Comparing Conventions


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This weekend’s MoCCA Art Festival in New York kicks off the convention season for me, a season that will see me exhibiting at nine shows over the course of nine months, one convention every three to five weeks.

And I could have easily scheduled more shows. I’ve already missed Emerald City in Seattle last month, and Wonder Con this past weekend. I won’t be going to the new Chicago con, C2E2 in a couple of weeks, or the Heroes Con that I’ve heard so much about.  These are all shows that I may want to do in the future, probably next year when I have not only my first graphic novel, Adrenaline, to sell, but also my new one, a hardcover for American Terrorist.

So if I’m already doing nine shows with my more conservative schedule, what’ll happen when I start adding on new ones? I figured I’d better use this year to really analyze what shows are worth doing and which ones might be worth skipping in favor of others.

To that end, I’ve created a kind of rubric for charting whether shows are worth doing and why. As I go to each of my nine shows this year, I’m going to run each one through the test and put the results here in the column.

Hopefully, this process will give me a better sense of what shows are truly worth putting in the time and investing the money to attend. And I also hope it can be used as an example to my readers to help them figure out which shows are worth it for them because sometimes we can get wrapped up in the hype of a particular convention and convince ourselves that it’s the show we have to do when another smaller, or more local show might wind up being more profitable and more rewarding experience.

Here’s how I’ve broken it down:

How far away from me is the show? Will it require a plane tickets? How easy is the drive? In terms of hotel costs, how many nights will I need to pay for a hotel room and how costly is the area?

Length of the Convention:
How many days are there of the show? In some cases, a longer show can be a good thing, making the trip worthwhile if there are a good number of days to reach attendees, but it can also be a negative if I feel like it makes the trip longer than it needs to be or if it’s really just the same crowd that made it’s way around the other days.

Table Cost: This can actually be a huge factor. Some perfectly reputable shows like San Diego Comic-Con and SPX still offer small press tables for about $350. The New York Comic-Con has their small press “table area” priced at $900. I say “area” because this cost doesn’t actually include tables or chairs. Those you can either rent separately at a pretty high price, or bring your own (not so easy to do). I am going to do the show this year, because not having to travel or get a hotel room does offset the high cost for me, but we’ll see about future years.

Interest of attendees:
As the medium becomes more divergent, “comic” fans don’t all fall under the same umbrella anymore. Some have a particular focus, others just sort of fall into certain categories on there own. It’s important to choose a convention where the material you’re selling fits with the interests of the people attending. I’m not saying we need to draw too many lines in the sand, but it’s just smart to know your audience.

Spending pattern of attendees: One last thing that shouldn’t be ignored is how readily the attendees make purchases. For example, SPX and MoCCA both have the same kind of small press vibe to it, but I find that at SPX people, come to shop! There just isn’t enough reason to go to Bethesda, MD unless you’re ready to throw down some cash on some cool indie comics. Seriously, you should see the amount of people at the end of the show trying to leave with these enormous backpacks weighing them down.

By contrast, even though the MoCCA Art Fest has the same indie feel, I find it to be more of a browsing show. I guess it has more to do with the New York experience of soaking in the culture. You just get the feeling that more people are saving up to hit the town that night than picking up good books to read in their hotel room.

So that’s about it. As I go from show to show, I’m going to stick with the same merchandise and presentation. I’m keeping my table setup the same as much as I can with the facilities provided to me, but it’s generally the same basic table size. I’ve got myself a new tablecloth with the A Wave Blue World logo on it and a retractable banner for the back with an image and logo for American Terrorist.

As I’ve said before, the items I’m selling are pretty limited. This makes it harder to raise enough money to pay for the expense of the show, but that’s just sort of my take on the whole thing. I’m there to sell my comics, not prints or Wolverine or to do commissions of Mary Jane in the shower.

For sale, I will have the Adrenaline graphic novel, an Adrenaline poster (11x17), the 2010 American Terrorist sketchbook, and an American Terrorist Print. I do have some Adrenaline individual issues, but I’m sold out of issues #1, #4, and #6, so it’s a tough sell.

There we have it. First up, MoCCA Art Fest, April 10 & 11. Can’t say I have high expectations. The table price went up to $400 for this year, but at least it’s NYC so I don’t have to pay for a hotel room or transportation.

I’m certainly not happy, though, about my location. Even though last year when most exhibitors were complaining about how bad the show was and how they didn’t like the new location (which sucks) and how they weren’t sure if they were going to sign up for next year, I handed in payment right away and asked to be near the front. And as a gesture of good faith for my loyalty, they stuck me in back, facing the far wall.

We’ll see how it goes. I’ll report on it in next week’s column, include other news from the show, and have some pictures for you. See you then.


Tyler Chin-Tanner started his own publishing company, A Wave Blue World, and writes and draws layouts for Adrenaline, its flagship series.
© 2008 Tyler Chin-Tanner.  All rights reserved.

Email: tyler@awaveblueworld.com


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