WA Weighs In: 2016 Comic Con Report Card

Hey all.

Dawn here.

For the past few years I’ve had a tradition of posting my annual Report Card for comic cons. But I am only one person, selling one type of product, focusing on one section of the country.  This year we at the Alliance decided to give a broader recap, touching base with all our members as we are all over the country! 10 questions that give you a good idea how we did this year, in comparison to others. So, we hope you enjoy this more diverse approach, and please feel free to leave your own recap, answering these 10 questions, in the comments!

 

WA_header_WEIGHS-IN-robin

  1. Most and least profitable shows of the year?

    Robin’s table at Denver Comic Con

    Most profitable by Gross and Net:  Denver Comic Con!  Big numbers, local show.  Perfect combo.  Least profitable by Gross:  Free Comic Book day at a local store…because it was outside, and I got rained out.  And hailed out.  Storm came up real quick and pretty much ruined any chances of sales…Still, despite that, I managed to make $44 in the 20 minutes of partial cloudy weather.  If we’re going by Net:  Phoenix Comic Con yielded the second largest gross sales, but the expenses to get and stay there left us several hundred dollars in the hole.  We won’t be going back.

  2. Which show was your favorite, and why?
    Koelbel Con! (https://www.facebook.com/events/1900594953500676/)  A lovely little library show.  For one, I just love supporting libraries.  For another, it has a great vibe and we still make decent sales for a show that only lasts an afternoon.  Relaxed, beautiful space, friendly people.  Just wonderful every time.
  3. Best-selling item?
    Volume one, softcover. 
  4. Best run show?
    Koelbel Con again.  This another reason that I love this event.  The organizers take great care of everyone, from vendor to attendee.  They’re engaged, helpful, informative, and prepared.  I love the creative ways they get their attendees engaged and exploring their space.  From Quidditch matches on the lawn to Pokemon scavenger hunts through the library, it’s just a fun time!
  5. At a show where you struggled, what would you suggest to improve?
    Be more discerning in 2017.  Most of the shows where Cory and I struggled, we’re not going back to.  We decided that we needed to take a closer look at shows.  We have a niche product.  Which events had people interested in what we do?  Which communities were welcoming and supportive?  In 2017 we plan on being loyal to the shows with staff that treated us with respect and had customers excited to see us.  Not the shows where we were treated poorly.
  6. How did 2016 compare to previous years?
    Down across the board.  Part of this is my fault, since I took the hiatus last year.  I had no new book to sell, which did cut into sales at some shows.
  7. Best Con-Tip you picked up or tried out in 2016?
    Pay attention when a show changes…and pay special attention to the opinions of people who have been at that show before.  We went to several shows this year that we had bad experiences at last year.  We had friends who had attended those shows for years before us, and had decided to get out because they felt the shows were going in bad directions.  In every case, Cory and I regretted going.  Trust your friends, and trust your gut!
  8. What are you thinking of introducing to your inventory in 2017?
    New books!  We’ll have the fourth LeyLines book and the first Wavemen book in 2017!  Beyond that, we’re debating a lot of new products.  T-shirts, fuzzy blankets, you name it.  We’ll see what our budget allows first though.
  9. Any new shows you’re eyeing up in 2017?
    I’d like to go to AnomalyCon. (https://www.anomalycon.com/)  The organizer is very protective of the show’s community, which is really important since, from what I’ve heard, it’s a show very welcoming to a subsection of the nerd community that often gets bullied or harassed out of the larger shows.  Everyone that is a part of the AnomalyCon community that I’ve talked to loves the show with a deep enthusiasm, and I’d like to support that!  They require a LOT of participation on panels, which I confess to finding a little intimidating, but I’d be willing to give it a try if I can get in this year.  Might be too late for 2017 though.
  10. What’s your favorite part of “con-life”?
    Making meaningful connections with people face-to-face.  Conventions are exhausting, but you come out of them with stories that keep your heart warm for months and even years afterward.


