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Author Topic: Con Report - Connecticon July 9-11 2010  (Read 5669 times)

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Offline Rob

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Con Report - Connecticon July 9-11 2010
« on: July 19, 2010, 03:32:34 AM »

I first started reading webcomics back when I was in security. The night shifts were a drag and my partner and I used to spend a great deal of time surfing the web for interesting things to look at. I was really into Halo at the time and I was trying to learn HTML and CSS so I could code a site for my Halo clan.

Like many things, the enjoyable act of reading webcomics soon turned into a daily hobby. I only had a few favorites at first but as we all know, webcomics beget webcomics. After some time I was reading many of the biggest and most well known webcomics of the time. I was also working in an office by then and found myself spending even more time on the web.

Eventually someone turned me on to Connecticon. I don't remember who but chances are it was Jeph Jacques or Randy Milholland. I was curious. I had never been to a con and I wanted to see what one was like but even more so I was, as a writer, interested in meeting the people who were writing these interesting stories I was reading every day.

And I wasn't disappointed. I doubt you will find a con that has more people freaking out with cosplay than Connecticon. By comparison when I attended NYCC nine out of ten people just looked like folks off the street. Sure there were a lot of relevant T-shirts but for the most part they were just normal street clothes. At Connecticon it's the opposite. Nine out of ten people are dressed up. And they really work it.

Additionally, I got to meet Jeph and Randy and Dirk and Brion and Jenny and Cique and James and Tim and it was wonderful. They weren't just kind; anyone who wants to sell you something is usually kind. They were genuine. They were friendly and supportive or each other and fooled around and had fun. I was so missing that at my job at the time. I was hooked and I wanted in.

So here we are on the other side of several years later. I'm running a webcomic community, writing and in some ways (animating, modeling and so on) creating three webcomics. I'm writing freelance for a fantasy magazine and I've been unemployed for over two years. I've sunk just about every extra dime I have into my webcomic business and I'm looking at going to conventions.

Of course Connecticon was the first one on my list.

I'll save you the suspense. I didn't make any money. In fact I lost my shirt. Because this was my first con there were loads of startup expenses that I simply could not reasonably expect to recoup at one con. So setting aside all that and just taking into account the travel for Corey (as I recall about $175), the gas to and from Hartford every day (roughly $20 a day for 3 days). The $150 for the table. The $60 for parking all weekend. The $90 I spent on electricity. Just those expenses alone come to just over $500. We made $97. And I have to pay 6% sales tax out of that.

Now, $500 to go to a con is actually pretty damn cheap. If you take away the $90 I spent on electricity (Corey had intended to get some work done on my laptop and I wanted him to be able to... additionally I wanted people to be able to watch him sketch on the second monitor and I made a movie with all of our comic strips playing for when the computer was not in use... and it actually went over really well) the amount is darn cheap.

In fact, the total amount for everything is less that what I'm spending just for my table at the upcoming NY Comic Con. So you may be asking yourself, what went wrong?

Part of it, and I'm going to put this right out front because it's the biggest reason we didn't make much money, is because it was our first con and very few folks know who we are. All weekend we literally had 4 fans come up to us who actually knew Remedy and Remedial Comics. So that was a huge factor.

The other things were related to the con itself and I think these are things that may teach us all some lessons.

Connecticon has never been known for being the best organized con. It's mostly volunteer run and they do a very difficult job for nothing. So let me say right away that the things I'm going to say about Connecticon are not attacks on the con. They simply are. The con has issues. The people who run it know it has issues. They are very kind, hard working people who did a wonderful job running the con, as they always do and were very kind and helpful even when failing miserably. But like many things, it was in the preparation where thing went really badly and this year it definitely showed.

