As comic creators, we’re much better at using pencils, pens and markers then we are at reading a contract. If you’re like most people, you’ve been handed a multi-page document in which you signed your life away not really having completely read or understood the document’s intent. Now, if you trust your cell phone provider, sign away. If not, let’s take a lesson in reading the fine print.
Specifically, signing up for a Comic Convention. It is over whelming to say the least to sign up for your first convention. What the hell is drayage and why is some union guy staring at me carrying in my own boxes? You will find out the first time you do a Union Convention. I have done a lot of trade show booth set ups. I spent three years in a row participating in the set-up and “fine print” of doing a $150,000.00 booth in Las Vegas for the National Association of Broadcaster’s show, so I have a few insights on how to sign up for your first convention.
Recently, Dawn reported to me that at the 2010 New York Comic Convention, many booth owners were surprised to find out that NO tables were provided for booths. This was a big change in how the show was handled. The booth owner had to arrange to lease a table directly with the convention center itself and NOT the organizers. I am sure this was in the contract, but just wasn’t obvious. Seems like a stupid thing to ask “Hey, is a table included?” but now you will ask. Which leads to…
Ask questions. If you don’t know what to ask, ask someone who does… like me! And read. Yeah, read. It’s hard and a lot of things don’t make sense. Most sales people will take the few minutes to explain the basics to you, so don’t hesitate to ask or think you’re annoying them… you may annoy them but they make money selling you space so they can answer your questions. Ask. Ask anything.
- Where to park and what cost?
- Is there a cost to bring in your goods?
- Can I bring in my own stuff or does it have to be dropped at a dock and brought to my table?
- Is a table included in the fee? (Some booths do not, Artist Alley normally does)
- What is the cost for electricity and internet?
- What is the sales tax rate and the forms required (if any)?
- What are the set up hours and the location of the vendor entrance?
- Is security provided at night or do you have to pack your stuff up every night?
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but just a small sample of what you’ll need to think about when doing your first convention. You will make mistakes. They will cost you money. A good rule of thumb is to double the cost of your space to estimate your expenses for the convention. So, you pay $400 for a table, expect $400 in fees of some type… rental, shipping, parking, etc. Then add in your travel expenses and you have an idea of what a convention will really cost you.
It all comes down to read the fine print. Take the time to sit down and actually read it over. The questions will come as you read and you’ll be glad you did.