This past Wednesday I walked into my comic shop and waded into the middle of a conversation about booth space prices. Awesome Con is staging their first Indianapolis show in October, and the guys weren’t too keen on what was being asked, how much extra a corner booth would cost over an endcap, and why the con’s rep promised them a “locals” discount over the phone that appeared nowhere in the marketing materials. Much snickering ensued.
I’ve never looked much into the wheelings ‘n’ dealings of what it takes to negotiate all the players and participants in a given con. Much of the economic side is beyond my realm of experience, but I was fascinated enough that I decided to perform some light research for myself. Now that we’ve had a convention boom this year in the Midwest in general, and in Indianapolis in particular, we have a much wider sampling pool to examine, and plenty of opportunities for local comic shop owners, online dealers, private collection owners, comics creators, writers, artists, game designers, bloggers, podcasters, and other entertainers to gather alongside other like-minded entrepreneurs in the massive community swap meet that is a geek convention.
In the interest of science, finance, dissatisfied curiosity, and future reference, I culled the available pricing info for Artists Alley and Exhibit Hall tables, booths, and/or spaces from the official sites of all the cons my wife and I attend, a few we’ve discussed attending but haven’t yet, and a couple more within reach that aren’t on our radar yet.
So: wanna sell your wares? Here are your options ’round these parts:
* These are prices for single spaces only. If you need two or more spaces, prepare to double or triple your bill, maybe more if you’re Mile High Comics or if you’re planning on bringing forty longboxes out of your garage. Have fun hauling those.
* Compare these to the worst-case scenario on a national basis: for San Diego Comic Con 2015, exhibitor booths start at $3,000.00, but with a discount depending on how early you prepay. There’s a $700 upcharge for corner booths and an $1,800.00 upcharge for an “Island Premium Booth”. Artists Alley half-tables are, incredibly, free if you reserve by September 10th, 2014, a full ten months in advance. After that date, $350 for no-frills halfsies.
* Some of these are apples and oranges. Artists Alley structure, placement, traffic access, and other factors differ from con to con. Shopping around on that basis would be key to your planning, too.
* Many cons charge extra for amenities such as convenient electrical access, internet access, temp fixtures, extra badges above your allotment, etc. Assuming they offer any of those amenities in the first place. Not everyone does.
* Retailers who love Wizard World should note that their biggest bargains are Louisville and the premier Indianapolis show. I can’t speak for Louisville’s, but Indy’s has at least two competitive hurdles: it’s in the middle of February, typically our snowiest month of the year; and it’s on Valentine’s Weekend. Some couples (present company included) will consider that a romantic advantage, but not all of them.
* Based on their site language, the Indiana Comic Con apparently believes all its booths are corner booths. Nice perk if it’s true, assuming they have space for everything and everyone this time and still have enough square footage left to allow extra walkways. I wish them well in achieving this high-minded aspiration.
* A few months ago I saw a comment from a local webcomics artist who quoted a much higher asking price for an Artists Alley table at Awesome Con. I’m guessing she wasn’t alone and they later slashed prices with good reason.
* Yeah, the established Chicago market is more costly than the burgeoning Indy scene. No surprise there. I wish I’d had this idea before Gen Con pulled down their prices after selling out for 2014, because I’d love to know how they stack up against all of these.
* Indy Pop Con has not yet reached an agreement with the Indiana Convention Center for a 2015 date commitment, so their prices may be site leftovers from their inaugural 2014 show.
* HorrorHound and Starbase Indy have no artists’ area separate from their dealers’ rooms. (In fact, they’re held at the exact same hotel, two months apart.) Same price whether you’re selling used books or new sketches, then.
* For those who know what DashCon is: yes, they are planning to try again June 19-21, 2015, and they’re moving to Indy. I’m not presently using Tumblr (so many pros and cons to this question), so I have no stakes in that gold rush, just some casual bewilderment at the first gathering’s incident reports.
* Some of these cons are so surprisingly affordable, I could afford space if MCC had any physical wares to showcase. I think it would be educational and possibly interesting to have a table at a con, but I can’t see my wife and myself spending three days at a blank table with just a laptop, a legal pad for signups, a hand-drawn cardboard sign, and nothing to sell. I suppose I could give away old comics I don’t want (anyone like DC’s New 52? Buffy Season 8?), or maybe sell bottled water and canned drinks for a buck apiece. I like to think we’d represent a valuable community service, especially considering convention concession prices. But we’d probably have to apply for a vending license or weather some other bureaucratic shenanigans. BAH.
That’s the state of the market as of today. Prices, availability, and con viability are all subject to change without notice, maybe even happening as late as Day Two. Now go reserve your spot, establish your HQ, and try selling me some really nifty comics and stuff.