Home Conventions CAFs CAKE Chicago report: perhaps 5000 people attended

CAKE Chicago report: perhaps 5000 people attended


Photo via Kevin Budnick
It’s a little hard to find concrete reports from indie shows these days unless Secret Acres or Robyn Chapman post reports, from the social media, looks like CAKE Chicago this weekend was a successful indie show. I’ve heard mixed reports on sales in past years, but based on the “haul photos” I’ve seen, a lot of comics were purchased. I dug up a few more concrete reports:

Jonathan Bogart has a very funny post that reveals what Tom Spurgeon And Kevin Huizenga like to talk about, but he had a good time:

Since I’ve spent the last several years in a comics headspace dominated by European comics of the 50s through the 80s, it was great to just walk the tables and get a sort of immediate crash course on the dominant aesthetics and various kinds of scenes brewing in the self-publishing and micropublishing worlds of Midwestern and Midwestern-accessible comics. 

It was a goddamn delight to see Jillian Tamaki the rockstar of the event – I saw people walking by Gilbert Hernandez on the floor without a second glance, but Jillian’s table was mobbed every time she was there, and seemed to do good business even when she wasn’t.

Sean Kleefeld has a more comprehensive post about the current con glut and how that impacts planning:

I was talking a bit with Kevin Budnik at CAKE this weekend, and I think he hit on an excellent point. He was a bit nervous going into the show this year because his table is waaaaay far in the back corner of the space. Argueably, the worst table there: the very last table in the corner farthest away from the entrance. Yet he was doing pretty well sales-wise — possibly better than SPX, but he hadn’t done a firm tally on that when I spoke with him — and he attributed that to walk-ins.
This year, I talked to and saw several creators at CAKE — certainly more than a dozen — that sold out of some or all of their books. If one or two people sold out, I’d blame that on them for not bringing enough, but over a dozen? That’s something else. I talked to organizer Max Morris, and he was saying that their preliminary count for Day One was 1500-2000 and the half-day numbers for Day Two looked to be half that, but given how many people were selling out, I suspect the final two-day tally is closer to 5,000.

And Matt Brady bought many comics:

This past weekend was the fourth annual Chicago Alternative Comics Expo, or CAKE, and I’m happy to say that it seemed to be a successful event for everyone involved, from the organizers, to the attendees, to the many amazing artists who were exhibiting their work. I’ve volunteered for the event in previous years, but this year they asked me to get even more involved, so I was the Social Media Coordinator for the weekend, running the official CAKE Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr accounts. I spent the weekend walking around, taking pictures on my phone, and doing lots of tweeting, retweeting, and sharing, so if you check out the past couple days of activity on those accounts, you’ll have a pretty good picture of what I was up to.

Here’s that account and a few random tweets:

Tons o’ photos in that last link:

Anyhoo, sounds like after four years this show has established itself as the midwestern incie fest that Chicago has needed for a while.

Did you go? Did you like it? Sound off in the comments!


  1. I made it back to CAKE this year after having to take two years off for family commitments, and I think it’s grown in size and excitement since the early efforts. The new space (which was previously used for the Windy City Con) is a terrific one and in a great neighborhood to draw people in that previous years down by Columbia didn’t have. I spent maybe too much money and saw some long lines for folks like Jillian Tamaki, and I was only there on Saturday for a few hours, so I’m betting most folks did well across the whole weekend.

  2. I’ve tabled at every CAKE since the first year and I think this year was a HUGE turning point for the show. Last three years I did ok to good, sales-wise. Since I live in Chicago, for me this show is more about having fun and hanging out with the Chicago-scene then making money (but it’s still always nice to walk away from a show with money in your pocket). The money I made at CAKE did seem to get better and better every year. Same with attendance. And moving it to it’s current location was a great move, hope they cane stay there for a little while. This year the sales were INSANE! I literally only had five books left on my table by the end of Sunday, selling out of most of my stuff. Dakota McFadzean was next to me and he sold out of ALL of his copies of his giant $25 hardcover book by the end of the FIRST day and sold out of everything else except for two copies of another title by the end of Sunday. A lot of other cartoonists I talked to there had the same experience. Lots of cartoonists sitting behind near-empty tables in the last few hours of the show. So the place was packed with attendees and they were all looking to buy. Sunday was really impressive considering Sundays at any show are usually slow and the weather outside was crappy, yet it was still packed.

    When a show is new it usually takes a few years to really get off the ground and establish itself and build up a huge attendance, if at all. And usually, financially speaking, young shows are only worth exhibiting at if you live in the area or region. Personally, it’s just not worth the cost of an expensive plane ticket. But I think in it’s fourth year CAKE reached that point where it might be financially worth it to travel halfway across the country to table here since it now seems like a money-making show. The show felt like it’s at a turning point in that regard and it seems like a lot of the cartoonists I talked to felt the same way. I’m super excited that Chicago finally has an indie show like that.

    The folks who run the show just do a bang up job and I love them all! Any success we cartoonists had at the show this weekend is because of them. I don’t know what they did to get that insane amount of people through the door, especially during Sunday’s horrible storms, but they clearly know what they are doing. So just want to publicly thank them and all the volunteers who helped put on the best CAKE yet!

  3. CAKE has gotten better for me every year, but this year saw a huge leap in sales for me (40% higher than last year). Chicago is my “hometown” and I had a new issue of King-Cat that hadn’t hit stores in the area yet, so that may have accounted for it.

    I too would recommend this show to exhibitors. It’s been consistently my top 1 or 2 show of the year for the last three years, but this year was crazy. It’s not just the sales though — the organizers are amazing, the show’s in a great location (Whole Foods is pricey but it’s nice to be able to get good, hot food and be back at your table in a few minutes), and the floor is really well curated (if that’s the word) — not overwhelmingly huge like SPX or TCAF, but almost every single table is primo.

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