After a quick summer hiatus I’m back and ready to take everyone inside the production of the Long Beach Comic & Horror Con 2012 Following San Diego Comic Con our attention is focused even closer on the goal — the best show we can produce. In order to do that you need to really think about your guest list.
A guest list and the expenses associated with it, like everything else involved in producing a comicon, come out of your overall budget. You’ve got to balance the books to make the show work. Hotel rooms and airfare add up quickly and spending all your cash on guests but next to nothing on marketing or programming needs, for instance, could lead to a train wreck pretty quickly. It’s all well and good to have an amazing guest list that would make even the most seasoned show runner jealous, but it’s no good if no one knows about the show because you didn’t have any budget room left to market, promote and get the word out.
Early on in the process of building a guest list at LBCHC, we identify our guest target list. We look at attendees’ requests, where potential guests reside, exhibitor recommendations and our own personal tastes. Trust me, there are a few creators I’d LOVE to have as future guests. I’ve already had some of my own personal creative heroes at the show and it feels good to see the attendees share my feelings.
Getting a commitment from a guest to be at your comicon is a great feeling for sure. Sometimes it takes a planetary alignment to make it happen. Deadlines, families, health, prior commitments and a host of other factors go into a potential guest’s decision. And, in the end, the potential guest doesn’t even owe you an explanation of why they will or will not commit to being a guest at your comicon. Accept and respect that choice and move on. There’s always next year.
Obviously, based on your budget, only so many guests can be flown in from points across the country or even the globe. Because some flights will cost more than others, you will eat into your budget accordingly. One guest may cost you the same amount as two or three if they are overseas or based in an area not served by a major transportation hub. That doesn’t mean you need to shy away from those types of guests. It means you need to really consider how it impacts your guest list. Keep in mind, just because you cannot afford a certain guest this year doesn’t mean you won’t be able to in the future. As your comicon grows, your budget for guests will grow with it.
Another possible expense to consider when planning out your guest budget is appearance fees. Some guests ask for or require a fee on top of their airfare and hotel. These fees can be small, but sometimes they can be rather large. Regardless of what the reason is for requesting the fee, they absolutely have the right to do so. There is nothing wrong with asking for it and there is nothing wrong with paying it. The choice lies in the show runner to weigh the extra expense that could come at the expense of two, three or even more guests. There is no right or wrong answer here. You do what you feel is best for your comicon. At LBCHC we choose to not go for the appearance fee. Sometimes it stings. I had a guest that is on my personal favorites list for years that we couldn’t bring out this year because the appearance fee, while modest, was an impact on our budget.
There’s one last expense to think about when you talk about your guest list budget. It isn’t really an obvious one, too. Most guests will want to have a table in Artist Alley to spend their time at and be able to interact with their fans, sell their artwork, comics, graphic novels and more. Those tables aren’t free. Every table you assign to a guest means one less table you can sell.
It’s definitely something you need to take into consideration. Not only from the monetary aspect, but from a simple inventory aspect as well. If you have 50 tables, sell 35 and assign 20 to guests you just oversold your space by 5 tables. If you can’t adjust the Floor Plan to include more tables, what do you do? Not a fun problem to deal with, but one you must address nonetheless. This is why I always tell everyone that asks about the Floor Plan at LBCHC that it is fluid and sometimes slight changes may pop up to accommodate building the best show possible for attendees, exhibitors and show management.
That said, very often the city you are hosting your comicon in has plenty of creators who would love to come join you for your comicon. Do some research, talk to the guests you have booked already, talk to your exhibitors and discover what creative talent is local. More often than not you will find a stable of amazing creators just waiting to be invited to your comicon, meet fans, sell some products and have a great time.
With hard work and some creative thinking you can really build a great guest list that attendees and exhibitors alike will be interested in. As the years go by it will get easier and your contacts list will grow, but you’ll likely never stop being excited when you get a commitment from a guest. Always an awesome feeling.
Comments and questions are encouraged either below in the comments section or via twitter.