I wasn't sure if Jeph was going to be at Connecticon. He usually is. It's a short drive for him and the table is free but I didn't see him saying anything about it so I was unsure. I knew Randy Milholland would not be there. He told me they asked him really late and he had already committed to Japan Con with his friend. I knew Cique had retired but I was hoping Jenny and James might be there. Brad Guigar was on the guest list on the website as was Kris Straub. I was sure Tim Buckley would be there. It's practically his con. He lives in Connecticut and is almost always there. I even convinced Tarol Hunt of Goblins to come to the con telling him how webcomic friendly the convention is.

None of these people were actually at the con.

As I said, I knew Randy wasn't going to make it. But the rest were a shock. So many big names. The head of the webcomics area owned it; telling me that due to personal issues he got such a late start on booking the bigger name webcomics this year that they all either declined outright or already had other cons in the pipe. Plus the chronological proximity to San Diego Comic Con made people less inclined to travel to the opposite coast twelve days before the biggest con of the year. I understand Tim actually stopped by for a few minutes to say hi.

Tarol was arrested and deported by U.S. Customs officials for coming to the U.S. with the intention of selling goods (IE Working) without a work permit. They asked him why he was coming to the U.S. and he told them. He was honest and it got him deported.

This is the second time someone I know from Canada attempted to come into America, told the truth and was deported. As a little aside here folks... if you are Canadian and you do not know how to come into America to attend a con for the love of God send me a private message so I can set you straight. It's more complicated than you think.

Getting back to the con though. The lack of so many big name webcomics radically tilted the con in favor of the anime fans. I was told by the man in charge of the Artist Colony they had to remove 20 tables (an entire row) so the room did not look completely empty because they could not sell them. The table behind me was a dead table (someone bought it and never showed up) and of course since poor Tarol was supposed to be on my right that table too was dead until I convinced them to move Luke Foster from the half table he was sharing to the full table that was going to be Tarol's.

Some of the webcomics that had anime fan followings like Flipside and Dominic Deegan seemed to do ok. But all the rest of us could talk about was how bad it was. The guy who absolutely did the most business in the artist colony was a guy selling custom teeth caps. You know, vampire fangs and such, custom made to fit your teeth as caps. I never saw the guy without a customer in his chair and at least one more waiting. It was the waiting folks that were usually the issue.

Since I was surrounded by dead tables, fans seemed to think it was ok to cut through the center of the artist colony, past my table. One almost ripped the computer monitor off the post it was mounted to and didn't even stop to say sorry. Also, the empty tables were used as places to check their cell phones, reorganize their bags and leave their trash. At one point, two people waiting for fangs, a guy and his very scantily clad girlfriend began fooling around behind Tarol's table. Although I didn't utter them, the words "hey this is a family con" were actually used by someone walking by. Let's just say he was touching his ladyfriend in places you don't touch a ladyfriend in polite company and certainly not in public.

The con staff reacted to these problems like the volunteers they are. They did their best but the response was hampered by red tape and lethargy. The best of Friday and Saturday were over before I felt like the situation was resolved to a degree at which I was satisfied.

An example of how things go at Connecticon. They had this PA system that sounded like the wrath of God when they used it. It made everyone jump and cover their ears. At one point I asked our webcomics rep if the webcomics charity auction (which I had nothing to do with other than donating a couple items and some time) could be announced over the PA so that more people would know about it and hopefully attend.  I was told by the rep that he had been banned from using the PA due to some announcements he had made in the past that others on the volunteer committee didn't care for. He said he would see what he could do.

I would say there were less than 100 people actually at the auction despite thousands being in the building. What's more I'm fairly confident in saying that much less was raised than the previous year. No PA announcement happened. Although, a few minutes after the auction ended there was an announcement letting everyone know that one of the larger T-Shirt vendors in the dealer room was having a sale!

Yeah... priorities.

I'm going to be doing another article discussing specifically my table layout and then we can all talk about what worked and what didn't so this article isn't a million words long.

