Dawn and I have now been exhibiting at comics conventions for seven years and counting, and we’ve learned a lot since we began. Possibly the most important lesson is this: not every convention is worth being part of.

Sometimes a failure blindsides you, and the blame can be laid more at your own feet than any fault of the organizers. Dawn and I never tried to go back to APE after our seriously unfortunate virgin outing in 2011, but I can’t say it was badly managed or dead on arrival in terms of a crowd… it just wasn’t a crowd that seemed at all interested in what we had. On the other side of the equation, Pasadena Rock’n Comic Con was a disaster which was only good as a showcase of what not to do when trying to put a show together. I look back at that blog which I wrote in the aftermath (on a different site than this one on account of me feeling a need to turn the air bluer than PG-13, language-wise) and I see a lot of me hedging along the lines of “we’re inexperienced, BUT…”

Well now I’d say we’re fairly experienced, and experienced enough to spot a potential stinker before we’ve sunk money and time into showing up. Every so often we get contacted by a new show in our area (or sometimes even not in our area) that’s looking for exhibitors, and we have to make the decision on whether to give it a go. In some cases it’s just too far or we end up with an unfortunate time conflict on some opportunity that otherwise looks promising. Other times, I’ll be puzzling out an email that’s composed of more enthusiasm than grammar and is promising big things, and my warning bells go off. Such was the case with Comic Excitement Convention, which wanted to be a new entry into the Los Angeles scene but had a lot of factors stacked against it:

  • It was going to be taking place at the L.A. Convention Center, which although close, is far from our favorite locale in terms of exhibiting.
  • It was further going to be located in Kentia Hall, which we are unfortunately acquainted with and is what I like to call “a glorified parking garage” in the basement of the Center. Lots of pillars. Not a lot of ventilation.
  • The organizer had never run a convention before. Everyone’s got to start somewhere and he did declare he was talking with lots of people with experience so that he didn’t make mistakes. Or at least that’s part of what I puzzled out from the contact.
  • The date set was for mid-January. Now it doesn’t always shake out this way but time of year can play a big factor into attendance and also sales. People in January tend to still be going through the Holiday gifts they received, and their wallets are still smarting from the gifts they’ve given.
  • Coupled with the above, CEC wanted nearly $200 for an Artist’s Alley table, for a two-day show, for a first year convention. And to get in as an attendee? $30 for one day as a pre-reg, or a whopping $40 at the door. These are fair to middling prices for an established convention with some good programming and guests, but especially in the case of potentially attendees, it’s not going to encourage a “curiosity visit.” For all that I have my ongoing doubts regarding the Show-Formerly-Known-As-Comikaze, they did well to subsidize for the first couple of years and keep their prices low (or even free).

Anyhow, with all that in mind we decided to pass. And now that the first annual CEC has come and gone, do we regret our cynicism and cold feet?

Not so much.

Heck, until I read that article I just linked there I wasn’t even aware they’d double-booked the weekend with an anime convention in the area, which normally wouldn’t be so bad except for the emphasis on cosplay. Whosoever won that $10,000 top prize will be happy, at least. I mean, presuming that’s actually followed through on. When a show goes down the tubes a lot of promises can go with it.

tl;dr — if a new show is giving all the warning signs you’ve learned or heard about from past failures, chances are you’re not going to be pleasantly surprised if you buy in anyhow. Choose wisely.