Monday, September 26, 2011

On Conventions

Just got done with Detroit Fanfare.  All in all, it didn't quite work out as well as we hoped (I'm one of the promoters of it) and there's a lot of reasons (not excuses) for that but that's something to be discussed out side the public forum and just with the people directly affected by it which I intend to do.  The attendees all had a fantastic time and we got incredible out pouring of support about it from the fans.

But there were some complaints from some of the folks that set up.  In no way am I going to suggest that some people didn't have a valid point but I was just struck by the vitriol some people had.  

I’ve gone to shows where I’ve sold out of a dozen or more titles…and other shows, where I’ve barely moved a couple.  Attendance doesn’t seem to be a big factor…show with 10K can be slow and  a show with  just 500 can be a huge success.  There doesn’t seem to be any rationale behind it.  If I were just a creator at Fanfare, I would have had a very successful show as I sold 100's of graphic novels and had 3-4 titles completely sold out.  I don't know why.  What is especially puzzling...and a bit that I was rarely behind the table as I was dealing with all the situations that got thrown at us during the convention.  I was too busy to be at my own table yet I had pretty good sales.  I may have found a new strategy.

When I have a bad show in terms of sales…unless it was a complete dud, like this one show I did in Chicago where there were NO people...I would never think of blaming the promoter .  If I sold a single book at a show with a couple thousand people there,  who’s the blame go to…the promoter?  Really?  Does that mean if there were 5,000 people, I would have sold 2 books? And geez, if they got up to 10,000 people, I'd get a whopping 4 books sold.  

The last con I did was Summit City Convention.  I was set up in Artist Alley and I did horribly.  I sold a couple of books...that was it.  It didn't come close to covering my costs (and they even gave me my space).  But it was a great convention.  It was well organized, the staff was fantastic...just about every facet of it was well done and to be commended.  But I didn't sell anything there.  I didn't blame Zack even though the attendance was lighter than expected.  I still should have sold some.  But there was just no interest in me or my stuff there...that's not on anyone.  I've done shows half that size and sold dozens and dozens of books.  To me, Zack did what he was supposed to do as far as the setup and treatment of the guests were and I would recommend the show to any guest that inquired. The attendance wasn't what he wanted but there were people there.  I appreciated him giving me the space but I wouldn't do it again for the foreseeable future.  I don't blame him, I don't blame Fort Wayne (which I found to be a very nice place), and I certainly don't blame the fans of Fort Wayne because they didn't buy my stuff.  Sometimes, things just don't click.  I don't do that well in Chicago as a general rule and that's a pretty large city.

If someone doesn't do well at a show, they have every right to acknowledge that the show wasn't good...FOR THEM.  To make the assumption that because they had a bad show, that means everyone did is just...well, stupid.

You know---just because you have a table at a convention, it does not guarantee sales. It could be for a number of different reasons...your personality, your art, your lack of new material, of just because no one wants your stuff.  Who knows why?  When I'm at a con and things are slow...someone asks me how the show is, I tell them slow. For one, that sums it up and two, it implies that I have no idea of why sales are slagging.  A lot of people like to come up with reasons why but they don't really know.  If we knew, it wouldn't be a problem as we could fix it.   My favorite reason this last weekend was that there were too many good artists at the show so no one would buy this artist's work.

Yes, a creator has every right to be upset and you know, cross that covention off your list.  But to lash out at a promoter, the city, the fans, etc. just makes them look small and petty.  It reeks of displaced frustration.

Conventions can be a lot like comic distribution in the sense that it is very easy to get on equal footing with the bigger names.  But that doesn't automatically mean you're gong to sell like one.


Anonymous said...

I wasn't at last years so I can't make any kind of comparasions but I thought the show was great. I did see a lot of artists selling stuff that I had no interest in at all. There were a lot of artists that just weren't very good or had comics that didn't appeal to me but I did end up spending about $200 among 7-8 artists ao I did my job.

Anonymous said...

