Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Tale Of Five One-Day Comic Book Shows

Convention season is pretty much over for Walkin' Willie's Comix for 2010 so I am going to recap the five one-day shows in which we setup as dealers. There are pros, cons and goodness knows what.

I know two things: successful one-day comic shows have two things going for them. One is a LOT of attendees (and I'll explain later just what it takes to get fans in the door). Let's face it - no butts in the door means no money on the floor. It's that simple.

Two is the merchandise for sale - you just have to have a lot of cheap stuff for sale to make any money. Sure, bring the high dollar eye candy for your display, maybe a box or two of nice, mylar encased, high grade books but make sure you bring plenty of dollar or even 3 for a dollar boxes.

First one up is the Heroes Mini-Con (hey, that's my booth shown in the photo) held early in the year on 1/23/2010 at the gorgeous Fireman's Hall in Charlotte, NC. This con is run by the same Shelton Drum who runs the annual 3-day Heroes-Con.

The ambiance for the show is just plain excellent with enough dealers to provide variety but not too many that it takes all the money off the floor. Great music was played all day and not too loud. Attendance was excellent and since we brought a bunch of blow out trades and hardcovers, we had our highest gross for a one day show in 2010. Bottom line is that this show is very well promoted, very highly attended and held at a perfect venue. Table fees are pricey at $100 per but this is a one-day show that is well worth it.

Next up is Hickory-Con which is held twice a year (spring and fall) - this one was held on 5/8/2010 at the Hickory Metro Convention Center in Hickory, NC - and is run by long time comic dealer Eddie Price. We had purchased a large 1980's/1990's collection and decided to take the books to Hickory and blow them out at a dollar apiece. Just one problem: hardly anyone showed up for the show and those that did were probably 50% gamers if not more. I know I had the right stuff because I had several dealers coming over to buy large stacks of books at my going price of a buck a book. Eddie is a great guy but does little to promote the show - heck, he didn't even have a free convention listing in Comic Buyer's Guide - not good. Won't be going back to this one - but for you fans, a good chance to pick up stuff at bargain basement prices.

The very next week was the first annual Fanticon held at the Asheville Art Museum on 10/15/2010 in Asheville, NC. You want to talk show promotion, well show promoter Chance Whitmire left NO stone unturned. Let me count the ways... First off is an EXCELLENT website - the best I have ever seen for a one day show. Secondly, Chance even had a table at the Hickory-Con to promote the next week's show. The same day as Hickory-Con, Chance had volunteers dressed as superheroes to pass out very professional flyers to everyone they could in downtown Asheville, NC. Chance even had a spot on TV on the noon news show to promote the show and show youngsters how to make a mask to wear at the show. Heck, there were even opening ceremonies in which a bagpipe band played the Star Wars theme and what not. Also, the Ghostbusters of North Carolina brought in their "souped up" Ecto 1 car for display. Chance even set up a booth at this year's Bele Chere festival in downtown Asheville to promote next year's show....

As a result, over 3200 (some reports say it was over 6000) attended the show. A good one day show in the greater Carolinas and Virginia area is very fortunate to have 400 attendees so yes, this was one heck of an event! It was our second best one-day show of the year and we brought dollar books and a few trades - they did well. Heck, I've already paid for my tables for next year's show.

Next up is the venerable Charlotte ComiCon held at the Crowne Plaza Charlotte Uptown Hotel in Charlotte, NC on 8/1/2010. This show is held three times a year and the next one is on 12/19/2010. Rick Fortenberry and Dave Hinson run this gig and do a pretty darn good job of promoting the show. The website is pretty decent for a one day show and they make sure they get the show listed in the trade publications and promotional websites. Even local comic shops in the Charlotte metro area promote the show with flyers in their stores and attendance is pretty darn good at around 400 or so. There aren't too many dealers to suck the money off the floor and the show has been around long enough that it has good word-of-mouth promotion. This was the third time I brought the "dollar" collection and it started running out of gas. I started out well in the first two hours but then it was dead after that. I believe it was my fault on this one as the value wasn't there in my merchandise... Oh, well. It's still a darn good show.

Finally is the Virgina Vintage Comics Show held on 8/21/2010 at the Salem Civic Center in Salem, VA and is run by the laid back, never nervous Roger Mannon. The venue is kinda cool as it brings back childhood memories of attending basketball games and wrestling matches (those epic Johnny Weaver/George Becker vs. Rip Hawk/Swede Hanson matches to name just a few...). Of course, we are in one of the ballrooms and not the main venue floor but still a great location and Salem, VA is one very nice Blue Ridge Mountain city. A few different dealers are there from the usual ones I see in NC shows and there is a real mix of merchandise - 90% comics but some odd nostalgia stuff there as well. Roger could promote the show a little better and get somebody to spruce up the website but one thing I did notice was the "quality" of attendees was about the best I've seen all year.

Let me clarify: by "quality", I am talking fans that will not only buy the cheap stuff but will buy some of the more expensive items as well - that doesn't happen much at the other shows. Someone popping a big book at this show is not uncommon in the least. I brought my tired dollar collection again but priced it at 3 for a $1 and then also brought five longs boxes of mid-grade Silver Age, Bronze and Copper - that did well as one customer bought a huge run of John Byrne's run on Fantastic Four. That one sale made it a successful show for me. Roger's show is definitely one for both fans and dealers to come back to next year.

At the end of the day, one-day comic shows are a gamble for comic dealers - you just don't know how many fans will walk through the door, how much money they have to spend and whether or not you have the goods they want. The bottom line is to keep overhead low by only going to those shows within close proximity where you don't have to stay at a hotel. Also, only bring as much "stuff" as you can haul in an SUV or cargo van. If you rent a U-Haul trailer, you better make sure you are going to sell a LOT of stuff. Any dealers reading this: make sure you ask the one-day show promoter just exactly what he or she is doing to promote the show. Promotion is what it is all about - it's the life blood of a show and will be so a thousand years from now. Any promoters reading this: Promote, Promote, Promote and when you think you've done enough, PROMOTE SOME MORE!!!!!

That's all I've got for now - comments welcome and solicited.