Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Expense of Comic Conventions

This blog post from Denise Dorman has caused quite a stir:


Some reposts of the blog have taken it out of context with the more sensational headline:

Denise Dorman Asks – Is Cosplay Killing Comic Con?

When the true title of the blog is

The Hidden TRUTH About Comic Book Convention Earnings: For Creators, Have Comic Book Conventions JUMPED THE SHARK?

I am not sure why it was worded this way when reblogged except to start a false argument with cosplayers.

The real issue is
the price of having a table and going to many cons in recent years has gotten crazy expensive!

I am curious what people who regularly show art at these show think. Denise says that it costs them $7000 to have a booth at SDCC. That is a CRAZY amount of money and I am not even sure it includes the cost of printing materials to sell and the booth banners, display materials etc.

I have talked to a lot of artists with a wide range of booth/comic/art types and it seems like the real issue is that before any of the other costs associated with a con, you have to pay a ton of cash for a table or a booth.

A convention like Mid-Ohio con for example used to charge $50 for an artist table. That has ballooned to at least $300 (maybe higher now; someone correct me) without any of the other costs.

After the artist has paid for the booth, the attendees that buy art have already spent a large amount on tickets, parking, hotel and food that has also skyrocketed in recent years. That means a huge reduction in sales.

One con I used to go to regularly was GenCon. I always had good sales there even though the art room was not on the main floor at the time. I thought the newer setup with the artists on the floor in booths would mean much better sales but when I asked my brother and his wife who attended the whole con several weeks ago if they scoped the art tables, they said they never even went to the art section of the dealers room!

I chastised them appropriately but I want to hear about what artists in town who still go to a lot of conventions think about the current situation.

I think a lot of people are going to the smaller alternative comic conventions (SPACE in Columbus is reasonable (for fans and artists) and easily my favorite convention).

It seems like many artists are turning to the alternative press shows. At TCAF in May, it CRAZY crowded. But, there is no entrance fee and I bought a lot of great comics.



  1. Table prices across the board have indeed gone up, as well as the amount of non-comics stuff we need to compete with. There's a bigger crowd, but not necessarily a comics crowd. I have even heard rumor that there will be YouTubers at forthcoming Wizard shows!

    For some of us, cons are a great way to meet people, as well as to see what sells (at the moment), and to build up a fan base. They are also a great place to meet with other creators. It is true that many of the expenses are tax deductible for small businesses filing schedule C, but that money is still coming out of our pockets, and is not limitless. As prices rise, the amount of shows you can do goes down. Last year was a huge con year for me, so this year I have only been able to do two small shows (SPACE included, which is still the best deal around).

    The fact of the matter is, Artist Alley (or its equivalent) is no longer a concern for some of the bigger shows, and seems to be an afterthought for some. I personally have been told that "if you can't earn enough to cover your table cost, then you don't belong here". Harsh, yes, and really strange considering that creators, even small publishers and independent artists, were what these shows were once about.
    And without them, what can we creators do to see each other, our fans and friends, and to sell stuff?

    The important things to remember are: 1) You should be having fun at these events, and 2) you are better off running things as a small business. These days if you are sensible, reasonable, and know your expectations, you can do a few shows, have fun, and not bust the bank. If you are new, don't show up with 500 comics and 50 t-shirts, and 300 art prints, and big fancy banners. Start out small, and ALWAYS have something to hand out with contact info on it. If you've been doing shows for a while, then hopefully you've learned a bit of what works and what doesn't. Things have changed, though, and we do need to adapt.
    I'm hoping to do SDCC next year, and I am already planning on packing light. I learned the last time that I don't need to ship my entire inventory. If you sell out of something, have postcards or flyers telling people where they can get your stuff.

    As for Cosplayers? They don't have pockets, so yeah... don't expect them to buy anything. But DO ask to take their picture... holding up your comic/artwork. :0)

    1. I do want to add that there have been some shows that I've suddenly started having much poorer sales than usual, but others where I've actually done better. I think the key is returning to the same show every year, so that people get to know you, and also, having new material every year.
      Unfortunately, the shows I've done best at are the ones where the prices are going up, so this issue is really going to hit home this year.

    2. Thanks for the thoughtful words John. I think the situation is complex.

      Do you think indy shows or more mainstream comic shows are better for you?

  2. Tim may have some insights but I noticed the cost of Cincinnati Comic Expo jumped to $30 and if you wanted your picture or autograph from the big name celebrity that cost $40. So add parking..etc, who has money for artists.

    For the record, no celebrity photos bought here.

    1. I agree it is an incentive to spend less when everything involved costs more. I tend to buy a lot more when the entry fee is less not just at conventions!

      The same is true for the Renaissance Fair, Kings Island, art fairs that charge fees...