I prefer to stay anon as I don't want to get in some kind of debate with others. But there were enough people through the doors to sell some stuff. If you didn't sell anything at all, I don't think more people would help. I would have liked more but a couple thousand were there at least.

I was talking to these guys from some other city and they said they came here because they usually do good at home. It seems all their freinds and family come in to buy their stuff and that's not going to happen in Detroit. I asked him how many books they sold to strangers at their home con and they said not many. Duh. what the hell did they expect. To top it off their book was a couple of years old and hadn't done anythine new in years.

don't sweat these idiots complaining. They can stay in their home city.

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't creators/artists supposed to be doing what they love and have money be a plus? What ever happened to the starving artist? All I've seen lately is the whiny artist.

Anonymous said...

Its up to the show to promote it. Fanfare did have attendees, but was no where near what was promised to so many. I have been at shows where there were alot of people and i didn't make many sales and some where there were a few attendees and i made great sales. My complaint is with how the promoters conducted themselves through out this year. Many artists and several dealers expressed what they were promised interms of the type of convention fanfare was. it was implied to many that this show has been an on going show since the 70's, as Detroit fanfare takes its name from triple Fanfare. This is Detroit fanfares 2nd show, and should never have been implied otherwise. The other complaint is that many were told that they were getting 10,000 attendees(i see Gary references this in his blog here) That should not have been stated as last years show didn't have as many people as they claimed it did. My other complaint is how the promoters of fanfare talked ill of other shows, and in their emails and posts on facebook kept referring to other shows in their area. Why did they feel they had to refernce other shows in a negative light? sounded to me like they were more concerned with bad mouthing another show and not spreading the word off the internet that they had a show in the area. Also i heard from the staff that thereason there wasn't as many people was because of a bike race. a 10th annual bike race at that. in my opinion, and yes i know its just my opinion, if people were actually coming to the show they would have found a way as getting downtown Detroit is not an easy thing. And to the volunteers outside saturday morning when a vendor/artist pulled up and asked where to go, and these volunteers ignored them i hope you don't have any of those people back. great way to start off a day, being ignored by those that are there to help.

I did have fun at the fanfare show, talking with others setup at the show. That was nice, but didn't put money in my pocket. whether a vendor or artist, we all have bills to pay. and if an artist wants to be starving thats fine. But most are trying to be more than a starving artist as one poster here said, personally to that anonymous person, if you love your job so much would you do it for free? of course not, because you have bills to pay, need food to eat, and shelter.

Detroit fanfare has alot to work on if they are to have success in the future and i hope they can all sit down andrealize the blame isn't on the bike race, the city or anything other than themselves. they way over promised and way under delivered.

Michigan can handle multiple shows, and Fanfare can be one of them. Th just need to properly promote there show to everyone in the area and let them decide if this is a show for them. whether they are comic book fans or pop culture fans, which a member of your staff explicitly said Fanfare didn't want at their show. Which to me sounds like they aren't willing to grow and expose those that aren't into comic books to the opportunity to see all the great comics and artists and writers that were there. With sales being a number game, more people would increase the chances of making more sales.

Gary this is my constructive criticism. I hope that you and the rest of the promoters are truly going to look at what went wrong and what can be fixed and not lay blame anywhere but on you the promoters. For all that you did right with running the show, so much was done wrong with getting the word out, and for misrepresenting the show to those that paid money to setup and some that spent alot more just to be there based on those promises. Good luck, i do wish you the best but i'm not going to be like alot of people online that will sugar coat it just to seem nice, and yes i am anonymous for a reason.

Gary Reed said...

Promised? I don't think anyone can say the promoters "promised" attendance. Hoped for? Expected? Maybe? But there was no promise---that would be insane.

I can't really believe anyone actually interpreted the building of the first shows in the country and how Fanfare was acknowledging that, could be misconstrued that Fanfare was around since the 70's. All of our releases indicated that last year was our inaugural show...we hope that people know that means first, not 40th.

I reference there were going to be 10,000 fans? I don't see that.

