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Con Report - NY Comic Con

Started by Rob, October 25, 2010, 12:30:35 AM

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Ok. So I'm sick as a dog (upper respiratory infection and pneumonia) and I need to get to bed but I promised myself I'd get this done this weekend and I like to keep my promises. Usually I'll let me slide under certain circumstances but in this case I really want to get it done so I can move on to other things (like paying my sales tax and doing my quarterly reports).

So I'm going to keep this fast and dirty but as detailed as possible. There won't be much in the way of linking... but you guys are a smart group. If you want something I mention I'm sure you can Google it and if you can't find it then by all means that's what the discussion thread is for. I'll be happy to link you to whatever you want. The first person who points out a typo though gets Rochambeau'ed on the prairie at sunup.

First thing I will say is that the con was everything I hoped a con would be... everything I had hoped Connecticon would be. In some ways it was also less... in others more. But what I can say about the con, even more than anything else, is that I learned far more than I thought one con could teach me. In fact, the more I think on it, the more I learn from this con. I'll share what I can with you.

I would also like to point out that my "fan" con report is here on the blog at my comics site. And I also found a con report from a new Webcomics Instructive site called "The Webcomics Alliance" which is from the attendee perspective here. They got a couple things wrong and I'm going to touch on that but they can be forgiven since they weren't actually exhibitors and were therefore going off the info of others. All in all it's a decent read.

Leadup To The Con
If you don't know already, New York Comic Con is a Reed Exhibitions show (but not all "Comic Cons" are owned by Reed and obviously not all "Comic Cons" are owned by Wizard... apparently it's a fairly common name for a lot of shows thus when Reed put on a big show in Chicago and Chicago Comic Con was already taken they ended up with "C2E2"). Lucky for me, Reed's main office is about 45 minutes away from me in Norwalk Connecticut. Not only are they close; but I can relate fairly well to the people who work there. Some of us have lived or grown up in the same places. They are also pretty nice.

First the bad. There was supposed to be a Webcomics Pavillion. My contract was for a space in that area. The price was $500 for the space. Now I'm told by friends that this makes it the most expensive con in the country with a similar space coming in at $400 for San Diego Comic Con. In other words, it ain't cheap.

Since I live about 100 minutes away and I can drive in and out every night though, the cost is mitigated by my travel expenses. If I had to rent a hotel in NY and take cabs everywhere and fly in. No way would I have been able to afford it. But even driving in and out of the city is going to cost you. Gas is about $3 a gallon here and there is about $5 in tolls each day. But what really sticks it in and breaks it off is the parking. $60 the first day (I'll explain why later) and $20 for Sat and Sun.

Because the "Webcomics Pavillion" had not been done anywhere but C2E2 in the past it wasn't cleared for processing with Reed's computer system. Additionally, they were trying to integrate the NY Anime Festival in with the show and the Fire Marshall's (probably having flashbacks about 2009) were giving them a hard time about all the additional space and bodies they were putting into the Javits Center.

So while my contract was submitted in June, I didn't make payment until 3 weeks before the show when I got an irate call from someone at Reed about my "outstanding balance." I was told to wait and I would be notified by the person I had been dealing with, when the computer system had been altered to accept my "Webcomics Pavillion" price point. So I spent a lot of time waiting and wondering if I was really in the show only to be mildly scolded for not paying on time.


It wasn't that big of a deal and when I spoke to the original person I was dealing with, he sounded like exhaustion beetles had hollowed out his skull and moved in for good (it was four days before the show) so I didn't give him too much grief about it. We got it straightened out, Reed got their money and I got in the show.

I did call the show to tell them I was going to need a 3rd exhibitor badge for Sunday and I was told to call on Saturday to get it taken care of. It turned out to be moot (once again I'll explain later) but I did call about something else and got no reply until a week or more after the show. At least they called back.

The pricing according to my contract was $500 one 6ft table and two chairs or $900 for a 10ft by 10ft space with no furniture for the Webcomics Pavilion, 6ft by 8ft booth in small press was $900 and if I wanted a corner guaranteed I could pay an additional $375 for it.

There were also the super awesome packages for much bigger deals than any of us that started at $3,195 and went up to $7,980.

