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How much are nerdlebrities making from signing autographs at comic cons and other pop culture events? Plenty. As in, more than they make from acting. And this not so secret underground economy is changing how actors in hit shows approach their careers.

Lesley Goldberg at THR has that long a’brewing exposé on just how much stars are making:

According to multiple sources familiar with convention deals, the basic guarantee rate for genre stars is in the $5,000 to $10,000 range per appearance — with leads on such current TV series as The Walking Dead, Once Upon a Time, Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries, Netflix’s Marvel shows and The CW’s DC Comics fare commanding anywhere from $35,000 to $250,000 and up, depending on their popularity and the frequency with which they appear. At top conventions, it’s not uncommon for a star to earn anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 on top of their guarantee (more if they spend extra time signing).


The most sought-after stars include Reedus (one convention owner says he easily could command a $200,000 guarantee and pocket $500,000 per weekend), Andrew Lincoln (who donates his proceeds to charity), Star Wars great Mark Hamill and anyone who played Doctor Who. Sources say ex-Doctor Matt Smith collected $250,000 per weekend at a string of recent events, with any former Doctor said to easily score six figures. Smith’s tally recently was doubled by Marvel film heroes, with the stars netting more than $500,000 each in one Atlanta weekend thanks to an overwhelming demand and rare convention appearances.

While a lot of this information has been whispered about in after con bars and secret FB groups., this is the first time much of it has been laid out in black and white, including Arrow Stephen Amell’s increasing interest in the business, which I’m told, has shoved aside several of the agents who established the whole system. Amell has started his own booking agency, WFA Entertainment, and invested in the Heroes and Vilalins Fan Fest event organization. Although those shows have yet to be profitable, Amell makes as much as $250,000 an appearance, more then he makes for acting on Arrow.

When I first invented the term “Nerdlebrities” (And I did — you can look it up) when I was a consultant on the very first New York Comic Con, I had no idea that it would actually become a job description. Based on the amount of money these people make and the number of shows every weekend, if yuo’re a resonably fit young actor, you can get on some nerd-loved show (which is super easy since there are more and more every week) and then, maybe with a little working out, make a better living on the con circuit than you ever would trying to get new roles. Gil Gerard, born too soon.

But this approach can backfire a little:

“The fact is, a guest star on a TV show can [get] around $10,000, whereas you can work two days at a convention and pull in the same amount — and sometimes double and triple that,” says Firefly actress Jewel Staite, who did 12 conventions last year while pregnant with her son and, as she says, “pretty much not hireable.” She’ll do the same when she has a second child. “Have I turned down smaller jobs that won’t pay as much? Absolutely. It would be silly of me to say yes to the job that pays $10,000 for a week of work and bow out of a big convention where I could potentially walk away with $40,000 in two days.”

That decision, however, can prove shortsighted. Multiple producers say if guest or recurring actors turn them down in favor of conventions, they likely won’t get called again. In some cases, genre shows have started putting their superhero boot down on talent who ask for time off to do a fan event. But some producers use the second revenue stream to lure talent to genre shows. “In a world where residuals don’t mean as much, conventions are like residuals,” says Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim. Adds Staite, “My actor friends are always saying how much they’re dying for a genre show just to break into the convention world.”

Poor Christopher Eccleston! If only he’d known, he would be raking in the cash now like everyone else who played Doctor Who, instead of playing Romulans in Star Trek movies to pay the rent.

Another revelation from the article: WBTV, which actually puts on Arrow and six other DC themed tv shows, pulled out of New York Comic Con when ReedPOP offered to pay the actors to sign and do appearances. It seems WBTV doesn’t want to mix promotion for shows with profit for their stars. Admirable…or foolsih in today’s get it while you can economy.


There’s also the question of how to feel about some of these people. I used to feel a little sorry for the Virgils of the World, but the way this aspect of con life has gone, really, who cares? No wonder Norman Reedus is willing up put up with a little biting here and there to become a millionaire. For those who seem so thrilled to meet their fans…remember these people are actors! If you could make $250,000 in a weekend by acting like you enjoyed meeting people you’d do it too!

Obviously, there’s a lot more to the Nerdlebrity occupation (in the sense of both a job and the hijacking of comic cons) than this one article can cover. And a few people were tweeting about it.

