Catching up on some of the news that broke Christmas week (!?!) and this is pretty huge. After a total server meltdown and general headaches over exhibitor registration for the 2013 show. the Small Press Expo is going to basically a lottery. “Legacy” exhibitors—those who have been at the show for five years or more—and invited guests (of course) will be given tables, and the remainder will be put up for a lotteryplain and simple. The show will not go curated, as nearly every other CAF has, because…well because of tradition. Here’s the new procedure:: ”

What to Expect

1. By early January we will notify all of the SPX Legacy members so everyone knows whether they need to register for the Lottery or not.
2. In mid-January we will send out via both our exhibitor e-mail list and social media the start and end dates for Lottery registration. A web site will be provided to enter your information as well as further details on the registration process. We will also announce the final size of the number of tables in the Lottery pool.
3. There will be a 3 week window to register for the Lottery, so we can avoid the crazy, mad rush to sign up online that plagued us last year. Weekly reminders will go out via our e-mail list and social media to be sure that this is kept on everyone’s radar.

While this seems like an enormous change to a show entering its 20th years, what with the vagaries of the internet and mail, the show was essentially a lottery already so going transparent seems like a good idea. I’m well aware that not being curated opens the show to many creators who are going to either: a) learn lessons the hard way or b) make their fame and fortune. With MoCCA, TCAF and CAB all tightly curated, having one show where serendipity plays a part seems like a largehearted move for now.

Even with the holiday timeframe of this announcement, there has been a lot of online buzz already. For instance, Rob McMonigal at Panel Patter wro

For me, and I know I’m not the only one, SPX is like a family reunion. I *want* to see new faces, yes, but I also want to go–especially now, since going means spending like $500 on travel and lodging–knowing that I’ll see the people I go to the show for.

This process, while it does involve a bit of screening, makes sure that’s going to happen. Obviously, SPX isn’t going to talk about how they pick the invitations, but I have a feeling a lot will do with how many shows a creator has made, not how many sales they make or which publisher they’re attached to. The other half of this is how much better it will be to get a table for those who are new. Sure, losing out on a lottery sucks, but that means it’s merely chance that blocks you from going as an exhibitor, not your internet connection or a postmark.

If you’re going to be sore because you’re a new person and you’re not being given the same treatment as NBM Publishing, well, maybe SPX isn’t the show for you. Because I can tell you right now that no matter how big it’s gotten (and SPX reports they’ve doubled in size since 2011, to say nothing of prior years), no show will do more to help new creators than SPX.

McMonigal also suggests that moving out of the maxed out North Bethesda Marriott Conference Center may be a good idea, but I’m not so sure. The past ten years have seen a MASSIVE MASSIVE INCREASE in interest in “con” culture at every level and in every area. Getting bigger isn’t always going to be the answer, and endless expansion can be like that balloon let go of by a careless lot—the gases inside expand and expand until the whole thing her ker-POP!

Thie change by SPX is sure to be closely watched, however, and I’m sure come the end of September everyone will have an opinion on whether it worked or not.


  1. I was thinking about going to SPX again after a very long hiatus. Now I won’t have to decide. I’ll cast my lot & get to leave it up to chance. Whether or not I go is out of my hands. I’m good with that.

  2. As someone who tried to go to SPX as far back as 2005 and lost out because of “the vagaries of mail,” I’m happy to see a much fairer system put in place. I’ll definitely be applying this year.

  3. I’ll probably try my luck with the lottery. It’ll give me an incentive to publish something. Anyone know off the top of their heads if one is allowed to sell vintage small press material published by other folks (1960s through the 1980s) along with my own self-published material?

  4. Hmmm… it does need to expand.
    Not “convention center” space, but a larger hotel.
    Programming always seemed crowded downstairs (I keep expecting a disaster to occur during the Ignatz Awards), with limited panel rooms.

    I like the Bethesda Marriott, but it was too small three years ago, before they used the entire ballroom.

    Move it downtown to the Hyatt Regency or the JW Marriott.
    (Yes, it will cost more…but you can have more exhibitors.)
    Double the size and number of the meeting rooms.
    Can it be too big? Nah… not until it rivals Comiket.
    And even then, imagine 35,000 tables selling all sorts of comics!

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