Now here's where it gets a bit tricky. On the contract, right next to the words "Webcomics Pavillion" is the word "unfurnished" in parenthesis. But next to the $500 space I bought it says "6' Table w/2 chairs (one table per company)." Now, as you know I'm a former paralegal and both my degrees are in pre-law. This is not the kind of thing that gets past me. So I called Reed and confirmed that I did indeed get a table with my purchase. But just in case, I had a table and two chairs on reserve at the local Taylor Rental. About $30 or so for the whole weekend. Turns out, I almost needed them.

The Good.

Getting the New York tax collection permit was a snap. You can find the starting point here in this thread where Richard of Interverse kindly provided us with a link. I was a little concerned because it was too easy so I made some calls and was told by the tax collection department that I would also need a document called "permission to do business in NY." They gave me another number and when I contacted that government office I was told by two separate people that the tax office people were mistaken, that they don't make people go through dozens of documents and hundreds of dollars to do business for three days in the state of NY. So I filled out the tax application on line and after about three weeks I got a tax collection permit only this one was only good for four days. Perfect.

I want to say that whatever small criticisms I have for Reed; and they are small, they are incredibly nice group of people doing literally the impossible. And they treated me, arguably one of the tiniest shitsplat exhibitors at the show, like a big shot every step of the way.

The Show

I was concerned about load in so I called Reed and got the times I needed. I knew I had pretty much all day Thursday to get in and get settled and that was perfect. Compared to the four hours at Connecticon I knew this time around things would go much smoother.

Reed exhibitions keeps the POV lane with limited parking open for people loading into the show on Thursday. They also provide a free helper service if you need it. I was worried we might if all the parking was taken but when we arrived in the early afternoon we cruised right into the POV lane, found a decent spot and unloaded casually. It was great.

I headed to the counter for my passes and was surprised to find eight of them. Yes, I said eight. Five exhibitor badges and three professional badges. I was shocked. For me, I always try to be honest so when I came clean with the Reed volunteers handing out the badges they shrugged and told me to keep them. I don't expect that will happen at every con. But I have to say, it made me pretty happy and solved my Sunday problem with Chadm1n coming. My contract did not specify the number of badges for my table so I had called Reed and asked them and was told just the two exhibitors. It was a very happy mistake.

The escalators were shut off which was kind of a drag and the line to use the elevator was disheartening so we hauled our stuff up the stilled escalator and made the way to our space. I was both immediately lost and shocked at how little had been done to prepare the center for the con.

My mind had the exhibit hall backwards, so once I got my bearings with the map I grabbed from the pass pickup area I found our spot and like much of the convention hall, there was little there. No carpet had been laid, no tables, no chairs; just some metal poles with black cloth hung upon them and a cardboard sign that said "Remedial Comics *2477". It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.

Still, if we were going to get anything set up, we needed a table. It's the foundation of my table setup system so we started looking around for someone to help or point us to help. With little to be found. There were plenty of people working, but most were doing their own thing at their own table. Any Freeman (the Freeman are the Union that services the center and you if you can afford them... or are desperate enough... in that way they are kinda like the A-Team) were working on specific assigned areas and we were not areas in which they were working. They would walk past, but had no answers.

So, being the opportunistic fellow I am I scouted about for a table and found a large stack of them an aisle or so over. We grabbed one and began our setup. I made a few changes to our rig from Connecticon (and am planning a couple more changes for the next show) so we ended up having to make a trip to the Home Depot on the way home. And my skirt clips were the wrong kind for the table so we had to grab some velcro while we were at it. But we got done what we needed to, and got out of dodge.

If you have a big box van or something you have to pay drayage fees and use the loading dock but most folks seemed like us. A small van or SUV with people power moving most everything. It was an incredibly easy load in and I knew we could get in early in the morning so we hit the hay as early as we could to be prepared for the onslaught. We were not prepared.


Friday morning the traffic was kind of dicey. It always is going into Manhatten so we got there a bit later than I had wanted to but still well before the who opened. I ended up paying $60 for parking because I wanted to be right across from the convention center because we still had a lot of stuff to carry in. It was highway robbery but I thought it necessary at the time. I know better now. A cab ride from the much cheaper garage five blocks up would have been way cheaper. We dropped off everything at the table, polished the setup and started laying out merch. Then I went down to the Fedex area in the lobby and got in line to get some copies and prints made.

The one really dark spot at the whole con for me was the way the Fedex/Kinko's thing was run. If they had had twice the people and machines they still would have been swamped. But as it was they had broken machines and people out sick. It was a total disaster. Now, I want to counter that by saying that the main dude there Tim, was clearly doing the best he could. Having been a store manager for Blockbuster I've seen that 1000 yard stare before. I didn't envy him and unfortunately I didn't have the time to pity him much either. All I will say is I tried to be nice in my way. But they really screwed me and by they I mean whoever completely dropped the ball and didn't order in a dozen extra employees and machines for the con. The people who were there were doing the best they could. It wasn't great.

Our row was pretty great. I was about ten tables down in the same row from DC Comics absolutely stunning yet gigantic section of the con. Our good friends Blind Ferret were also right down there. Webcomics dot com was one table away on the other side of the aisle.

And we had new friends in the aisle like Area 51 Comics and old friends from Connecticon like That Monkey Tune and Paradigm Shift. Sorcery 101 was there but she was sharing a small table with someone else in the row.

And things with the tables had gone badly.

Both Mike (That Monkey Tune) had grabbed 6ft tables for our setup. It looked like Area 51 did the same. But we were one of the first to set up. As each successive person came in early Friday to set up (thank God I went Thursday) they not only found it harder and harder to find furniture. But there was also less and less space in between booths.

It turns out whoever organized our row made each area for each exhibitor exactly six feet wide. For a six foot table. And since many of the people arrived late to setup there were no tables and chairs (I brought two from home, I hated the ones at the expo center) laying around to grab up anymore. The Freeman, being the opportunistic folks they are, offered to rent 6 and four foot tables to these poor hapless souls for the tidy sum of about $140 for the weekend. Yeah. Yikes. Calls to Reed weren't responded to real quick and although it looks like they are going to try and rectify the problem with those who had to rent tables now that the show is over it was not a happy moment in the convention center.

And speaking of unhappy moments. Since each "space" was only 6 ft wide, as each new exhibitor was set up there was less and less room in between tables until finally there was only about 3 ft left open in our neighboring booth when they finally showed up at 9:45 am to set up. Also, no one could easily get in or out from behind their tables. It was a real mess.

When I went to the restroom some "dude" who was never seen again for the rest of the who arrived and insisted we all shove our tables together as tightly as we could "because we have to." Had I been there I like to think I would have put a stop to that but Corey was alone so being Minnesota nice as he is he did what he thought was necessary and squeezed in even more. When I returned he had no way out and I had no way in.

I called my contact at Reed (and like I said, I got a call back early last week) but I wasn't real hopeful. Eventually one of the senior volunteers came by and handled it. She moved our neighbor to another table in a different row and gave us all some breathing room. The people who were moved were called "Girls Drawing Girls" and they seemed very nice but I was very happy to be able to get in and out of my booth after they were gone. And that was the end of our troubles with the convention center.


Saturday was much busier than Friday. Friday was concerning. I mean, we did ok. We did better on that one day than we did at the entire convention at Connecticon. But we had spent more to be there. And I wanted Corey drawing more.

I spent a lot more time explaining all the things we had to offer to the people and that got the ball rolling. Once people could see Corey draw, that magic, it got things moving. It got people excited about the art, which got them interested in what we were doing. By the end of the day on Saturday I was hooked. I don't think I'd rather do much of anything else now. It was such a blast. We were insanely busy and the rows and aisles were choked with people. I almost lost my voice by the end of the day. The walk five block up hill to the parking garage was almost tolerable.


If Saturday was crazy then Sunday was a psychopath. It was our best day. Corey started off the day by drawing about a dozen custom colored buttons in a 5 1/5 arting marathon that I wouldn't have thought possible before seeing it. He ended the day by drawing a gorgeous color portrait of a girl cosplaying at the con as a Hogwarts student (he drew her as a Hogwarts Student I think she was dressed in something more steam punk) being stared at menacingly by Severus Snape.

Sunday was "Kids Day" where all children under 12 were allowed in for free and they came in droves. Droves I say! Kids were everywhere with parents trailing behind them with their wallets open. It was glorious. Not only were the kids so much fun and so interested in everything art and comics related but the parents were really into whatever the kids wanted as well. The buttons were a big favorite for the young kids. 

The cleanup was a little frantic. I wished they could have waited another hour before tearing up the carpet (the carpet only covered the aisles and rows... there is none under or behind the tables... I was surprised. It's actually pretty clever) which made our tear down more difficult as we had to stop what we were doing and move everything for them before getting back to our tear down. But it was a minor annoyance in an otherwise downright impressive tear down.