WA_header_WEIGHS-IN-dawn

  1. Most and least profitable shows of the year?

    Dawn at Baltimore Comic Con

    Most profitable was Baltimore Comic Con, very consistent show for me over the past 7 years, almost always out-earns the last one. The least profitable was Sci-Fi Valley for comic cons (for some odd reason the usual crowds didn’t show up?), and for overall all events, a local community Artist & Authors event didn’t earn me much. But as we know, profit isn’t everything…

  2. Which show was your favorite, and why?
    As always, Baltimore is my favorite show. Maybe I’m just an old pro at it– the setup/break-down, after 7 years I have a good following of people who find me there, I was apart of the collector’s yearbook this time, all the friends I know who exhibit as well, the Kids Love Comics section is a blast, and it’s only 2 hours away. Really, it’s a win-win-win…win….win-win.
  3. Best-selling item?
    As usual, Zorphbert & Fred volume 1. I sell it more than 2-4, almost combined. This year Abby’s Adventures kids book sales took a nosedive, I have no idea why.
  4. Best run show?
    GAH. I have to narrow it down?? Ok, I’m gonna break the rules and mention 2. Major props to Great Philly Comic Con, as in it’s second year the artist alley organization greatly improved and I felt artists concerns from the previous year were addressed, plus some. And even though my stupid arthritic/injured knee kept me from going, I’m just gonna ASSUME Awesome Con DC was as, well, awesome as it always has been (and Chris agrees). Knowing the organizer and keeping up that relationship MATTERS. Ben Penrod and his crew are terrific.
  5. At a show where you struggled, what would you suggest to improve?
    This is tough. 2016 as a whole took a noticeable dip for me, overall. I’m having a hard time pinpointing the WHY. Every show was different, and it never came down to one obvious thing to blame, like table placement. As I mentioned Sci-Fi Valley’s crowd just didn’t live up to the hype. Enough so that friends who suggested it (many, many times) came up and apologized for the slow traffic, as baffled as I was. Love to return, but I would need assurance from the organizer/promoter that the numbers would go back up.
  6. How did 2016 compare to previous years?
    Let’s just say that, if it weren’t for some freelance gigs bringing in extra income, this year my comics/illustration career’s profit margin would have been one of the worst since I started doing shows. Part of that is missing out on AwesomeCon which is my #1 or #2 show. But definitely not all of it. Every show except Baltimore and Great Philly Comic Con took a big dip in sales.
  7. Best Con-Tip you picked up or tried out in 2016?
    I need more time to see, but it’s tie between the Free-print-with-book-purchase tactic, and a more book-focused table setup. Who I am and what I sell is easier to grasp with one glance than it was before, when I had a print wall, coasters, T-shirts, buttons, etc. etc. etc. … and my books. I feared that I would annoy/anger possible customers by saying I don’t sell my fanart prints outright (this is for ethical reasons I’ve slowly come to over the years)– you have to buy a book to get one. But overall it’s gotten a great response.
  8. What are you thinking of introducing to your inventory in 2017?
    MORE comics! Writing my next graphic novel now, so maybe a preview floppy.
  9. Any new shows you’re eyeing up in 2017?
    I’m actually looking to cut back and focus more on comic-making. So probably no new adventures.
  10. What’s your favorite part of “con-life”?
    Being among “my people”. Whether it’s dinner & drinks with fellow creators after a long day at your table, or chatting it up with people & kids who share your brand of geekdom or enjoy your work, there’s nothing like the buzz it gives you. Lasts just long enough to get you through ’til the next show! The income, being a mentor for kids, and career opportunities are wonderful too, and apart of the puzzle, but in the end I miss that connection with “my tribe” more.

 

WA_header_WEIGHS-IN-christina

  1. Most and least profitable shows of the year?

    Christina at Santa Clarita Valley Comic Con

    Phoenix Comic Con, Wondercon and Emerald City Comic Con were all about tied for me this year for most profits. The most costly one was Small Press Expo because that was on the opposite coast for me and also a table I shared with 11 other artists!  This year I also tried more sharing with local groups (Los Angeles Comic Con and Comic Con Palm Springs), which was great for feeling out conventions I hadn’t been to, but not great for profits.  And then there was Anime Los Angeles, where I forgot all my anime stuff at home.  Didn’t do so great there.