Where was this talking bad of other shows? The only time I ever came close to knocking other shows was saying that they treat artist alley like an afterthought and that we put them at the front. I did not mention or even hint at any specific show. If any of the promoters did, I'd like to see when and where that was.

The bike race situation needs to be explained. It closed off the streets leading into Cobo including parking. When the cars were barricaded for over an hour and told by the police that it was going to be for 8 hours, I can see why a lot of people just went home. No one is suggesting that's where 1000’s of people magically disappeared and we never claimed that was the sole “problem” but to say it did not have an impact is being unrealistic as well. When we have people with PRE-PAID tickets turning around and going home, it had an effect.

I can't debate about volunteers ignoring a artist/vendor as I just don't believe it. The volunteers at the show worked their asses off and even those who did not have a good show, have nothing but good things to say about the volunteers. You just happened to talk to the one vendor that had a bad experience?

The show was not a disaster. Yes, it was a disappointment but that is a big difference. The fans had a great time. Not all the artists/vendors did...but some did. I tried to talk to as many as I could towards the end of the show but only got to about half and some had a really good show, some okay, some poor. We had at least five requests from artists to buy tables for next year on the spot and I had at least two dozen tell me that they were returning next year.

Someone on the staff said that Detroit Fanfare did not want Pop Culture fans? That doesn't even make mean someone who would be interested in Bruce Campbell? Peter Weller? Kelly Hu? A large part of the con was built on the pop culture aspects. You just happened to talk to the one person who heard someone say this?

And don't confuse what the promoters do or say with what some anonymous poster about whining artists---blending that in the conversation can cause confusion and implies that we're stating that position. That's how things like us saying we going to have 10,000 people get started.

You say you are offering constructive criticism but you lace it with innuendoes, heresay, and just plain false statements---- that it isn't constructive because it isn't based on reality.

For example, in your last paragraph...what exactly did Detroit Fanfare mis-represent and what promises were made that were broken?

When I first started reading this, I was appreciative that someone would take the time to offer constructive criticism but reading it, that wasn’t really the case. It seems almost like an agenda.

We acknowledged first thing after the con that it was not the con we had hoped for. We did not put on any airs about saying that the convention was great in terms of attendance ---we know that better than anyone.

I know a lot of creators who have posted that they had a great time and many also said that they did not do well sales wise. To accuse them of sugar coating it because they are differentiating the social aspects from the sales aspects ties in with the other blanket statements you made

If you have specific details about who said what, either post them or send me a private email because if they’re actually true, I’d like to know.

Anonymous said...

Yes - the fact that the majority of retailers either lost money OR barely broke even is ALL the retailers fault - no one had anything anyone wanted. Of course the promoters will blame the retailers - We will see how many retailers sign up for next year's fanfare (if there even is one) - oh and by way of comparison - we made 5 times table at Motor City in May and didn't even make table at Fanfare. Maybe the fact you put all the retailers in the back AFTER all the artists, gave a TSHIRT vendor a front and center display had something to do about it. what happened to a comic show about comics? - oh wait ASIAN SNACK TIME please :/

Anonymous said...

Parking was terrible - thought Marriot had a "negotiated" special price - 20.00 dollars - what a F$%^ing rip off...

Dark Elf Designs said...

Why is everyone posting these comments as anonymous? If you really feel that strongly that They did a poor job why not associate it with a name? I believe what they are referring to about the 10,000 is that it was posted several places that you hoped and or expected to get 10,000 attendees... but realistically lets face it I hoped you'd get 100,000. That doesn't mean it wasn't a good show. I say all you guys should offer up your constructive criticism rather than pissing and moaning about it. You know how many years I have went to the motor city show and you know how many years the motor city show has left me short-handed? I dare say mor often than not. DOesn't mean I won't go next year too though and doesn't mean I will be short of making table next year either. Just like I will plan on going to fanfare next year. Did I make my table at fanfare this year yep. Did I hope for better yep. Did I have a good time and network and socialize? yep. I have plenty of things to say that the promoters might liek to hear but none of them are outright expectations on why they owe me anything. people just need to gripe I guess. But seriusly if you have a gripe why not do it constructively?

