I think I’ve mentioned before how lately I’d gotten somewhat pessimistic going into convention appearances. There have been occasions of terrible sales, terrible boredom, and on a couple of occasions a deadly combination of both, and running into one of the latter when you go in bright-eyed and full of hope is a disastrous toll on the soul. So I suppose it’s a defensive measure, right? Expect the worst, be pleasantly surprised when it’s not as bad as you expected. Much better than the other way around.
I should probably try to mitigate this attitude, since it makes the pre-convention travel and setup more unpleasant than it needs to be. Also I look at some of my convention reports from 2010, for example, and see how happy I was just to have a table regardless of any issues… I figured at some point I’d start to get jaded about things. Has that happened? After three years, I think you do have to consider yourselves as maybe moving beyond the “starter” stage where you can just shrug off the expenses as being made up for by promotion/networking rather than profits. That was part of our recent decision to scale back from non-local conventions after we do Phoenix this year.
Or will we?
That decision was based on the fact that we just never seemed to be able to do much more than make back our expenses reserving a table, and sometimes not even that much. Again, not something we realistically expected at first, but by our third year I admit to getting antsy. WonderCon 2012 was a particular sore spot where our sales totals didn’t justify the table, much less the gas, parking, or anything else. Emerald City 2012 was much better, but despite that put us much more in the red what with plane travel and such being involved. Had it been local it might have been a different story, but that was my same lament for this year, plus our sales saw almost no increase and that seemed to be a bad sign.
And we just couldn’t seem to make the numbers work at a local con, at least until Long Beach last November. I’ll still call that one a beacon of hope, both for us and for the convention itself, but before I got too celebratory I wanted to get another good show going. When Emerald City didn’t improve over the previous year, I started doubting again…
WonderCon Anaheim 2013 hit like a bolt from the blue. I can’t even begin to grasp at what went right, but… things went right. Do we finally have a good enough spread of merchandise? Have we finally gotten our table set-up worked out to maximum effect? Or was this just an amazing fluke?
We more than doubled our best sales total ever. Ever. It was like fate decided that it had had enough pessimism out of me, thankyewverymuch, and provided us with a weekend of unassailable success. Shut up, Clint, and take their money. Combined with the relatively low overhead of a local show, we might have actually made a profit on this one… or at least broke even. I’ll take being able to break even.
The next big question will be how the one day Long Beach Expo does for us, and then of course how things go at Phoenix. Could Phoenix possibly be good enough to us that we balance the expenses of being there? Before this weekend, I would never believe it. Now? Maybe.
The thing is, every convention is a bit of a crap shoot, even when it’s the same show on a different year. The date matters. Your position on the floor matters. The organization of the show matters. All of these can be variables, and you never know when you might end up with a booth that has a support pillar stuck in the middle of it that screws your usual sweet set-up. I did have a conversation at Emerald City with a friend who has been at this far longer than we have (but still has a day job), and asked him how they made the ends meet every year… and his response was that you can never be 100% sure how things will go, but hopefully the shows you do well at will at least balance out those that are disappointments.
This year’s WonderCon has given us our first taste of being able to do really, really well, and Long Beach and Emerald City weren’t shabby. We’ll see how the rest of the year goes.