On Business: Small Con

By | Monday, June 12, 2017 Leave a Comment
At CAKE this past weekend (fantastic show, as always, BTW) I talked with a few creators who weren't local. The show organizers try to pull in folks from as wide a net as they can, but functionally, it tends to feature a lot of local talent. Which isn't terribly surprising. Generally speaking, the further you have to travel for a show, the more expensive it is; and the more expensive it is, the more difficult it is to break even, much less make money. If you can stay at home, and travel to and from a show is only a quarter of tank of gas, you only need to sell a couple of books to break even. If you have to drop $200 on a plane ticket and another $150 on a hotel, that's a hell of a lot of $10-$20 books you'd have to move before you'd start turning a profit!

CAKE isn't the only show like that, of course. Other similarly sized conventions I've attended over the years tend to feature local and semi-local creators. Even if you peruse the Artist's Alley for big conventions like the ones from Wizard World and ReedPop, the talent there tends to be centered in the same geographic area.

So I asked a few people who I happened to know weren't local to Chicago, what prompted you to table at CAKE? I basically got two answers.

First were folks who wren't local, but were still close enough that they could kinda/sorta treat it as a local show. It was close enough to drive in a day and, if you stay at a cheap motel, your costs don't run up too much. You have to be pretty confident in your sales ability with this, since you're still likely to run up at least $50 in gas money alone, but it's still a lot cheaper than a plane ticket. But one gent I talked to drove over from Philadelphia; it's about a ten hour drive, and he said he wouldn't go any further afield than that and even then probably only for a solidly comics-focused show like CAKE.

The second group of folks were those who were willing to travel considerably further, and drop money for plane fare, but they were treating it like a partially subsidized vacation. They might have family or friends in the area, so they came out to visit and the convention was a convenient (and enjoyable) way to make at least some of their money back. But the trip isn't about the convention per se, even though it is a significant part of it.

It's a shame that that's what it boils down to. I expect there are tons of great comics out there that are basically only seen regionally because the creator can't make the finances work for longer treks. The internet mitigates that somewhat, of course, but shipping can make small purchases cost-prohibitive for readers. (I know I certainly waited to purchase several books because I knew the creator would be at one of these local shows.)

Hmmm. The more I think on this, the more I think there's more to be discussed. I'm going to noodle on this a bit more...
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