Gary Reed said...

No one is blaming the retailers who set up...not sure how you constructed that out of what I said. Your continued complaint about the T-shirt vendor seems a bit misguided. After all, t-shirts are part of the "comic" package as just about every comic shop carries them.

But the major fact is the reason the T-shirt vendor had such a prominent space is that they PAID for that space...they paid a premium price which was available to anyone.

Retailers were not "at the back", they were set up between artist alley and the media guests. If you mean the "back" is anywhere but the front, well not sure how anyone can resolve to make everyone happy.

Are you insinuating that the artist alley folks took money that would have gone to you? If so, a lot of stores that don't carry the product the creators sell should perhaps evaluate the potential sales of those titles.

Asian Snacks also purchased their space and we allowed them to set up because we felt they offered something unique as most of their items are collectibles (no one pays $6 for sugar water just for the was the container fans wanted) and would offer no competition to the comic vendors.

Kind of strange that one anonymous person says we tried to shut out all aspects of "pop culture" and another blasts us for bringing some in.

We freely admit that attendance was not what we hoped or expected. We understand the impact that it had and that is where our focus is to fix the problems. Even though fans had a fantastic time, we want everyone to have fun which means bringing in $$$ to vendors. Is Detroit the problem? Maybe. Did some things that occurred cause the lower than expected turnout. We're evaluating all that. But we don't think that a T-shirt vendor or Asian snacks were the cause.

No one lost more money than the promoters, so we're working on it but we can take away that MOST of the people at the show had a great time and for them it was a great con. We succeeded in A LOT of areas but not all. We will tackle the other issues but we just want it to stay on point on what the important issues are.

Gary Reed said...

Yes, the Marriott's parking was $20 for valet parking...and while we find that very expensive, it certainly isn't the rates you pay in cities like Chicago or NY...but still a considerable amount.

We never said that we had negotiated rates for the Marriott, so not sure where you got that from. However, you could park across the street from the Marriott for half the rate.

We did negotiate a rate for the Atwater Garage which is joined to the Ren Cen (where the Marriott is) for only $4 a day. We also had another garage with a discount but not as good as Atwater.

So, although we couldn't get the Marriott to bargain, we got right next door for 80% off the price.

I assume that someone will say that they didn't know but we sent it out on every email over the last week or two, repeated it on facebook continually, and put it in our last mailer. Some people don't like to provide contact information for that sort of thing and that's certainly understandable but then it is hard to disseminate information like that.

But a lot of people did take advantage of it and only paid $4 as we were handing out the discount vouchers all day long.

Gary Reed said...

Thanks Brian,
And you're exactly right about some things. The con was a success in many ways. From the feedback I got, the attendees had a fantastic time. Most of the creators were enthused by the parties, the socializing, the Shel Dorf dinner was great entertainment...seeing Todd Dezago present his award with a Mark Waid puppet was pretty funny.

You've done shows and you know how it is. If even one vendor doesn't do well, then you feel bad and try to figure out what to do next time and that's where we're at.

It seems some people are just tossing out things with no merit and its not that I'm being defensive but true problems are being looked at and manufactured problems or misconstrued statements don't provide any viable feedback.

Thing people have to remember is that we were there also. We know where we succeeded and where we came up short. Overall, the feeling from the vast majority was that it was a great fun time. But as I said, anything that wasn't 100% successful is being evaluated and dealt with.

Anonymous said...

I will be anonymous because I dont want any one to get mad at me but there were at artist alley that had no business being there. I mean, just because mom bought you a table doesn't mean anyone is going to buy your crap.

In regards to the retailer who is bitching about the tshirt guy, I'm glad he was there so I could buy tshirts as that was something I don't get a chance to at my store. Most of the dealers had stuff that I can get at my shop every week so why would I buy it at a con?