  2. Which show was your favorite, and why?
    Small Press Expo was my absolute favorite.  Despite having 10 people doing shifts behind the booth, the SpiderForest Collective booth was so much fun and a great way to touch base with my collectivemates on the east coast.  And it was absolutely great to not be locked behind the table and have browsing time; first time I’ve felt like an attendee in ages!  There’s so much cool stuff going on at SPX in particular, and it’s got a completely different vibe than any convention I’ve ever done.  I just wish it wasn’t so far and so tricky to get through the lottery to get in!
  3. Best-selling item?
    My comics!  I really push them harder than anything, and this was the first full year I had Sombulus books 1 and 2, which made a big difference over having just one book.
  4. Best run show?
    They were mostly pretty solid, but I do appreciate the Phoenix ComicCon/Fan Fest team for being very responsive when I had a rude neighbor and for also changing venues for Phoenix Fan Fest to someplace that wasn’t an icebox.
  5. At a show where you struggled, what would you suggest to improve?
    Double-check your bags before you go, and have backup plans if you run out of supplies!  Don’t forget your anime merch at home when going to an anime convention, and definitely don’t forget food and water.  Keeping your energy up and keeping hydrated is essential!
  6. How did 2016 compare to previous years?
    2016 is my third year of doing conventions, and I did 10 shows and events, up from 4 shows last year!  It was definitely better than my previous years, and I’m finally feeling out my niche and how I can keep a balance between introducing new products and not having the booth look too disparate.
  7. Best Con-Tip you picked up or tried out in 2016?
    I learned a lot about public transit in 2016!  The Seattle Convention Center, Phoenix Convention Center, and Los Angeles Convention Center are all very accessible by subway/light rail and can really save you a lot of stress around parking.
    Also, I’m planning to steal an idea from David Davis of Cosmic Dash (cosmicdash.com) and print some pre-bluelined sketch cards, because I find I can’t really draw on the fly well enough to take commissions or offer sketches, and I’d like to.
  8. What are you thinking of introducing to your inventory in 2017?
    A few collaborative projects (The 1001 Knights Anthology and the SpiderForest Coloring Book) should be coming out in 2017, which is really exciting!  I’m also hoping to start making screen-printed tote bags and to Kickstart Sombulus Book 3.
  9. Any new shows you’re eyeing up in 2017?
    We’ve applied to CAKE for the first time this year with SpiderForest (I hear the jury process is very intense, fingers crossed!).  I’m also hoping to get into Silicon Valley Comic Con, and I’ll be trying Comic Con Palm Springs solo in 2017.
  10. What’s your favorite part of “con-life”?
    The social aspect is always fun.  I’m always super-happy when I have cool table neighbors, because they can be the best thing about a slow show, and I absolutely love it when I can meet up with people I’ve met on the internet. I also love taking pictures of/with all the amazing cosplayers out there.
 

WA_header_WEIGHS-IN-liz

  1. Most and least profitable shows of the year?
    Most profitable for me was Katsucon. I made more at this con than I have ever made before, and actually was the first time I came home with a box less (of books) than I went with. Least profitable… I had a lot of really bad small shows but in nuts-and-bolts Least Profitable it was Retro Pop Four State Comic Con. It was a local two day show and I only made $20 the entire weekend. Luckily it was right down the street from me, but I was still out two days of time I could have been doing something else.

    Liz at Star Wars Days in Woodbridge, VA.