More to come, as they say.


  1. If they can earn that much and people are willing to pay for the experience it doesn’t feel like anyone loses. Especially in cases you mention like Andrew Lincoln giving the money to charity.
    As someone who does this cons as a comic creator these actors bring in a mainstream audience that wouldn’t be there otherwise which can only be good for sales.

  2. And comic creators pay increasing fees to get a table and struggle to break even on them.

    Just like every other aspect of the comics industry (comics journalism, comics conventions), Hollywood makes the money and the comics get shoved further to the side..

  3. What’s wrong with being off to the side if more people are coming to the side than they did when you were at the centre?

    People that like Star Wars, Avengers, Flash, Walking Dead, Doctor Who and Preacher aren’t a niche market, they’re the mainstream consumers of entertainment. Why wouldn’t you want to have those people in the same venue as you if you’re trying to sell comics? Especially those with a genre connection to those TV shows and films?

    Comics folks have traditionally been outsiders and that can make us snobs at times. It can also make us put up mean pictures of fans with Luke Perry. You see he’s repulsed because she’s overweight and so he has to pretend to tolerate her. See how funny that is?

    These mainstream celebrities aren’t taking any money from you. They’re bringing a new audience to the conventions. Not all the people who want an autograph will be interested in comics but some will if you’re open to talking to them. At least that’s been my experience.

  4. Couple thoughts:

    1. Maybe the convention circuit can be for actors what playing concerts is for musicians. We always hear the they make more money playing live than they do from their recordings, which always struck me as odd.

    2. Seeing/meeting a celeb is pretty much the one thing done at a convention that can’t be replicated over the internet these days.

  5. @ Glenn – I think the problem is that a musician is still doing music regardless of whether they do it in a studio or a venue. I think it’s a bit different for Chris Hemsworth to shoot a film than it is to take a photo with a random human.

  6. Wizard World recently held a one-day Doctor Who event in New York City last April.

    All it was was photo ops and one Q&A panel… pay more, and you get in earlier, maybe get longer face time with two Doctors (David Tennant and Matt Smith).

    Question: what do Comic Cons offer comics guests? The headliners? Besides transportation and lodging?

  7. “What’s wrong with being off to the side if more people are coming to the side than they did when you were at the centre?”

    But are more of those people coming to the side? It was really noticeable at Wizard World Chicago this year that comic dealers no longer made up a clear majority of the vendor area. They were probably still a plurality but it wasn’t by much and when I talked to my local comic shop guy, he flatly said they stopped going to Chicago because they weren’t making any money there any more.


  8. @Ian Boothby – That pic indeed struck me as tone deaf. Thanks for pulling that up!

    You always have to wonder how someone feels to be turned into a meme, to basically be the butt of a joke (and I’m not talking about Luke Perry).
    I don’t use memes like this, and would encourage others to also be thoughtful and respectful.

  9. I don’t like ANYBODY enough to give them money for a signature. Paying for a photo op is even more unlikely. If you can make a living from charging people for the two aforementioned activities, congratulations.

    A fool and his money are easily parted.

    Here’s why I hate celebrities at comic conventions: The ones that have them seem more expensive, and I’ve made a correlation in my head that the higher ticket price is to pay these people to show up and to pay all the additional people needed to cater to them. Give me Heroes Con over every single one of these other shows any day. SDCC was fun when celebs would show up because they wanted to instead of just being part of the marketing budget for a project. I now happily give my spot at these types of conventions to those who swoon at the site of a c-lister.

  10. Leave it to Heidi McDonald to put up a picture of a fan to take a passive aggressive shot at someone’s appearance. Heidi’s nasty personal brand of inclusiveness and feminism never fails to disappoint.

  11. I think autographs at $80 and photo ops are gouging the fans especially when the celebrity is currently starring on a show making thousands per week.

    I don’t begrudge the out of work actors or older legends like Adam West and William Shatner from supplementing their income.

    But I think a more affordable price will get them volume and they would make more. Like at C2E2 Melissa Benoist had a long line on Saturday but Sunday no line. Think high prices kept fans away. A half price discount on slow days would have gotten her more sales.

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