In the past 2 weeks I did 2 comic conventions in the Bronx and want to rate them against each other. The first was the Bronx Heroes Con May 4th and 5th, and the other was the Kids Comic Con May 11th. One I lost a ton of money on, the other I did ok. Here's the scoop:
Bronx Heroes table cost: $150 VS. Kids Comic Con table cost: $35
Money I made at Heroes: $55 VS. Money I made at Kids: $60
There's the difference! Losing $95 at Heroes VS making a small profit of $25 at Kids Con. Now, last year at Heroes I spent the same $ for table and made $40 selling my comics for only $1. I thought I did pretty well for my first convention. But a year later I would've thought I'd do better by more than a $15 difference and still lose money. I was talking with some other vendors at Heroes and they had similar results. I think the only people who did well were the people who sold the perlor bead design things for like $1 each. Here are some things I think may have affected Heroes:
1. It was on Free Comic Book Day (the first Saturday in May). Many people on Saturday thought all the comics were free, but why should you PAY for comics if you can get other comics for free? Next year, I'm not doing a con on free comic day. I might participate in an event in a comic shop or something, but not pay for a table in a convention.
2. It was in a library. In the far Bronx. Most of the people that came by said they had just stumbled upon that convention from being in the library. When you go to a library, you get books you can read for free (granted, not to keep, but you're not paying for them). I think the mindset of people is different when entering a library vs entering a comic store, for example (like I said earlier, I did better at Carmine St. Comics grand opening in one day vs 2 days at Heroes).
3. Even though there were some bursts of traffic, it was swarms of kids that didn't buy anything. Of course, it's always good to teach them things about comics, and I'm always happy to answer questions - they were all very curious. I suppose Heroes is more of a convention for you if you've already "made it" in the industry, have money to lose, and your main goal is to educate kids. I wouldn't recommend Heroes for someone just starting out.
There were also long periods of time when there just wasn't much traffic at Heroes. Sunday was especially dead. I asked the person who ran Heroes and said "Hey, I know it's a lot of work to run a convention, but where is all that money going to? Does some of it go to the library? Does some go to you? I just don't understand why a con this size should cost $150." (To compare, MoCCA Fest, which is a HUGE event, cost $200 for half a table. Heroes wasn't nearly to that scale or fame though). He said some of it went to the library, but most went to advertising. Just for the heck of it, I called the Bronx Fordham Library just now and asked them how much it would cost to have an event there for the weekend. Basically, they said they only hold library sponsored events. So I asked if that comic event was sponsored, did that mean they got the space for free? The lady said she couldn't give out that information. Interesting.
Also, if we do the math, I'd say there were about 20 tables at Heroes. If they all paid $150 each, that's $3,000. Let's say some went to the library, like $500. Even so, that's still $2,500 for advertising which, in my opinion, wasn't that effective. Like I said above, most people at Heroes just stumbled upon it because they were already at the library, with very few people making the convention their main destination. I heard Heroes was advertised on tv, which can be pricey. But I noticed even the fliers they handed out and posters online didn't mark the address of the library - I had to find it through the library site. Now, I haven't run a convention before, but I'd say Heroes could learn a lot from Alex Simmons, who ran the Kids Comic Con.
Both conventions were in the same area of the Bronx (only 2 stops away). Kids Con was even bigger than Heroes. Kids Con had cool special events, like a competitive pictionary-like comic game. It was an all-around good convention. And even though I didn't make a ton, it's way better than losing $. I also got to network a lot too. I did notice though, that some larger companies like Viz and Archie were giving away free graphic novels (I suspect leftovers from Free Comic Book Day the week prior), so that hurt a bit in that nobody bought my $2 mini comics.
In retrospect, for both Heroes and Kids Con, I'd say bring tons of stuff you can part with for free. Not just free fortune cookies or candy, because they'll be eaten and forgotten, but free comics that will stick with the children and leave them wanting more. If you can afford it :P But all in all, Kids Comic Con WINS hands down because of low table cost! Low risk for people just getting into the business. Granted, your stuff does need to be "kid friendly." (I didn't display the first Misfortune Cookie comic because it has a swear word on the first page.)
In Heroes defense, I think last year's location was much better - it was held at the Bronx Museum, right by Yankee's Stadium, which was easier to get to from Manhattan and, being in a museum, I feel like people value art more. They also had a blood drive going on, which they didn't do this year. I know the goal of the Heroes Con is to bring comics to kids who may not have seen them otherwise - it's all about outreach. It's a great cause, and the organizer is very passionate about it - I know him personally and he's a nice, down-to-earth guy. Who knows, other artists and I may have inspired kids to keep drawing, which is super awesome! But hey, if Heroes continues to be $150 a table, they're not going to have a convention if no vendors are willing to pay that. Word gets around. Next year, maybe I'll sign up to have a lecture or something, but I won't pay for a table if it's that expensive. Some people may not view me nicely for focusing so much on the money aspect of comics, but hey - when I moved to NYC I made it my goal to become a professional cartoonist. It's true that charity events are important, but you won't get ahead in your career doing just those. I wish more artists looked upon their careers as being worth more, because we ARE worth just as much as any lawyer, doctor, scientist, etc and should be valued by others as such.
Some drawings I did from each con: