The Cost of a Comic Con for an Indie Author

Comic Con Lexington K. Rowe BoothA couple of months ago I wrote about becoming a vendor at a local comic con. Now that all is said and done, I’m ready to tell you how much it cost, and what I gained from it. For a first time experience, I can’t exactly say what the gold standard is, but I can share my experiences as an author in a widely commercial setting.

Okay, let’s crunch some numbers. I have to admit, it was a good case of sticker shock. For an Indie author, going to an event such as this is a leap of faith. And I was crazy enough to take that leap. These totals are for the three-day Lexington Comic and Toy Convention (Kentucky) which started on a Friday evening and ran until Sunday afternoon. My big plan was to debut a new release so folks would feel like they were getting in on something new and great — and that idea worked!

Here is the breakdown for you:

  • Booth: $250
  • Internet/electric: $180 (since I opted to take credit cards and didn’t have a smart phone)
  • Hotel: $450 (yes, I wish I knew someone in the city where I could have borrowed a sofa!)
  • Food: $50 (I was in cheap mode!)
  • Books: $400
  • Costume: $300 (not really needed, but fun)
  • Banner: $285 (again, not needed, but it was really an eye-catcher)
  • Bookmarks: $65 (a GREAT investment!)
  • Poster for new release: $40 (including frame)
  • Promotional items: $250 (for sale items)

For a painful grand total of: $2,270

How much did I make in actual sales that weekend? $207.00

Comic Con Goods for sale
Books, mugs, and more for sale!

Now, that doesn’t include the wildcat variables of people I chatted with, handed business cards and bookmarks to, and other media that could result in online sales. So it’s difficult to accurately report how much in sales I truly had. Yes, it appears that I lost a ton of money — which is a bit true. Some things I really didn’t need (like the costume or the banner), but I was in the mindset to try and attract as many people to my booth as possible. It was a big bonus to have my artist there doing live sketches and drawings which helped draw people in. He netted $275 in profits for the weekend. Of course, don’t forget the benefit of effective frequency.

K. Rowe & illustrator Jason Sturgill at Comic Con
Me and my illustrator, Jason Sturgill, ready for action!

All hope is not lost. The large purchase of books will eventually be sold. In fact, once I got home, a friend came by and purchased $135 worth of books. And another person bought $39 worth. The banner, bookmarks, poster, and costume will be reused at another smaller (and less expensive!) Con set for late June in Louisville. So as you can see, things will get used again.

If all of this sounds exciting (despite the sticker shock) there are a few things you can do to make it less painful on the pocketbook:

1. Find a cheaper hotel or stay with someone.

2. Have an empty water bottle available (water cost $4.00!) so you can fill it up at a drinking fountain — because you WILL be thirsty from talking and the general temperature of the building.

3. Pack some of your own food like granola bars, candy, and things that don’t require refrigeration.

4. Look for sales on promotional items (I used and got a ton of stuff at 50% off).

SERVO poster at Comic Con
Poster for my new release — actually sold quite a few copies at the Con because people wanted to get the newest hot item, even if they didn’t know who I was!

For the next Con, I’m planning on staying with my illustrator and we’ll drive an hour each way to Louisville to avoid hotel fees. We will also be bringing more of our own food.

Comic Cons are a heck of a lot of fun. You’ll meet people from all over which is the perfect way to get your name and books out there to the world. I can’t say this type of event is for everyone. The crowds can be mentally and physically inundating and the days long. So if you’re the quiet, reserved kind who prefers a library crowd over something like a football game, a Con probably isn’t for you. By the end of the day you’re hoarse from having to talk very loudly and generally exhausted. I had a great time, and obviously have plans to do another. And should there be more after that. I’m ahead on finding ways to cut costs. If you’re an Indie author and looking for a way to get noticed, a Comic Con can help with that.

Author: K. Rowe

K. Rowe is an experienced and prolific multi-genre author. She draws from over twenty years of active Air Force service. Kathy lives in eastern Kentucky with her husband and a zoo of farm animals. Among her many duties she finds time to offer services as a publishing consultant for new authors. Learn more about Kathy from Facebook, and her Amazon author page.

13 thoughts on “The Cost of a Comic Con for an Indie Author”

  1. These kinds of things are rarely big money-makers, but as you say, it’s hard to get a full accounting when sales could continue online for days or weeks to follow. The important thing is getting yourself out there and meeting the readers, which is great fun. Every time I worked the Tucson Festival of Books, I had a great time chatting with folks the entire time, but was exhausted by the time I was done. Great round-up; thanks!

    1. Face time is definitely the most important part. My post for next month will focus on free venues to get exposure (and maybe sells some books!).

  2. You’re right, Kathy — conventions cost a lot to attend. I’ve never tried for a booth in the dealers’ room at World Fantasy Convention; instead, I try to find a way onto the program, either with a reading or on a panel. You probably get more exposure in the dealers’ room, however. And I still have travel, hotel, and regular registration costs to pony up for.

  3. Kathy, Thanks for sharing your results and costs. This is a great help for other authors. I just volunteered with a not-for profit group at a comic con this weekend and thought about the benefit for authors. My genre doesn’t fit in with the concept but it’s an interesting idea. I agree with Lynne, if you can get on the program, it will help. They are usually scraping for great speakers to fill all those hours they are open.

  4. As someone who does over a dozen Comic Cons per year for my comic, Boston Metaphysical Society and it companion anthology, I think I can offer some helpful advice:

    1. Get a smartphone and download the app for Square or PayAnywhere so you can take credit cards without having to pay for wifi. You will have to buy the slider, but it’s a business expense.

    2. You can buy a banner much more cheaply and the quality is the same. I used Qia Graphix or look on eBay.

    3. Know your pitch.

    4. Have bookmarks or something to give away to draw people to your table.

    5. Hotels: Don’t stay at the host hotel, it’s always expensive. Look for Choice Hotels (Econo Lodge, etc.), Motel 6, Super 8, etc. Some have pre-paid prices that are way lower than the regular price.

    6. Bring you own food and water. Insulated bags are great to keep yogurt and sandwiches cold. Wear good shoes and bring a mat to stand on if you have one. I always bring my own breakfast and lunch then usually eat at a Subway for dinner. It saves a lot of money.

    7. Factor in possible parking fees.

    8. If you are serious about vending, I’d also suggest joining some of Facebook comic groups and read the various threads for more information.

    Good luck!

  5. I’ve done many a convention…that cost does get spread out over the cost of several cons so it’s really your initial investment here. Even the costume! 🙂 Certainly do more conventions if you can.

  6. Hi Kathy,

    I have not yet exhibited at a convention, instead, only at our local book fair. Your tale was very helpful, especially the cost break down. I think many authors think only of the cost of exhibiting and forget about the many associated costs of hotels, food, drink and incidentals. It sounds like you may have quite a bit about the convention to blog about. I am glad to hear you had fun, and have come up with a wise way to reduce the hotel costs with a friend.

    Best wishes,

  7. Yes, it’s not so much the sales as the contacts which might and often do result in sales or publicity. I do book fairs and sell only a few books there, but the networking has provided two superb cover artists, a brilliant editor, a small publishing company which is happy to do small print runs and save me postage from Amazon, and writers in need of a tutor. My teaching load has increased and sales of the books do go up over the next few weeks.

  8. Hi Kathy. Thank you for sharing about your journey. Sounds like it was an interesting adventure. The best part is that it probably got you way out of your comfort zone a time or two and even though the dollars don’t show it, I think the exposure had to be good. Congrats. Great banner and outfit. 🙂 I wish you luck on your next adventure with doing another one.

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