September 5th, 2006

sp act hero movie

Comics Expos and Distribution On A Budget

Drifted into the Uk festival scene last year after a long absence, to the Quality Communications organised Brighton Expo. I had a whale of a time ! Lovely location, rum smuggled into over-expensive pub, new and old and discovered friends. Snotty dalek, cheery badges, optimistic enthusiastic comics collectives. Self-publishers of photocopied, printed, laminated works as far as the eye could see in surroundings air-conditioned and stately. Not just looking as good as the Marvel/DC/2000 AD exhibitions, in many cases surpassing them! Not a dream, not a hoax, no imaginary story !

Except it came with a price: £150 for a table and back-board for two days. The Bristol Expo is similarly priced at £75 for a table for two days. A table at the Memorabilia Convention costs £175 for two days. As the average small presser might tell, that £75 would buy a print run of 150-200 copies of a black and white A5 28pager. Lets say safe on copyshop house or printers deal, and make that 200 copies.

Now lets draw those things together.

To break even on the day that would require a sale of 100% of that stock at £2 a copy per day (or, incorporating the promotion provided by the weekend). Selling a hundred copies in a day is not bleeding likely by the most outlandish what if of stretches, but it covers table costs and printing costs. I realise I’m simplifying this, not counting the snowball effect when applied to larger prints on collected works., and leaving out notable exceptions like John Allison. (While I’m not a devotee of Allison’s webcomic ‘Scary Go Round’ it has gained fan devotion that has made it probably the UK’s greatest circulated new comic outside the newspapers. People seem happy enough to pay for his gear although his comic is free in digest. Check out for more details. ) To extend the comparison, raising the price above £2, small publishers have a fighting chance, and its still an incredibly slim one.

These sums do not take into account other costs to do with getting your own short-term showroom : not lunch, not transport, not the bed and breakfast, not the beer, not dinner and certainly not the cost of the comedy dvd you promised to reward yourself with when it all got to according to plan.

By taking part on a table-holder level, are we selling ourselves short ? Have we started to drift into becoming our own vanity press ? If you as a self-publisher with a table at these expos, are by way of parting with your cash, a important component of said exhibit’s existence, doesn’t that then give you a sense of power that enables you to decide on how much or if at all your table might cost you ?

Clicking on the link below will take you to an extended version of this essay picking up from were I have left off above. It offers some solutions to the problems which those of you very familiar with the UK comics scene are quite likely aware of, and further explanations as to this stance. If you’re relatively new to comics festivals, and interested, by all means, read on. I would like these comments to invite discussion in the various boards, forums, pubs, and if yer so inclined, by clicking on the comments links below. (I don’t talk about comics very often here btw). If you want to link to threads on the subject, the floor is open for that too.
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