I wanted to take a time to write a blog post about why I write convention reviews.
Mainly, I write these so other artists will know what to expect. When I first started it was very difficult to find reviews about conventions before I attended. As a “planner” I like to know what to expect and it added a great deal of stress to not know.
As an artist, attending a convention is a huge financial investment. We have to pay for the table itself, badges if they are not included, travel, food, parking, and hotel costs. Often we will also need to pay these not only for ourselves, but for a second person as well so we can have a helper to allow for food and bathroom breaks. On top of that we have to put time and money into creating the items for sale. Then there’s the display items like tablecloths and banners. Even business cards can add up, I tend to give away anywhere form 500-2000 per weekend and those aren’t free.
There’s always a risk when an artist attends a convention that they will end up losing money. Not everyone in the artist alley makes their living selling at conventions. There are other reasons to attend including networking, meeting customers in person, and just because it’s fun. Most of us started out as huge fans before we started selling so just being at the convention is enjoyable. At the end of the day, though, we can’t keep attending if we lose money every time. Even hobbyists need to make enough to support their hobby.
Some factors, however, can be controlled. If I know an area of the convention center is dark, I can bring lights. If I know there is poor traffic flow, I can work to build up a taller or more eye catching display. However, if the artist alley is placed in a building with a leaking roof, the convention regularly violates their contracts with the artists, or if the attendance was far too low to support the number of artists, these are deal breakers to me. The potential to have a poor weekend is too high and I would not choose to attend.
I also think there is a serious problem with conventions because of how few artists, vendors, staff members, etc, are willing to write reviews. Unlike a regular attendee, these people often rely on conventions to make some, if not all, of their income. They’re also more likely to have direct communication with the show runners and more likely to see behind the scenes issues that attendees may not experience. Yet if they speak up, they risk losing access to this resource that they need in order to do business. It leaves those in charge with very little accountability for the way they treat those working under them since they have control over this resource that everyone else needs. They have all the bargaining power. I’m not saying all conventions are run by awful people, quite the opposite. I think most are generally decent, if not amazing, events. But there is corruption and there is a lot of drama and I think it’s important to be aware of that.
It’s not all bad, either! This write up may make it sound all doom and gloom, but I try to choose the conventions I attend carefully to start with so my experiences are often largely positive and I’m just nitpicking small points. There’s been quite a few artists I have met at conventions who have said my reviews have helped them and I’m always glad to hear it. I’m also happy to answer any questions or speak to convention heads who may have points of clarification or explanations that I didn’t have so I can add those to my reviews.
If anyone has any other questions, please let me know! Thanks for reading :)