging zone of learning” – Jan Plass, NYU Professor of Digital Media and Learning sciences. 

6. Games can teach new skill sets and promote knowledge.

Games can provide kids with a variety of skills that are not always apparent. For example building games can help kids understand basic engineering principals, first person shooters can improve hand eye coordination and platformers can increase reflexes. FOr example, the popular Angry Birds game is now teaching children basic coding principles. In fact, some researchers have suggested that gamers have the same reaction times as fighter pilots. In fact various games can even increase players’ knowledge of historical events, equipment, and vehicles; depending on how realistic and accurate they are.

For example UTMB did a training study and found that teen gamers are better at virtual surgery than some real medical residents:

7. When used in moderation and in particular forms can increase overall health and promote exercise.

Every played Wii Boxing for 30 minutes? Tell me that isn’t a workout. What about Dance Dance Revolution…remember that game? Many video games, especially ones that involve motion control can promote exercise and movement in children. Similar to how playing sports can be fun and healthy, some video games can achieve similar affects. Understand though we are talking about a specific subset of games here; obviously games that do not require various degrees of motion would not apply.

So…what are you waiting for…start gaming for a healthier mind and body!