Exhibiting at Comic-Con International continues to raise questions regarding whether or not it is worth the time and expense to exhibit at the show. The crowds continue to swell, the working hours are long, and the booth landscape continues to shift as does the audience. The events outside of the show continue to permeate the landscape in greater numbers. With the long waiting list for exhibitor space and show tickets selling out fast I see this sprawl as a growing trend. If you can’t get inside, then build events around the event to cater to those coming or going or who couldn’t get a ticket.
From a dealer perspective I see a few less of my old time neighbors with each new year. They are replaced by the latest TV cast from the latest TV show or some other pop culture phenomenon. I see less of the familiar attendees faces that I normally would expect to see each year. I see a smaller number of people who are there for the art books and comics. This is nothing new. A major shift began years ago, but it is growing more and more apparent and there are artists and dealers who have tired of the hassle and logistics of setting up at the show. Each year I wonder who will be next to drop out and call it quits. Some cling on knowing once they give up their booth they may never get it back.
The requirement for all exhibitors to wear a unique bracelet that was not removable for five days was a hot topic. Imagine showering, sleeping and sweating with this thing on for five days. I’m hoping that will be a one-time thing.
In terms of my setting up next year–I will be there. As exhausting and busy as the show is, I still think there is promotional value to setting up. I can come home feeling like we connected with many new people and that we were successful in spreading the word about our books and the artists I publish. I like to break even, but usually don’t. Exhibiting proves to be a good advertising and promotional tool so the costs and time away from the office is worth it for me. But, to many other dealers the number one reason is to make money. A comic or art dealer is not going to be happy coming home in the negative and will be rethinking why they are still there.
Something I would like to see, which I am writing the convention organizers about, is for the layout of the show to be adjusted to place all of the artists and comic dealers in one concentrated area where we can form a closer community and not be displaced throughout the show making people play hide and seek to find us as individuals for five days. I walked an aisle close to where I was set up to find an artist, game company, clothes seller, and a few booths I wasn’t sure what was going on. I felt the artist was stuck in the wrong aisle. When an artist drops out, the spot is filled with “dice guy,” for example. I actually don’t mind what people sell and like the diversity, but hope everyone can be grouped better to benefit each other in a community of like-minded items and people.
On another topic, the typical trends that I have grown used to over the last six years were thrown out the window this year. Wednesday and Thursday–typically our busiest days–were our slowest. The remainder of the show picked up steam as we ended up having a good year in terms of books sales. Better than the last. And we went through over 1000 catalogs and another few thousand postcard fliers which I like to see. But, the crowds seemed lighter in our area compared to last year.
One thing I will say is the people who run San Diego do an impressive job. Sure, I have my complaints, and there are things I would like to see changed, but if you look at the sheer amount of attendees, dealers and all their personalities and different things they are trying to sell, then come up with a way to make it all work, it’s a heck of a job. In addition, the organizers are privy to information I am unaware of. I can’t fully criticize their actions without being armed with more details. This doesn’t stop me from passing on suggestions and asking questions. Then I have to trust them to make it all work for everyone.
The show will continue. Whether it will continue to have people like me set up in the near future, I’m not sure. I sense dealers being tired and some changes coming. Whether they throw in the towel, or rally together to hold fast (What I’m rooting for), or something else, the future will tell.
Part two of my Comic-Con blog coming in a few days. I’ll write about our artists signings, books we premiered and some side stories.
Text © 2011 John Fleskes