• Emerald City Comic Con Review 2014-A tale of two cons

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather

    I know a lot of people who self publish then go onto do comic conventions. That’s where you make the bulk of your sales. Very few of us have distribution deals and very few of us have the time to go door to door convincing comic shops to carry our books. So here’s a review of one of the best shows of the year, Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle. At least, last year it was my best year…..

    2013-Great sales, great crowds!

    ECCC-floorcompareLast year the show was great, one of my best ever. In fact, it was my best ever. There is a great review of the 2013 convention over here. They even compare it to the year before. The year before the floor was half the size it is now. 2014 was my second year doing the show and their second year with the greatly expanded floor size. Last year I was in the lower room on the map which has become the main entrance of the show. It was great!!! I had tons of booth traffic, sometimes it was standing room only. Every once in a while I got a chance to explore the room I was in. I never did get a chance to cross the sky bridge into the other room. But I heard from people over there that their sales weren’t as robust. So I was excited to prepare for this years show. I was hoping I could beat last years total by at least 10%. Every other major show I’ve done I’ve been able to increase sales by 10-45% in the second year. I was excited to to be back and give it another try with my brand new board game and a lot of other new stuff, until I saw the floor map.

    2014-Eh, not so hot.

    ECCmapThis year I got to experience a very different side of the convention. I was moved into the other room. On the map my booth is marked by the blue 19XX symbol. I have no idea why, I requested the same spot and the floor plan of the show was essentially the same. Every other show I do that keeps the same floor plan respects the spot you had the year before. But I was assured by the show people that it was all done for a reason and that my spot was actually very good since I was so close to J. Scott Campbell and some other big name comic artists. Well, I have been right next to Campbell before and he’s a really nice guy with awesome art, but I know not a single person goes from his booth over to mine to buy stuff next. People stand in line at his booth to get a stack of books signed then carefully walk to a corner of the convention center to slide them back into their plastic sleeves.  I also noticed that a couple other vendors I know had been moved from the front room to the back room. I share a lot of numbers with these vendors so I knew I would get a good idea of whether the two rooms were so different.

    The short answer is, they are very different.

    I actually ended up with a decent spot. I had pretty good visibility along a couple walk ways. But I paid for it. Literally, I paid for two inline booths. That’s not cheap. Even with my not bad spot the foot traffic was way off from the main room. There was between a 25% to 40% drop in shoppers. I know by the time the con was over this resulted in a 15% drop in sales from last year. One vendor I know said he experienced a 50% drop from last year and he had a brand new graphic novel series out so he had plenty of new product to move.  At least two other vendors also experienced steep drops and one vendor I know said they would not be back. These are vendors I see at San Diego Comic Con, Wonder Con, Phoenix, and a lot of other big shows so they know what they’re doing.

    The problem is the sky bridge that connects the two rooms. The con greatly improved on last years set up with some big name booths on the sky bridge itself but couldn’t quite get all that traffic to commit to going in the other room. My opinion is they need more signs on the sky bridge itself saying, “Hey, more con this way!” Or something to that effect. I don’t know exactly what would solve the problem but the fact is right now they haven’t. I used to recommend this con to anyone who would listen. I’d say, it’s a great show, it’s worth the trip. Bring extra stuff because you will sell out! Now I can say, well, it depends what room you’re in. If you are lucky and end up in the front room then definitely do this show. It’s totally worth it! If you and up in the back room then it’s probably only worth it if you live close to the area or if you just use it to network. Hopefully they’ll figure out the sky bridge thing in the future. Until then the two halls are really like two different conventions.

    The part about this that really bothers me is the amount of signage and advertising the convention does in the front of the hall and outside the building. There are big signs on buildings around the convention center advertising connected events, the convention itself, or unrelated things that always spring up around conventions. And at the front of the hall there is a mammoth wall of official Emerald City merchandise made in conjunction with We Love Fine. So not only do they move me to the opposite corner of the hall they also decide to set up a booth of their own selling My Little Pony mashup shirts among other licensed products. How am I supposed to compete with that? I already have to compete for dollars with all the random Dr Who or Video Game mashup shirts and prints and now the convention itself is pushing the same product before people even walk into the show? I guess it doesn’t really matter to the show if anyone in the back room actually makes a profit. The show has already made money on every one’s booth payment and the added floor space lets them sell a lot more tickets to convention goers and the more fans they can get to come through the front doors, the more official show merchandise they sell. In addition, they already have a huge wait list of vendors and artists who have heard how good the front room is and are waiting to be exhibitors so they can afford to lose people from that back room and they will fill those tables in a second.

