Happy New Year Everyone! I hope that everyone had a joyous and restful holiday season and that you’re ready for all the goodness that awaits you in 2016. Over the past few weeks I’ve begun to look at the calendar to figure out which conventions to attend this year and which ones I'll skip. In North America alone there are literally hundreds of conventions and smaller events over the course of a calendar year, so being strategic is not only financially prudent but also gives you an opportunity to maximize your exposure.
Contrary to popular belief it's not always the larger comic book shows and conventions that give you the most exposure. While the larger cons have tens of thousands of people flowing through their doors over a three or four day span, the smaller shows with smaller crowds can sometimes give you the chance to have more contact with the public. Some of the larger shows are spectacles. People can be overwhelmed by the massive crowds and all of the different booths and attractions. If you’re in artist alley, there’s a lot of competition for people’s attention and you can sometimes get lost amongst all of the banners, cosplayers and the crowded aisles.
While the sheer numbers would suggest that you stand to meet more people at a larger show, there is also more there to distract them or even have them miss you completely. To get their attention your booth must stand out but then you can get caught in an “arms race” of sorts trying to outdo the person next to you or spend the weekend grumbling because your booth isn’t in a prime location. While smaller shows present some of the same challenges as the larger ones do, those challenges are on a smaller scale. Smaller shows and even one day events can be quite successful as the people that frequent those cons may not have these sorts of events happen in their area very often. That makes your appearance there a little out of the ordinary and can put you in a position to make some real connections with potential fans and other creators.
In the end, which shows you attend ultimately depends on your budget and what you’re expecting to get out of the weekend. If you’re looking for sales or to build awareness for your book or brand, you’ll have to weigh the cost of the weekend (including travel, accommodation, cost of your booth or table) against the amount of sales or exposure you’re looking for. If the numbers make sense, then great. If not then another course of action is probably required. Either way, start slowly and see how your first show or two goes. You’ll have a better idea how to proceed from there.