Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Intervention Review

I only got one pic of our group's full setup that actually had some of the Precocious table in it. Enjoy. That's Becca of Nattosoup on the left and Emily Kluwin on the right.

My original goal with Intervention was simple: This was a DC-area con, which meant a lot to me. I want a "home" convention, where I can be happy and successful and have lots of friends and contacts around me. Precocious is a weird entity. It's not comic enough for comic cons. It's not furry enough for furry cons. I have no idea how anime cons will look at it, as I'm so distanced from anime culture at this point. It's a webcomic, but how many webcomic conventions that help out those with moderate fan bases exist? How many are viable options, when travel and hotel is factored into cost?  Intervention was an interned-themed convention. If it was weird and geeky, it was welcomed. This sounded like a place anyone online could call home, and I was hopeful.

I never expected a big sales windfall. This was a small con, and I was coming off experiencing the cruelty small cons can have. (I did, however, mentally make this a test to see how a general population would feel about my work.) What I expected was moderate sales with enough free time to go around and play with the other dealers. I love talking shop with dealers, because they *know* how it is, and I can learn so much from them as well as, of course, make some excellent friends. This was a convention at which I had someone I knew and could talk to on nearly every aisle. I've felt like such an outsider during my furry con circuit, so this was very comforting. I had SCAD friends, fellow members of the SpiderForest Webcomic Collective, bros from my TWCL days, webcomics I had read or advertised on, and, yes, a furry exhibitor making a crossover I could chat with too. So that was it: Socialize and sell enough to justify my existence!

It became very clear on Friday that half of my plan was about to crash and burn. It was dead in the dealer room. A large number of dealers (many of which I assume came last year and knew what to expect) skipped Friday completely. It felt like the vast majority of those who came by my table were fellow dealers or dealer assistants. This was socially good, because dealers don't usually get time to mingle. I had a great time just hanging out with them - but the realization that I had paid mightily to do so stuck in the mind. Dealer sales are bittersweet. It's great to be appreciated by others 'in the biz' but you know most of them are in the same situation as you. The industry can't sustain itself if it's the same $20 bill flying around the room.  To sum up Friday, I had a blast going around the room and chatting with folks for an hour - before I realized I still had my cash box key in my pocket, which meant no one could cover any sales while I was away. It turned out not to matter. I made some sales on Friday, but the grumbles had already started from the tablemates I  had convinced to join me on this adventure.

Socially, however, the con was great. No traffic meant lots of dealer playing. I got to catch up with Rascals, Rogues and Dames crew, Becca and Heidi, I left behind when I moved away from Savannah. We hooked up with local SCAD grad, Emily, to finish off the foursome. This was my first chance to talk with fellow members of the SpiderForest collective, including the awesome people of Riven Sol, Snow By Night, LaSalle's Legacy, Apple Valley and Adrastus. I got to finally meet buds from my early days of comicking, and long-standing members of my recommended reading list, Mark of Autumn Lake and Dave of Slightly Off-Topic. I ended up chatting a bunch with my neighbors too. Mookie, of the long-running Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire gave me lots of insightful advice. Deanna of Kindling and La Machina Bellica was totally my corner buddy, as we kept each other entertained (at least, I *hope* it went both ways) during lulls. Which were often. Across from the other side of our table was the lovely Duae Designs duo of Eric and Cat, who were selling the cutest amigurumi (figures knitted from yarn) I have ever seen. Our group left with a bunch of them, and now all I can think of is what Precocious characters would look like in Eric's style.

Eric and Cat also made up part of our after-hours drink and draw group - which is noted for having minimal drinking and almost no drawing, just lots of awesome conversation.  Joining this group was also Julie Wright and Darrenn E. Canton. This is where lack of work was great. I've always had homework at cons, or been too tired to play much, so just hanging out and sharing silly stories is something I've never experienced. It was the most fun I've had in a long, long time.

And this is why I'm so conflicted about the con.  It was the highest of highs paired with some dismal lows. It is a marvelous social con, but largely bad for dealers... but my socializing is with dealers, so I need them to not give up! I want to make Intervention a yearly thing for me, but the crowd has to pick up or my friends will start disappearing when I come back.

The con is only in its third year, so growing pains are anticipated. Onezumi, the con head, is amazing at marketing and focusing all her energy on willing this con into existence - and that is both awesome and her curse.  At this point, we *expect* her to pull off miracles, because she's done 'em before.  She managed to pull in guests and dealers well above what the con probably deserved - and I hope that trend continues - but all these great efforts are wasted without people to actually come into the dealer room and buy things!

In two of its three years of existence (maybe all three - I wasn't paying attention last year because I was in Savannah and not actively conning then), Intervention has gotten smacked a bit by the great convention, the Small Press Expo.  As you can tell by the name, SPX is a dream con for someone like me.  I will do all I can to get in next year.  With two cons happening so close (even on the same weekend the first year), the audience buying power is diminished - and, naturally, it all goes to the higher-end con. From what I hear, SPX was a huge success for nearly everyone involved this year. Intervention success stories happened, but they were rare. Onezumi has already taken action to move Intervention away from SPX's might, which should improve things for next year.

Right now I see Intervention as a social con, with dealers as an afterthought. The reason a group of us chose to exhibit at the con is because all this good news was coming out about it. Pre-registration had doubled! The hotel block sold out three times over! People were coming! This con might double in size!  All these signs said the dealers room would be better, but I was told foot traffic was about half of last year's. Ouch. There needs to be something bringing the dealers back into this growing social con.  I understand the point of Intervention is to provide an umbrella to cover all the internetty things, but maybe more focus is needed. Imagine a theme to each year of the con. What if next year the theme is "The Power of Webcomics" with a major push that will cover and build up half of the dealers room!  The year after can be "Fandoms Unleashed" or "It Came from YouTube" or whatever.  Giving a specific internet theme to this internet con could benefit all. You'll get themed cosplay, themed panels, dealers would be able to focus their wares and people will KNOW what to expect.

For me, I will be back next year - probably with a table again - but I will have to take some major cost-cutting measures to do so. This year I was full of guilt, because my endorsement of Intervention brought in three more people that wouldn't have come otherwise. It was big investment for them, and the great socializing doesn't always offset a loss of hundreds of dollars per person. I felt responsible for costing them money, and I won't put myself in that position next year. Next year I will show up Friday morning and leave Sunday afternoon - saving two days of hotel costs. I could even stay with my brother and take the Metro in, but that means I miss some after-hours fun. I will still need sales to improve, but I can hope the con gets better.

I have faith that this convention can be willed into greatness. All the parts are coming together for that. It has been built. People just need to come.

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