    So would I recommend this show to exhibitors?
    Only if you live close or you know you have a shot at getting in the front room, otherwise the costs can quickly outweigh the profits!

    -Paul Roman Martinez

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather

    Categories: Comics, Tabletop

    • Great review, Paul. My booth was close to yours and I was dumbfounded by how much less I sold this year.

      • PRM19XX

        Yeah, we were pretty close, John. “Dumbfounded”, that’s a great word for it!

        • I still don’t understand why Sunday’s sales sucked so much worse than the other days. Frankly, sales on Sunday were so bad that it wasn’t worth showing up.

          • PRM19XX

            I really don’t understand that either. There are so many people at that con I wonder if they shouldn’t go to a Thursday also? That way it gives a batch of fresh fans to show up. Who knows.

    • kiriska

      Interesting. I wasn’t exhibiting this year, but most of my friends were in the “back room”/north end this year, so I was spending most of my time there. Since I wasn’t exhibiting personally this year, and since, despite good traffic, I had kind of a discouraging year in 2013, it was difficult for me to compare.

      Most of my friends were exhibiting for the first time this year, so they had nothing to compare to. Still, they were, with little exception, pretty pleased with how they did in the back room. Comparative sales between the two rooms may still have been significant, but I couldn’t really measure it. Of those I knew that exhibited in both 2013 and 2014, they were placed in the same side of the sky bridge.

      Traffic to the back side was decent throughout, I think, but it was definitely noticeably more crowded in the front area. I’m really sure what they can do though. The convention center is at capacity and registration being on the south end directs a lot of traffic there, but there’s no room in the north end for registration, or any events.

      However, there was another thing a lot of exhibitors brought up when I talked to people this year, and that’s the fact that tickets are selling out earlier and earlier now. This prevents more casual fans, curious passersby, and other last-minute people from attending. This means that everyone at the show knew they were going months ahead of time, which means they had a specific agenda of things they want to do and things they want to purchase, for the most part. And so if you’re someone that depends a lot on casuals over hardcore fans, they you’ll have lost a lot of sales. I’m really hoping ECCC keeps a bunch of tickets for at-door sales in subsequent years and does something about the scalpers on the streets. I think that can help boost sales a fair bit, since there’s not much to be done about the sky bridge.

      Another thing I heard from exhibitors selling a lot of gamer-specific merch is that they lost their demographic to the other building, since they moved all gaming events to the Sheraton down the street. And that’s just another capacity issue…dunno what they can do about that, and I’m not sure that moving game exhibitors to the Sheraton would help either.

      Anyway! Sorry for my rambling. This kind of stuff interests me a lot, so your account of this year’s show is interesting!

      • PRM19XX

        Nice Rant! It’s always interesting to get someone else’s perspective. It will be interesting to hear how your friends do next year. You really have to do a show two or three years to get a feel for it. I normally don’t travel for multi level shows.
        The amount of people that actually visit every part of the exhibit space drops dramatically. That’s one of the many reasons I would probably never do Dragon Con. If you’re in the right spot you can make a ton of money, the wrong spot could end up costing you money.
        But like I said above, they do know it’s a problem and they’re working to get more traffic across the sky bridge so hopefully next year will be even better.

    • enshogirl

      I would have given my nonexistent left nut to have even been placed in the room you were in for this show. I noticed this review didn’t mention the third floor artist alley space. Probably because you didn’t know it was a thing. No worries, no one else did either! By Saturday I had sold three books. That’s it. I didn’t set up my table on Sunday.

      I had a friend in one of the main rooms that did great, me, not so much. I’m marking this as a show I will never do again. I flew across the country to be placed in the ECCC Dungeon as I was hearing it called.

      • PRM19XX

        That’s not right!! Your comic is awesome!!!

        Here’s a link folks: http://paul-reveres.com

        And I didn’t mention your far off distant land because I didn’t even know about it! They should have better signs pointing to that area also. I hope you do better at your East Coast shows this year!

        • enshogirl

          They really just shouldn’t do the third floor again. I keep meaning to write an email to the AA people. It’s not right to have a small group of the AA in a place no one can find.

          I cut my shows down a lot this year so I could try a west coast show, but it wasn’t really worth it. I have a few left this year that will definitely be better.

          • PRM19XX

            You should tell them. Hopefully they’ll listen to the feedback.

    • Andres Salazar

      I was there. I trekked my fanny to sell my graphic novel series Pariah Missouri and I took a major hit going to the con. was in North hall and the only comic creator in my isle. I had temp tattoos and magic cards next to me. As a guy who makes his living doing this, Seattle hurt a lot. Don’t get my wife started on this!

      • PRM19XX

        Oh no, I hope she can’t find this website!