  2. Which show was your favorite, and why?
    I actually had a lot of fun at a tiny convention called Girl Con, run by the Girl Scouts. It was one day and there were maybe 50 attendees, but that was one of my best tiny shows. Plus it was the first time I cosplayed and seeing all these girls’ reactions over my Rey costume was amazing. Then when they found out that I was also an artist and made comics they were even more excited. One of the things I like the best is to inspire the next generation and so that convention had a lot of meaning for me. 
  3. Best-selling item?
    Buttons are always my top item. They’re fun and they’re my cheapest item so they’re a great impulse buy.
  4. Best run show?
    InterventionCon, hands down. The staff at Intervention is always very helpful and attentive, and they made sure I was taken care of. (I attend this show as a guest but they treat all the vendors really well. My first year at this convention I had a horrible headache on Friday and tweeted that I needed pain killers, and the Con Chair saw the tweet and sent a member of staff down with Advil. This was BEFORE I was a guest, even.)
  5. At a show where you struggled, what would you suggest to improve?
    Investing in lighting for my table display. One of my worst cons was because I was in a terrible spot with the lights burned out right above my table and no one could see me. I’ve found that having a few lights that run on batteries (and one spot light that has a cord, in case I have access to an outlet) to be a good investment. Even when there’s enough light in the venue, just having the LED strings of lights on my display adds a little more character.
  6. How did 2016 compare to previous years?
    The big conventions in the winter/spring were better than my previous years. After May every convention had fewer sales. I did go to far more conventions than ever before.
  7. Best Con-Tip you picked up or tried out in 2016?
    I started putting my smaller prints out in a bin on the table that people could look through and actually sold a few more that way (at a small con) than I normally do. I found the bin seemed to invite more people to look through than having a binder out with examples of each print.
  8. What are you thinking of introducing to your inventory in 2017?
    I really want to do printed sleep masks and acrylic charms. I’m just worried that the acrylic charm market is becoming really saturated at conventions. Also, book 4 of Adrastus is something I’m hoping to get out in early 2017.
  9. Any new shows you’re eyeing up in 2017?
    I’d really love to do AwesomeCon and Baltimore City Comic Con. I’ve been curious about trying an actual comic con for awhile because the demographic that buys my books at conventions is more in line with the demographic for a comic con instead of an anime convention. 
  10. What’s your favorite part of “con-life”?
    Interacting with people right there on the spot. In real life I’m very shy and introverted, but I like being behind an artist’s table because it helps me interact with people. If someone comments on a print or picks up a book then I automatically have something to talk to them about! And having a table between us feels safer than just being out in the crowd. Plus I love having feedback in real time on my work and hearing comments. 

wa_header_weighs-in-byron

  1. Most and least profitable shows of the year?

    Byron at C2E2 in Chicago

    Easy. I only did two. C2E2 in Chicago was my most profitable show ever. I cleared almost $1000 over my expenses. Never have come close to that level before. My other show was my first appearance at ECCC in Seattle and I just barely broke even, but if I had more books with me, I would have made money.

  2. Which show was your favorite, and why?
    I’m partial to C2E2 as it was my first ever convention and it is held here in Chicago. It’s gotten bigger and better each year.
  3. Best-selling item?
    My custom car commissions by far have outsold anything I’ve ever done.
  4. Best run show?
    Don’t hate me for saying C2E2, but the folks at Reed Pop do a great job of running a well-organized show. They also do NYCC, and now ECCC. I would do any of their shows.
  5. At a show where you struggled, what would you suggest to improve?
    For me, I have found having too many product offerings confuses potential customers. When I did NYCC in 2013, I had posters, postcards, books, commissions, bookmarks and more, and I hardly sold anything. This year, I focused on my car commissions and they sold really well. People could clearly see what I do and what I was selling.
  6. How did 2016 compare to previous years?
    Best year ever.
  7. Best Con-Tip you picked up or tried out in 2016?
    Focusing on one, big ticket item. So far has done well for me.
  8. What are you thinking of introducing to your inventory in 2017?
    I just introduced the car commissions, so I think I’ll fly with that until I saturate the market. Next up will be complete graphic novels to sell of my next comic idea.
  9. Any new shows you’re eyeing up in 2017?
    Not yet.
  10. What’s your favorite part of “con-life”?
    Hanging with my comic pals. But most of all I love meeting new people as they walk by my table. Lots of interesting stories from folks. I’m outgoing, so I like the interaction with people, if they don’t buy my stuff.
 

WA_header_WEIGHS-IN-chris

  1. Most and least profitable shows of the year?

    Chris’ table at Awesome Con DC

    a)  Most Profitable: Awesome Con – it continues to be my best grossing show every year.
    b) Least profitable: Intervention Con. But it should be noted that I got a layoff notice two days before the show started so my mind wasn’t really into the show at all. I was basically going through the motions that whole weekend.

