Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Wizard World Comic Con St. Louis

Last weekend was St. Louis' biggest event, Wizard World Comic Con. I shared a table with fellow author, Eric Asher. This was supposed to be my largest event so far in my young writing career, and that might have been the case attendance-wise.

The con was a mixed bag. Here's my take on the good, the bad, and the ugly...

The Good:

1) It's always such a pleasure and privilege to get to meet and talk to my readers. Several of them have visited with me at other events, tried my first book out, and wanted to get the other two books in the series. One reader even created a steampunk costume for his son, and on the back of the power pack, he put a little red dragonfly on it just for me.

Wow. That's so cool. I put that up there with a fan who made a customized action figure for me.

Meeting people who enjoy your work never gets old. It's what fuels me, actually. No matter how tough this road gets.

2) Eric Asher is just a cool dude. We laughed our asses off. It's always great to hang out with someone who has a similar sense of humor. The guy sells more in one day than I do in six months, and he's always full of knowledge and experience I try to tap into.

3) The cosplayers. Whoa. The costumes many of the con-goers create never cease to amaze me. If you want to see just a small sampling of my favorite ones, check out my Instagram posts:
Mr. Freeze's helmet was fog-proof, I believe


The Bad:

1) Don't get me wrong. I think Hayley Atwell (Captain America/Agent Carter), Rick Coswell (The Flash), Elvira, George Romero (Dawn of the Dead), Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Jason David Frank (The Green Ranger) are awesome. But lacking this year were the headliners who have come to WW Comic Con in the past like William Shatner, Nathan Fillion, Matt Smith, or Adam West/Burt Ward.

2) The crowd stuck to the periphery. Photo ops and autograph booths were all around the outer edge of the arena. Artists row was in the middle. People pretty much kept to the huge booths at the entrance to the arena and all along the perimeter. There was no natural traffic flow through artists' alley.

3) It's always disheartening to see steampunk people walk on by. I know steampunk is a lot of different things to different people. It's fashion, jewelry, cool brass guns, goggles, etc. But steampunk is more than asthetics. Steampunk began as a literary movement, and it makes me sad that a vast majority of steampunks don't even stop by my table despite the obvious steampunk-ness of my banner, book covers, etc.

The Ugly:

1) It was Memorial Day Weekend. Holiday weekends tend to be weak. Overall attendance was WAY down compared to previous years. When there was a celebrity panel going on, the arena became a ghost town. That was weird. Usually, this show has about 20,000 people come through. I'm sure it was well below that number this year.

2) With reduced attendance came reduced sales. Most of the artists all around me ended up losing money. The cost of just a table was $325. Add parking, meals, and lodging for many of us, and that spells RED. Luckily, I split the cost of my table, and I live in town, so I was able to reduce my risk and end up in the BLACK. But barely. After I pay sales tax, I might be even more depressed.

3) With many vendors having lost their shirts, there was a lot of negativity. It's easy being dragged down into despair when all that anger and frustration is around you. I tried to take a deep breath, and just be thankful for all the good stuff that I was able to experience.

So the show was a mixed bag, but in my mind, the positives outweigh the negatives. Even if I had lost money, I'd still be immensely happy that I got to meet some people who either love my work or are willing to give my strange Asian-Steampunk books a try.

I seem to do better at medium/smaller shows. The price of the table is a fraction of the cost, and there seems to be more readers at these less-than-huge venues. I probably won't go to Wizard World next year as an artist, although I wouldn't mind going as an attendee.

I've now been doing events and shows for one full year, and I'm still learning and trying to figure out where I belong.


Tony Laplume said...

I'd say having Hayley Atwell there was a pretty big deal. Either way, you actually have cosplayers. That has to count for something. As for whether or not your work is identifiable as steampunk may be something, if you're counting on that, you will have to further address yourself before you expect the steampunk crowd itself to flock to you. I personally would not necessarily identify your books as steampunk. I could be wrong. But that may be an indication of how others perceive it. You may even consider hiring your cosplayer(s) to help spread the word, at whatever cost-effective measure available to you. Having a walking billboard can't be a bad thing.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

George Romero was certainly a big deal.
Memorial Day weekend does seem like bad timing. Mixing up the booths might have been a better way to go. And how much for a table? Whoa...
You had a good attitude about it, which probably made a huge difference.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

How amazing you got to meet fans and people who love your work! It sounds like you always learn a lot when you attend these cons and that will certainly help your career. Keep looking at the positive. You can do it!

