Over at Von and Moggy’s journal, cartoonist Von Allan takes a clinical look the metrics of attending a small press show like APE:
What do we know, then? Well, we know that APE ’07 had a total of 338 exhibitor tables in the entire convention space (see this link). Not exhibitors – tables. The cost of each full table, assuming each exhibitor took advantage of the early bird special, was $185.00. I’m going to ignore the half tables just to keep the math simpler. So, the total cost of ALL 338 tables was $62,530.00. Put another way, APE attendees would have to shell out this amount for all the exhibitors to cover their table costs. And more than this for exhibitors to make a profit.
You really have to read the whole thing, but after running numbers and having some educated guesses, Allen comes up with the number that each REALLY small press table could only net an average of $74.00, far less than the cost of a table and travel, etc.
In a second post, Allan talks about his prep for the show, including sending out press kits and so on. The result? Mixed.
On a broader level, we really weren’t able to network all that well, despite the better table placement. One concern I’ve long had with conventions in general is that the key people I would hope to talk to don’t know I exist. On top of it, I don’t know they’re there, either. What do I mean? Well, here’s a “fer instance”: it turns out that Gina Gagliano, one of the high muckety-mucks at First Second Books, was at APE. I had no idea. It would have been fantastic to give her a galley, especially since I would love to freakin’ talk with these folks about this book or perhaps another one down the road. I just don’t have an “in.” One hopes that being at a con will help pave the way for this type of networking, but time after time that hasn’t happened for us. In addition, other media were there covering the event (hell, even Wizard and Newsarama were there and did some stuff on Hope Larson, Gene Yang, and whatnot) but we didn’t see any of these people. Quite honestly, we have no pull at all. As a result, you’re totally reliant on people finding you (I should add that I tried quite hard to get a list of media contacts from the APE powers that be. I really wanted to know who would be there, at least on the media front, so I could contact them directly myself. Unfortunately, I wasn’t given that info).
Now this is all interesting because from what we heard, this year’s APE was a fun-filled-fest as always, but attendance was low, and people didn’t necessarily makes oodles of money. APE is traditionally a very money poor show–those colorful kids with the piercings and vinyl underpants look great but they spend all their money looking great and didn’t have that much to begin with. It’s much more of a lookie-loo show than, say SPX or MOCCA, where attendees have more discretionary income.
Allan also gets to the heart of WHY exhibit at a show, and we have to say, his own case is very interesting. We first heard of him several YEARS ago when he offered to send us a press kit for his upcoming graphic novel, THE ROAD TO GOD KNOWS. We read it (we had more spare time then) and some real issues with the art — Allan is not a trained artist and it looks uncomfortable, to be honest. However, the story — about a young girl with a mentally ill mom — has stuck with us all this time, maybe because the girl, Marie, is a big wrestling fan and her need and desire in the story is to go see a wrestling match. (Vonnegut: “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.”) So all these years, we’ve been waiting to see how the story comes out, and if that isn’t an endorsement, nothing is.
We haven’t really talked to Allan in the past couple of years, but he is absolutely committed to getting his book out and telling his story. We would question just WHY he is printing galleys and sending out press kits to build an audience for his book when he could just put it on the web for about $20 a year and see if it has legs. In many ways, Allan’s marketing campaign is from an older, paper-based model. It’s his plan, and he’s put a lot of thought and money into it. But does this model even work anymore?
You can read the first 20 pages of THE ROAD TO GOD KNOWS here.
[UPDATE: Apologies for misspelling Von Allan’s name — at least I was consistent though.]