  2. Which show was your favorite, and why?
    This is like asking someone to list their favorite song. Really can’t be done. I will list a few that I REALLY enjoyed this year: Awesome Con, Baltimore Comic Con, The Greater Philly Comic Con.
    I REALLY enjoyed Awesome Con and Baltimore as I was asked to participate in the Kid’s Love Comics programming and got to show kids how I draw my werewolf characters at both shows. Always a LOT of fun!
  3. Best-selling item?
    Doing caricature sketch covers is quickly becoming a pretty popular thing for me.
  4. Best run show?
    So many are run so well now. Too many to list. But here are some shout outs: Heroes Con, Awesome Con, Baltimore Comic Con, Greater Philly Comic Con, Virginia Comic Con and Intervention Con as well.
  5. At a show where you struggled, what would you suggest to improve?
    For me, I would suggest not getting your two week notice from your current employer two days before a three day show. Fortunately for me, Intervention Con is local to where I am so I was able to keep my expenses really, really low but that show was a total loss for me. It had nothing to do with the organizers… Oni and Harknell put on a great, SUPER organized show and treat ALL of the guest artists like super stars. It was mainly my mental attitude. I had thought about not even showing up for the show but Oni had me as a guest and I made a commitment to her. so I wanted to honor that same loyalty she gave me.  And I was greatly involved in my three panels but I just wasn’t in “convention mode” while I was behind my table for those three days.
    But even as personally bad as Intervention Con was for me this year, there was still something really cool that came out of it. I got to meet, talk and give Rene Auberjonis a caricature sketch card I did of him as Odo. That was REALLY cool! And I got to talk to Dwight Schultz in the convention hotel bar area really briefly on the last day of the show. So… even when things may seem like they are going quite crappy (and being informed you’ve just lost your web designing job and will be unemployed in two weeks IS pretty crappy) something cool can still happen – you just never know…
  6. How did 2016 compare to previous years?
    I had a really great 2016 convention season… some shows I did really great, other shows I did pretty good but besides Intervention con (and the reasons behind that show), I really didn’t have a super bad show. From an overall experience, I had a great and steady 2016 convention year!
  7. Best Con-Tip you picked up or tried out in 2016?
    a) I got a new expandable dolly and consolidated all of my convention stuff into two small 20 gallon containers instead of a 50 gallon and a 19 gallon tub. I did that mainly due to some of the rules the Washington DC Convention Center had for Awesome Con but it actually turned out to be a big plus. It forced me to REALLY consolidate my stuff for better transport and the new dolly is fantastic!
    b) Adopting Dawn’s “buy a book, get a free print” special has been a big boost to my book sales too – only I double the offer with two free prints for every book with a maximum of four free prints total.
  8. What are you thinking of introducing to your inventory in 2017?
    Hopefully, I will have my new book out by the time the heart of the 2017 convention rolls around.
  9. Any new shows you’re eyeing up in 2017?
    Possibly one or two. I am still interested in finding information about horror conventions to see how well a cartoon werewolf might do at one of those shows but haven’t really pursued that yet.
  10. What’s your favorite part of “con-life”?
    Byron has already mentioned hanging out with artists after the show. That holds true for me too. When I do caricatures of people and they come back and pick them up and I get to see their reactions. That’s always a thrill as well. I also enjoy seeing people who were originally “fans” of my comic strip or art but now have become “friends”. It’s always great seeing and talking to them. In fact, after I was laid off and still had convention shows I had to go to, when I went to those shows, those same fans/friends specifically and genuinely asked how I was doing, had I found a new job and was there any way they could help. Once I told them I did find a new job, they were super happy for me and I had some great conversations with them about the new job and how things were going. THAT is what “the convention life” means to me and why I enjoy doing as many shows that I do throughout each year.

Share your experience with us! Take the Questionnaire, post in the comments:

  1. Most and least profitable shows of the year?
  2. Which show was your favorite, and why?
  3. Best selling item?
  4. Best run show?
  5. At a show where you struggled, what would you suggest to improve?
  6. How did 2016 compare to previous years?
  7. Best Con-Tip you picked up or tried out in 2016?
  8. What are you thinking of introducing to your inventory in 2017?
  9. Any new shows you’re eyeing up in 2017?
  10. What’s your favorite part of “con-life”?
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