Pat Dilloway said...

At least you made a small profit. Movie tickets were down the holiday weekend so there must have been some good weather around the country for people to enjoy.

Pat Hatt said...

Getting to interact with fans who like your work sure is a positive. But yeah, whoever thought of doing it on the long weekend was kind of off.

Jay Noel said...

Personally, I thought the guests were great. Although, I can see where many fans might be wanting a William Shatner or Nathan Fillion. People are fickle.

Cherie Reich said...

I would think a holiday weekend wouldn't be a good time to hold a convention. I'd love to see Rick Coswell. True, he's not Barry, but he's in The Flash and that show is beyond awesome. I think it's better to dwell on the positives. It's hard to stay in the black for any type of convention/conference, and each person you did talk to has the chance of remembering who you are and becoming a potential fan.

Chrys Fey said...

Anything during Memorial Day weekend is a bust because everyone is either going to the beach or to someone's house for a barbecue. But I bet it was still a lot of fun! :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Jay, I remember when the big book festival in Columbia, SC switched from February to May. Attendance was more than cut in half.

As for Steampunk people walking by your table with hardly a glance, that does not surprise me. I've been to dozens of book festivals and such and watched people stop at the book next to me, selling the exact same genre, get excited and buy a variety of books, and then walk right past mine without even stopping. It can be frustrating.

I don't do the expensive ones like that anymore. Print books just don't sell. But hopefully you passed out enough bookmarks and made enough contacts that you'll reap benefits for a long time.

Patricia Lynne said...

That's a bummer a lot of venders didn't do well. I do craft shows with my handmade items so I know how important table placement is and the date of the show. I hope you had a good time. I love cosplayers too. They are amazing in the detail.

Jay Noel said...

I still have to contend with many steampunk enthusiasts who believe the genre should only have European main characters in a Victorian/Edwardian setting. These people fail to realize that the 19th century DID happen for the rest of the world.

DEZMOND said...

OMG you were betrayed by the very steampunks! How dare they not visit your stand? :(

Nick Wilford said...

Sounds like the good outweigh the bad. You showed up and got in front of people which is half the battle. I'd struggle with that a lot.

Robin said...

Sounds like this whole marketing thing has a huge learning curve. Given how it turned out for others, I think I'd be happy with a Break Even... and hope that some people look into your stuff AFTER the show.

Christine Rains said...

That is so awesome about the boy's costume! Hopefully those that run the con will learn from this year and make sure not to put it on the holiday weekend again. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. :)

Southpaw HR Sinclair said...

How sweet that the dad dress his kid steampunky with a red dragonfly! That is just cool! Thanks for sharing the good, bad, and ugly with us!

Jay Noel said...

Putting that dragonfly on the back was such a compliment. What's great was that the guy was also a huge fan of my table-mate, Eric. So we both were floored!

Jay Noel said...

Putting that dragonfly on the back was such a compliment. What's great was that the guy was also a huge fan of my table-mate, Eric. So we both were floored!

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

Yikes! Memorial Day weekend is horrible timing for an event like this. I don't think I would have gone, but am glad you got into the black at least.

Lexa Cain said...

I know a lot of writers who take their books "on the road" to sell them. Even those pubbed by the Big 5. It's one of the things that makes me glad I live in Egypt and can't buy any books or make any school or Con visits. Yes, my stuff does't sell, but on the bright side, it doesn't cost me anything either. :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I've never been even to a small con but I would love to go. That is an expensive table. I'm debating going to a big even in October that costs $100 per table. Still debating.

Stephanie Faris said...

A fan made an action figure of you? That HAS to be the best thing I've heard a fan do for an author! How touching.

Tyrean Martinson said...

I'm so thankful for your detailed reports back on various events. I've been too nervous to try one of the big events - afraid of the RED that might incur. I've only been to one tiny event that wasn't themed, and then I hope to go to a book fair in Portland this summer - again, not themed, and smaller in $ for the table space. I keep looking at the big events and wishing there were more medium sized events in my area - Seattle seems to attract the $500 a table event, not the $100 a table events.

BTW - Love that you have some awesome fans! And thanks for sharing those pics via instagram.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Besides the amazing costumes that sounds like a great time. Managing costs are tricky but seeing the tattoo makes it all worth while.

Cindy said...

I think it's cool you go to those. I would be horrible at it. I like how you shared the good and bad.

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