But to sum up, yes I was pretty disappointed in many aspects of the way Connecticon went for us this year. But building a webcomic business is a marathon not a sprint and I'm in it for the long haul. There were many great webcomic artist there and I got to hang out with some of my favorites and made a few new friends. But I also gave out almost 400 business cards. We gave away tons of free flyers, we talked to tons of people passionate about webcomics and we gained some much needed experience before the big show in October. And one of the big benefits from the show will actually be coming around this Friday (can't blab.. very hush hush).

Next year when it comes time to decide whether or not I will be attending Connecticon I will be far more interested in who else is already confirmed. I also will hopefully have the traffic to fit into their tier system so we can get some free stuff (they provide passes, tables and even hotel and travel stipends to larger webcomics with significant traffic). I also, will hopefully have made the contacts that when I have questions or concerns I will get answers before I get to the con. But ultimately I had a shitload of fun. Yes it cost me some money but I think I learned a lot and I think those lessons will really pay off in the future.

I took some pictures at the con and if you want to see them you can check out the blog entry at Remedial Comics for July 14th (there's a little arrow at the bottom of the blog to navigate back in time). I also made a little video of me walking around and talking to various people. It's short and the quality is crap but it should give you some idea as to what the floor and layout looked like.

« Last Edit: July 19, 2010, 03:44:31 AM by Rob »

Offline Gar

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Re: Con Report - Connecticon July 9-11 2010
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2010, 03:49:52 AM »
Shame it was a bad year for webcomics at Connecticon, but at least you managed to get a bunch of cards and flyers out. Did you meet any new creators?

Offline operationremie

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Re: Con Report - Connecticon July 9-11 2010
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2010, 04:57:16 AM »
i thought CTcon was great this year. i was going through some crap on the outside of the con so it just kinda sucked some days for me.

it was awesome meeting you tho! and i promise my site will happen soon!

Offline Rob

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Re: Con Report - Connecticon July 9-11 2010
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2010, 05:43:59 AM »
Remie the con was a lot of fun and it looked like everyone had a lot of fun. But I think you will find that when the numbers are tallied there were a lot less people this year; a lot less people than expected as well. And most of the folks there were there for the events and the anime and not so much the webcomics like in past years. But that's just my impression. Lord knows it was a big show and I didn't see half of it.

And it was great meeting you. I'm looking forward to your site launch.

Gar if you check out that blog I mentioned at Remedial Comics I have links and pictures for many new webcomic people I met. As usually they are a particularly classy group of people and my reconnection with old webcomics friends as well as the new ones I met really invigorated my love for the business.  ;)

Offline JGray

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Re: Con Report - Connecticon July 9-11 2010
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2010, 07:25:29 AM »
I was just reading the blog over at Misfile. Their donations, which have apparently been a relatively steady stream on income for a while, are down. I've heard other people say conventions just haven't been the same this year.

The economy. Even those people who didn't lose their jobs or find economic hardship have likely been forced to reexamine their priorities when it comes to discretionary income and saving. Unfortunately, luxuries like comics which are, in the end, quick reads for the expense, likely fall on the low side.

Offline Gar

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Re: Con Report - Connecticon July 9-11 2010
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2010, 08:56:00 AM »
Good time for audience-building with free and accessible entertainment though  :-\

Offline ScottLincoln

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Re: Con Report - Connecticon July 9-11 2010
« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2010, 04:13:24 PM »
I know that I had a good time. It was my first solo con so I didn't have many expectations. I mostly went to promote my webcomic (Ralf the Destroyer) and since it was local, I didn't incur overwhelming expenses. I met some great people I never would have met any other way and it was also great meeting Rob in person.

Though it would have been nice to have a fuller Artist Colony, I did benefit by getting a whole table even though I only signed up for a half (a slow sprawl as I noted no one was being seated next to me over time). Since I traveled really light I found free parking and though things started out a bit jumbled, I found the staff and the attendees to be very friendly and receptive to me and my work. The whole experience was very positive and I'm seriously thinking of attending next year as well and hopefully the 2010 Baltimore Comic Con at the end of this August.

