Convention Business Is Booming: The Devastator/Beat Convention Survey
Good news, folks who sell things at conventions: it seems sales are up and business is booming! Earlier this week, humor magazine The Devastator and comic news site The Beat released the results of their survey of sales at 2014 conventions, where folks who table at various conventions reported on business for the year. The Devastator started the survey in 2013 with 46 respondents, and for the 2014 survey the number swelled to 107. A larger sample size is very helpful with surveys of this sort -- hopefully the number will continue to grow in future years.
From these respondents, the average income per convention is $1000, with the actual number being affected by things like type of respondent, placement on the convention floor, and experience. More than half of respondents report that sales are up, and over 30% say they plan to attend more shows in 2015.
Data was collected for 32 total shows ranging in size and type from San Diego Comic-Con and New York Comic-Con to MoCCA Fest in New York and Toronto's TCAF. For exhibitors and professionals of all types, though, there are lessons to be learned in the data.
One of the statistics that pops out the most is the fact that "makers and designers" -- or people who sell things like crafts, jewelry, and other merchandise that they produce -- bring in a great deal more money than anyone else, averaging $4500 per show. Of course, some of this might be due to the fact that a necklace or shirt will generally cost more than a single issue of a comic, yet still be more affordable than most original art. Comics creators might find it useful to offer more than books or sketches at their tables to draw in some of this money.
This is particularly a struggle at shows like San Diego or New York, where respondents complained the large exhibitor booths distract from the other tables and attendees expect flash and freebies. Even putting that aside, though, merchandise beyond books is very appealing to convention attendees, especially for those who aren't sure where to start with a comic.
Across the board, PR seems to be important, but PR beyond social media and websites seems to bring in higher numbers, so pros would be smart to attempt as much coverage of their attendance as possible that reaches beyond their own networks.
Also of interest is that folks with 6-9 years of experience tend to rake in more money on average than people with more or less experience. Unsurprisingly, having more space and being located in an exhibitor booth will bring in more money than having half an indie table in artist alley -- but that's probably more a product of the kind of businesses located in each space than of the spaces themselves bringing in money.
The top shows in terms of average earnings were San Diego, Denver Comic-Con, and New York. In terms of ratings by the respondents, the top shows were TCAF, SPX, and Phoenix Comic-Con. The kind folks assembling the data did us a favor and also ranked shows by both earnings and ranking -- the winners there were TCAF, Phoenix, and Geek Girl Con.
It's worth it to read through the full results of the survey, which can be found here for a suggested donation of $1 (although you can get it for free). The data break down each convention and include helpful tips like this one regarding Geek Girl Con: "Don’t be fooled by the insidious FakeGeekGirlCon, which pretends to like Batman in order to trick men for all kinds of unsubstantiated benefits!"
No word on if there will be a mutiny against the respondent who earned $90,000 at San Diego Comic-Con last year.