This was literally 45 minutes to an hour after the show closed. They tore down incredibly fast.

This is probably the best show of everything we were selling. I know it's not great. Sorry I was busy.

So I'll run down what we were selling and what we sold each day before finalizing my thoughts.

Wonder Weenies Mini Comics $3.00 - Sold 5
Remedy Mini Comics $3.00 - Sold 2
Wonder Weenie Post Cards $1 - Sold 1
Remedy "No Cure" Prints $2.50 - Sold 2
Ash The Cat Foldee $1 - Sold 20
B&W ACEO Sketch Cards $5 - Sold 18
Custom Sketched B&W ACEO Sketch Cards $5 - Sold 2
Custom Black and White (inked) Sketch $5 - Sold 7
Custom Color Sketches (Inked and Colored) $10 - Sold 6
Custom Color Greeting Card $5 - Sold 1
Assorted Color "Prints" $10 - Sold 2
Remedy "RX" T-Shirt $15 - Sold 1
1.25 Inch Button $1 - Sold 12
2.25 Inch Button $2 - Sold 2
3 Inch Button $3 - Sold 3
Custom B&W Button (Various Size: Inked) $3 - Sold 6
Color Custom Button (Various Size: Inked and Colored) $5 - Sold 16

All told we offered seventeen or so different products (the prints were actually all different works of art of various heroes and stuff but I just referred to them as "prints). And we sold 106 of these items for a total of around $400. Oh and all told we gave away close to 400 business cards. We also had a bowl of Gobstoppers that got absolutely drained on Sunday. I'm glad I forgot the bowl on Sat and Sun or I would have been buying a lot more candy.

You'll notice that there's quite a variety of stuff there. And all pretty cheap. I think one of big things we had going was the variety meant there was something to interest almost anyone. And the low price points meant it wasn't hard to sell it.

Some lessons I learned.

Be better prepared. Look at what panels and shows are going on at the con to try and better get a feel for what folks might like to buy. Get more merch prepared before the con (a problem we had both times although we definitely had it together more than last time). If there is a kids day event like what NY CC had you definitely want to design with that day in mind.

I don't/didn't charge enough for my artists services. I think we were close but a small increase should keep us busy without the frantic crazyness that came on Sunday morning. And if we continue to be as busy then we will make more money and keep increasing until we kid that sweet spot.

Custom art stuff makes people very happy. If you are going to a con and all you want to do is sell your stuff and pimp your project you're nuts. I mean, I know some people can't draw live so well. But believe me when I say it makes a world of difference. I know what some of my neighbors made and while it would be uncool of me to share their numbers I will say that I know that the live art makes a difference.

Kids (and I'm talking all the way up to college age and older) freaking love buttons and if you tell them they can have a button with anything on it.... they will buy one and then come back for more over and over again as they think of new (and often weirder) things.

We won't make any real money at conventions until we have a larger audience and books to sell (so there's this winters project yes?).

Don't wait around for someone to hand you something at a con. Take it if you have to and try to have a backup plan just in case you can't take it.

Librarians absolutely crap themselves over Mike Kandalafts "That Monkey Tune." And rightly so.

Empenadas (the closest thing to food in our aisle and therefore what we ate 90% of the time between desperate trips to the bathroom... seriously... it was that busy) have a large stuffed green olive on the inside. Regardless of what meat you choose. I hate olives.

Corey is amazing.

See he made me a HeroClix Remedy... on a Nightwing disc. Nightwing is my fav. :D Yes that is Ash on his shoulder.

Little kids love Foldees. We are going to make more and larger versions.

Having lots of different stuff to sell is important.

The $5 price point it magic.

You can never have enough business cards or candy.

Having a dry erase board so you can highlight the things you want to sell is a great idea.

I can't wait for next year.


Thanks CC.

As for the "taking" statement I made. I'm referring to situations like where I was contractually owed a table and chairs but they weren't delivered so I took them. Or I was owed a space I could actually get in and out of and so when my space was too small I took the extra space I needed so I could comfortably get in and out. The point being that you have to look out for and stand up for yourself because no one is going to rectify a bad situation for you.... except me... as I tried to rectify the other people's in my row's bad situation for them... but once I'm taken care of I like to look out for others who may not look out for themselves... you will however discover that there aren't a whole lot of folks who think like me in the world however.



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