Offline Rob

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Re: Con Report - Connecticon July 9-11 2010
« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2010, 07:02:57 PM »
It was great meeting you too Scott.

J, Misfile was at the con although I don't really know the creators and didn't visit with them. I do wonder how they did though, from what I know of Misfile they are significantly more anime friendly than my comics.

Offline operationremie

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Re: Con Report - Connecticon July 9-11 2010
« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2010, 07:30:44 PM »
Rob, I agree completely about the numbers. It did feel that the people were lacking this year. It kinda sucks about that but I'm sure that things will get better (I blame the economy really).

Offline Kate

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Re: Con Report - Connecticon July 9-11 2010
« Reply #9 on: July 29, 2010, 09:22:04 AM »
Hey Rob,

I doubt you remember me, but I stopped by your booth and took a walk around it to take a look at all of the different comics you've got going. I had a table in Artist Colony too, and I had a very similar experience.

This is actually our second convention, but at the previous one (Katsucon) I was working with a different comic than I am now. Oddly, though, I do believe we had more traffic with Katsucon than we did at Connecticon.

I had been told that Connecticon was a huge webcomics con, but from what I saw this year, that was not the case. It was very much more about anime and manga with a side of gaming - which is all good, of course, but I wish I'd known.

All in all I had a really good time because I met some cool people and hung out with my friends, but it's good to know that others felt similarly about the webcomics in Artists Colony.

@Scott, hiya, it's Kate from CyberGen 2027. We also lucked out and had a whole table while paying for half. That was probably the best thing about it - gave Heather a half of the table to ink and paint on. ^_^

Offline Rob

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Re: Con Report - Connecticon July 9-11 2010
« Reply #10 on: July 29, 2010, 02:54:12 PM »
They've actually asked me to help out a bit for next your to try and improve the way the webcomics thing went. I'm hoping it will bring things back to the glory days where loads of webcomics make the scene and it really balances out the Anime/Manga stuff. They basically admitted that they screwed up this year. So hopefully it will be better next time around.

If they were blowing smoke and I don't hear from them and things seem to be going the same way next year I'll probably skip it.

Now are you the two girls with the heart/life meter shirts that were linked together... because I definitely remember you if that was indeed you... if not I might need a refresher... did you show up in any of my pics (which are actually in the blog from that week at Remedial Comics.... not here) or the video I posted here?

Either way it's great to see you here.  ;)

Offline Kate

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Re: Con Report - Connecticon July 9-11 2010
« Reply #11 on: July 30, 2010, 04:43:23 AM »
That's awesome. I'm sure you'll keep us posted on how things are shaping up for webcomics, yes? I was sandwiched between a hat-maker and a general craftmaker, and I'm still not certain how I felt about that and whether or not it helped or hurt the chances of people stopping by.

Actually yes. I forgot we were wearing those that day. ^^ Do you have a link to the blog or the video?

Thanks!

Offline Rob

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Re: Con Report - Connecticon July 9-11 2010
« Reply #12 on: July 30, 2010, 08:30:29 AM »
Oh then yes of course I remember you. Those shirts are hard to forget.  ;)

As for the video it's here in this thread.... in the con report.

The blog with the pictures is harder to get to because we don't have a searchable archive for our blogs (yet). You just have to go to the blog here:

http://remedy.remedialcomics.com/

and keep hitting the back arrow at the bottom of the blog until you find the one about Connecticon. Sorry it isn't easier.

And yes, assuming they do make use of my services I will keep everyone appraised of the progress on the con.  ;)

Offline Kate

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Re: Con Report - Connecticon July 9-11 2010
« Reply #13 on: July 30, 2010, 08:41:44 AM »
Well I'll be damned, I didn't realize that was a video link. And we are in it, indeed. I remember you coming over to talk to us, but I guess I either didn't see you had a camera or didn't think it was on. Awesome. Hahaha.