I had a great time at the con and I just found out that was you, Gary, that handled Kevin Eastman's line. You were fair and firm and dealt with all the problems very well and with a sense of humor, I might add.

I was not there to sell anything so I can't give an opionin on how that went but as a fan, it might have been the best of the 20 or so cons I ever went to.

Gary Reed said...

Glad you enjoyed the convention and on the fan level, I think it succeeded.

We do intend to jury the artist alley tables in the future but we haven't gotten that far in any kind of planning.

We had no idea that Kevin would be doing free sketches (and rather detailed sketches) all day long so the line did get out of control. I only wish that the time slots were done on Saturday but it wasn't thought of at that time. I do have to give credit to Ben of Big Ben's who suggested the line control idea.

Anonymous said...

1.) Wow!!! This is crazy. It's the guy behind the tables job to sell the book. Selling the book is luckily one of the first things I learned going to a convention. It has nothing to do with comic books. I don't know if you guys have heard the expression "He could sell ice cubes to an Eskimo" and by no means am I promoting taking advantage of indigenous peoples in anyway... Selling is an art. there are good car sales men that meet quota and bad salesmen that don't...but you don't blame GM or Ford. There are guys who make a living selling lemons.( bad cars, not citrus fruit..but I will go on record as saying I'm not anti -citrus. Lemons got many a pirate through Scurvy) Nothing guarantees a sale but you and your technique. Selling can be researched at the library ( for those of you who are illiterate or sight impaired there are audio books or braille...but you probably wouldn't have gotten this far with my post.)

Anonymous said...

2.) blaming the con and it's promoters because fans didn't buy your stuff? I'm hearing complaints like I bought her dinner, but, I didn't get laid...what's wrong with HER. Don't blame the con because you're not a good con-man. You let money walk by you and out the door with their wallets intact? People didn't want what you had to sell? That is ridiculous!!
Let me ask of you one thing? were you sitting down , or were you on your feet and engaging fans, finding out what they were interested in, getting the sample book open and in their hands...cutting them 3 fo2 ten deals, offering to sign...did you have an autographed poster to give them for buying. Did you ask them to take a picture with you for your facebook? Yes there were fans that came...but were they your fans when they left.

Anonymous said...

3.) From now on I want you to get rid of the mentality of "making table" that is little thinking. What you did when you went to that con buying a table, making fliers and t-shirts was investing in your business. If you are making your own comic and selling your own comic or original art then your tables contents isn't the product. You are. You are the Brand.
If you sell well at every other con but this one...then you don't black list this con. You don't talk smack about the con... You step up your game.
Are you serious about making bank or making table? You can't retire off table. You can't eat off table (well, can) But what would Coke do? If Coke unrolled the big Coke map and saw one little area where Pepsi was selling and Coke wasn't Is that then Pepsi territory? Oh we can't go there... That's Pepsi territory... Coke doesn't sell there. Coke would nuke that spot off the map.

Anonymous said...

4.) You have a brand new venue..this is the second con. You have promoters like Gary Reed willing to bend over backwards to make this a profitable Con... and you talked Shit about it? rather than going to the promoters and saying this is what I need from your con for next year. You define your audience and the Con.You make this a new con a comfortable place to grow your business so that in three years or four it is the most comfortable place in the world for you. You make FanFare a success. You build trust with the t-shirt guy who is going to be selling your shirts someday...your collectibles... you meet with the retailers and schedule store signings a few days before the con So you can meet his clients and make them your clients... You got fifty people sitting in artist alley doing nothing... because their mom bought them a table... you have each one of them drawing your character and have a contest where fans pick their favorite and the prize is a hundred bucks to the artist who wins... people walking through artist alley seeing your product everywhere. A good con man knows how to work a con. Guess what's going on the winning artists facebook with his 8oo comicbook loving friends...not "con was slow. A bust. Fizzled. Can't believe I turned down working at Burgerbarn this weekend. could have used the over time. Spent Granmahs' birthday money on parking." try instead...
" I just won a hundred bucks drawing Spiderpunk from Arach-head studios. Here's my winning pinup. Spiderpunk is copywrite Joe Noodles. Thinking of submitting more to them."

