On Business: CAKE 2016

By | Monday, June 13, 2016 Leave a Comment
Various life scheduling kept me from attending this year's Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (CAKE) for more than a 2-3 hours on Sunday, so I wasn't able to chat with as many people as I would've liked, but I did manage to pick up a few things about how the show is doing.

Attendance was solid. I spoke early in the day with organizer Max Morris, and he noted that Saturday's numbers were almost identical Saturday's from the previous year. The mornings seem to start a bit slow, and pick up after noon. I suspect that, since the show opens at 11:00, many attendees opt to not show up until after eating lunch so they don't find themselves hunting for something to eat after wandering the floor for an hour or two. I myself stepped out for a quick bite and to feed my parking meter around 12:30, and it was immensely more crowded by the time I got back 20-30 minutes later.

This was the show's fifth year, and the crew seems to have really gotten the hang of keeping things organized and running smoothly. One fo the big hiccups they encountered was that Trina Robbins had to bow out due to health issues (not serious ones, I'm told) after she had been announced as a guest, but the show was able to secure Eddie Campbell and Chris Staros soon afterwards. While I'm sure that was a significant disruption to all the planners at CAKE, it sure came off looking smooth from a third party perspective. From speaking with one of the volunteers, I gather this has come from a level of maturity they've collectively reached where they don't try to chase every opportunity, but rather try to craft a solid set of plans and stick to it.

Those who were tabling seemed to be doing well. I spoke with one publisher who jokingly expressed mild disappointment that they were only doing about as well as last year, which was a high bar for them. Individual creators seemed to be doing well, too -- I started seeing things selling out around 1:30 on Saturday, and there was a photo posted online later in the day that showed a number of tables that had been all but cleared of books. Chester Brown had a long line of autograph seekers every time I went by, and there were several other creators I had to wait a bit to get a chance to talk to. (And I never did get to Sarah Becan's table! Sorry, Sarah!) The show has garnered enough of a reputation that they're having creators from not-at-all close locations (including other countries) trying to get a table. I spoke with creators from Oregon, Colorado, Massachusetts, California, and New York; and I believe there were creators who flew in from Hawaii and Australia as well!

So even in my brief, more-anecdotal-than-concrete-evidence look at CAKE this year, the show seems to have done very well this year, once again. Which is super impressive to me, given that A) it's still a pretty new show, and B) there's a LOT of competition out there. I don't know what business expertise all the show organizers formally have, but they're doing something right with whatever they've got!
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