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Life Skills for Fanboys: Con Economics

written by Tony DiGerolamo, Copyright 2014

To further my goal of helping fellow fanboys, I have included an index of links of previous columns with their topics.  Don’t take it personal, I’m just trying to help.  Previous columns are indexed at the end.

 A Quick Lesson in Con Economics

Okay, this is mainly for those of you thinking about getting a table and selling your geek wares.  Here’s my experience.


The cheapest tables are usually at comic book conventions in the section called Artists’ Alley.  It’s mainly for artists, but if you’re a writer, like me, you can also sell stuff you’ve written and published.  Usually the smaller publishers will be there as well as some webcomic creators.  The price is usually free for guests, but it depends on the show.  If the show is packed and table space is a premium, they will charge anything from $30 to $150.  But, if you have creds, they will usually wave charges.  I’ve done shows where almost everyone paid for a table but me and I’ve skipped shows where I was asked to pay.

Gaming shows usually make you pay.  There’s a lot more money at stake, but I’ve been at a few where I got a free table.  It largely depends upon who you know, the con organizers and whether or not they perceive you as being able to afford a table.  Hotel rooms often come with a table, as gaming cons frequently get blocks of room since most of the attendees will be staying over, so don’t be shy about asking.  At the very least, you should get a discounted room, parking validation and access to the staff green room.

Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror Shows are almost always going to make you pay, unless they are so large they keep a free sections for poorer creators.  Typically, these shows will have a free section if they have a significant comic book and webcomic presence.  Those that do not won’t even understand the question if you ask for a free table.  At the big shows, only the big guests get comped.

Selling Stuff

As always, be professional and polite, but beyond that, there’s a few things you should have at your table:

1.  Change and lots of it.  It’s okay to round your prices to the nearest dollar so you don’t have to deal with actual coin.

2.  A credit card square:  If you have a smart phone, these are must so you can take credit cards at the table.  People tend to spend more if they use their charge card.

3.  Snacks:  This is especially important if you’re by yourself.  Bring a little something so you’re not starving half way through the day.

4.  Table presentation supplies:  Standees, pictures of your product and even news paper articles blown up on foam core and whatnot.  Whatever makes you look like a big deal.  They now sell these roll up banner displays.  It’s a quick background that’s easy to roll up at the end of the day.

5.  A pad of paper or smart phone:  Keep track of your inventory and/or sales.  It’s good to know what sells at what show.

6.  E-mail list and website cards:  Either get fans to sign up for your email list or something with your website on it.  Or both, whatever.


You’re probably going to need to take your car because you’re bringing product.  That means gas, tolls and parking.  Keep the receipts, these are all tax deductible as well as anything else you buy for your business.

If you have to fly, ship your merchandise ahead of time.  Don’t take it on the plane!  Comic book stock is especially heavy.  Your best bet is to mail it to the hotel, UPS, at least a week ahead of time at the slowest rate.  You can sometimes find ground shipping even cheaper.  Don’t worry, the hotel accepts packages.  However, sometimes your hotel will charge for accepting them.  In that case, contact a friend near the con that you trust with your product, then meet up when you arrive.  If you can’t, well, you might try a loyal fan, but I wouldn’t recommend that unless you feel you know them well.  Fortunately, these costs can also be deducted at tax time, but as you can see the costs are really piling up!


Although business meals are also tax deductible, hotels tend to overcharge in their restaurants.  A few choice ones actually include a breakfast buffet with the price of your room.  If you can drag your ass out of bed at a decent hour (I can’t) go down to the concierge and ask where the nearest cheap breakfast is.  If you’re lucky, you’ll only have to walk a couple of blocks.

Another strategy is to either bring food from home or hit a supermarket on the way to the con.  I like to stock up on iced teas for the room and some breakfast supplies.  If you have to eat in the hotel restaurant, morning buffets are usually pretty good and you can often steal some fruit and a bagel for the “road” (i.e. tomorrow’s breakfast!).


Networking often happens in the host hotel bar after the con.  The drinks will be expensive, but I’ve found as a non-drinker that I can usually nurse a soda for quite a while.  Fortunately, the bigger the show, the more likely it is that there will be room parties.  Sometimes these parties have some great, free food and you don’t even have to buy dinner.  But remember, these are just total strangers cooking food for you.  If you have food allergies, you have to watch out for yourself.

Room parties are a great way to network and meet people.  I’ve made lots of friends at the con and when you meet fellow creators, you can pool your resources.  It’s a good time to share hotel rooms, travel and food costs in the future.  One time, I showed up at a con with no room and end up sharing one with Chris Flick of Capes n’ Babes.  Saved me a bundle!  Thanks Chris!


As you can see, the costs can add up for a con.  A three day show is probably going to run you about $500 if you drive, $900 or more if you fly.  (That’s not counting the table!)  So the question is, should you go to a convention where you can’t make at least a grand?  Well, it depends on your wares.  For comics and webcomics, it’s about exposure and promotion as well as sales.  It’s hard to break even at a comic book show with just comics.  If you’re an artist, it’s actually a lot easier because you can sell original art all day long.  But all this will largely depend upon your own personal income.

I’ve done years where I’ve done over 40 cons and appearances in a year (almost one a week).  For the past few years, I’ve laid low and put my money into web advertising.  Everything runs in cycles.  And it’s about time for me to start hitting some cons again.

See you at the show!

Previous Columns
Obesity at Cons
The Art of Conversation
Grooming The Line Between Fans and Pros
Geek Elitism
Convention Panels
Convention Volunteers
Food Gifts Women and Cons
Get Your Room Party Together
Stop Bringing Your Kids to Cons
The Face of Geek Needs Work
Fixing the Face of Geek
Franchise Worship
Presenting Your Project
The New Image?
Stop Trying to Make Geek Cool
 Rethinking the Comic Book Con
Zombie Stories Should Still Be About People
Geek Stereotypes and the Big Bang Theory
Con Locations

Traveling to Cons on the Cheap