Anonymous said...

5.) What you pay for is the right to stand on hard concrete in a big space for two or three days. That is your stage. Not the promoters.
I remember being bummed out at a con where the promoter didn't like me. He thought I might be a menace and embarrassing so he put me in the middle of a long line of empty tables by the restroom. and it really was the back of the con. The way back back by the clean up crew and empty trash recepticals. I laid my stuff out and the guy who came with me was like this blows...I told him to split and work the con. He of course had no idea what I meant and proceeded to fanboy out on me and spend his half of the gas money home on collectibles. He came back really excited with his purchases. and I let him know we were stranded a long, long way from home. And we were hungry.
A funny thing happens at a con when people need to pee and there are only four stalls and two of them get clogged. People form a line. Needless to say necessity is the mother of invention. I sold dudes art supplies and his portfolio. I sold his sketch book. I sold his bag of swag. The second day I sold out of the pitiful amount of books we brought. That night we found a kinko's and turned $.98 cent color copies into signed collectible 11 x 17 $5.00 posters. posters and sold them for four dollars. Had we not stayed for that last day we wouldn't have made a profit. not "table" but a profit. Lots of those guys had to pee again.
Yes if you are good, a con is a place to clean up.
Yeah, that bike race thing sounds like a bitch. Maybe some research could have gone into it.
but when you placed your own ads in the local paper the week before the con... you know the ad it looks just like the official one but you've put your picture and name right under Stan Lee's and right over Sting (the wrestlers)'s (luckily they were at the con.) People might stop at your table. Don't blame the con. they put a roof over head so that you could have a place to work your magic.
And now that I know there's no real competitiveness at fanfare. Think I'll be there next year with bells on and take all the Detroit money home cause Kentucky boys know not only how to make and take a dollar but we like to spend it on on our fine ass Kentucky ladies
when we get back home to the blue grass. Go UK!!! Big Blue!!!

Gary "Franchise" Francis

Anonymous said...

6.) Sorry Gary,
I didn't mean to go all buck wild on your blog. I was hoping to read the next installment of "The History Of Caliber" and I tuned in and found this Hot mess. I can't believe people were talking scathing smack about the promoters or the con because of their own impotence. Are you sure you don't want to bring Caliber back on line because according to these "Anonymous Professionals" you have no competition. Were they expecting a free Duran Duran concert...and an Indiana Jones obstacle course? Bruce Campbell and Peter Weller were there for Kirby's sake!!! Next year just give them free hand fulls of Caffeine and Viagra and a roll of quarters to make change. Having awesome staff and volunteers and marked down parking just's pampers them and softens them up. Next year make it two bicycle races and a wild hog stampede... Don't even have a hall. Keep the whole thing roving like a gypsy con... If they fall out or they can't keep up the bikers can use them for ramps. The first thing I do when I'm at a con and someone shows up wanting me to take a look at their portfolio is pull them behind the table and challenge them to sell a book. My question is this Why didn't 10,000 fans come come through the door to see them personally?

douglas said...

This is Douglas Paszkiewicz of Mad magazine and Arsenic Lullaby. I exhibited at this and last years show. This show for ME was up 20% in sales. Blame yourself if you didnt make what you expected...and LEARN. Did 10,000 people show up? no...but did plenty of people show up with money in their pockets looking to spend it? yep! Most of my fellow exhibitors were complaining about sales on saturday...and in a bad mood and down in the mouth. Me...i have been around long enough to know that two day shows are 2 DAYS. I kept a smile on my face, introduced my wares to as many people as i could and low and behold by sunday i had a nice profit. see you have to adjust...if a show is slow that means it will be slow paced and that can be a good thing it gives you more time with each attendee. If you have a good personality and a good product then you should have no problem.

Lets say you had sold something to 200'd probably have done pretty good right? well seems to me that more people than that walked past your table so why didnt you sell something to 200 of them? and whose fault is it?

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