Just to clarify, SPX is not a pure lottery system. There are a number of publishers who get in, then a number of other contributors (determined by the committee) who get in. The rest is lottery.
I have not been to TCAF, and I know a lot of people love that show, but I’ve seen the guest lists and it’s more mainstream than I would generally be interested in. Much moreso than SPX.
yeah, not all of SPX is lottery (otherwise Fanta’s riding a hot streak like no other 😉 and i’m talking deeper than featured guest lists, but the overall exhibitor quality is/was better at TCAF (IMO). It took me asking regular sellers at those shows later on why the fluctuation of quality and the answers i got were uniform-not curated.
last time i did TCAF was in 2011 so, take that into account too. But the last SPX i was at i really felt chewed up and spit out and left early. Bethesda/D.C. just hasn’t really embraced it like Toronto has…you step out of that Marriott and that’s the end of it.
The Caption Show in the U.K. had the kind of format you’re talking about, you’re free to interact, go to workshops, listen to talks and hangout in the bar and at the end of the show you get a wad of cash from sales at the big mutual table. I went twice and it was beautiful. Location was a big part of it, on the banks of the river in Oxford, England.
I went to go dig up more information from Caption and it seems its most recent iteration was in 2015. It’s all an evolution. – Link for anyone else interested https://captionfestival.wordpress.com/ and wikipedia entry as its name in english made it harder than usual to find! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caption_(comics_convention).
“CAPTION differs from other conventions by breaking down the distinction between named guests and other attendees, avoiding segregation or special treatment of guests. In addition it prioritizes the social interaction of attendees by encouraging comics creators to place their publications on the CAPTION stall, managed by a rota of volunteers.” Way cool <3
Given that you've been touring with Sky in Stereo while also working on your current graphic novel projects at home, I curious to know what you maybe wish to see at these events after experiencing the latest iterations of CXC and SPX. Is there anything you could do without?
I was a guest at a festival in Lisbon years ago and was struck how it was NOT a “flea market,” but was art shows, lectures, lots of things, with a festival bookshop that worked well.
Hi Warren, I have questions! Was that the Amadora Festival? Do you know anything about how it was organized? How many people do you think were in attendance when you went?
Hi Juan, Yes, Amadora (so just outside Lisbon). in 2007. I don’t know how it was organized – I was part of a curated show there and they flew me over. It seemed to be a lot of art gallery type shows with lectures and talks. There was a big bookstore place too. It was NOT a flea market, ha ha. Email me and I’ll send you some contact info for some folks if that helps.
haha, I’ll email ya 🙂
The show that Rob Clough was involved with a few years back had that festival model in place, I think. A quick internet search shows that Clough just published something about the most recent CXC: http://www.tcj.com/how-to-build-a-comics-festival-cxc-year-three/
Will check that out. I’m still wondering about tabling costs, and how not having to table would factor in to that. Maybe you pay a fee to have your books available? Thanks for this write-up, Juan.
You’re welcome, really excited to see a conversation happening.
It might sound weird right now, but it’d be interesting to have there be a deposit that people make in order to sell their books. If they don’t make the sales, they get that money back. So that the show has the needed capital to move things around beforehand. It could stay low. And then from whatever arrangement is made for the show payout-wise you could count the deposit in for that.
The idea here is to spread the accountability for the show’s financial success – and having money on the line can help. In this way, the show runner is motivated to push for sales at the store in order to keep the deposits. Neverhteless, this removes the burden of losing money to someone whose work simply doesn’t do well at the show, despite being presented well. This is particularly useful for folks who make zines and work that might not retail at < $12+ a unit.
Just a thought.
For reference and for other people's use, here's the DICE recap Rob did for TCJ: http://www.tcj.com/creating-a-new-comics-show-dice/
Cool piece and commentary. I have nothing to add except encouragement that we continue to discuss making these experiences better and sharing the various approaches that we find. Thanks for writing this, Juan (and commentators).
One important aspect for me as a cartoonist who tables at a lot of these shows: FREE ADMISSION.
Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE) is my local show (and full disclosure, it’s organized by friends of mine). It does not charge an admission fee. This lets me invite anyone and everyone to visit the show – friends, family, coworkers, random people on the subway. I don’t have to worry about them paying for something they may not enjoy, and they can bail quickly if it’s not their thing.
Free admission improves outreach. At MICE, we see curious people just wander in off the street. We see whole families show up (parents especially appreciate free activities they can bring the kids to). I talk to so many people who say that MICE is the first comic show they’ve ever attended.
I’ve seen a few other shows with no admission fee, including Maine Comics Arts Fest (now that it’s held in a public library) and LadiesCon in Somerville, MA. I really like this approach as a way to grow comics audiences and to be a presence that the local community embraces.
Oh absolutely. I agree with you wholeheartedly that if it’s not free, an organizer of a new show or festival shouldn’t expect ANYONE to come out to a showroom floor.
MICE is a great little regional comics engine.
I think it’s unlikely that you’re going to change the model of the large shows anytime soon. If you’re looking to really do something radical, you’re probably going to have to DIY to prove that the model works – and, even then, you’re bound to have a few stumbles along the way.
Honestly, even TCAF and Angouleme have their flea market aspects to them. The town of Angouleme itself is actually known for all of the festivals (not just comics) that it has over the course of the year. Tourism from festivals is how the townspeople get their livelihood, so it’s easy for them to buy into the comics festival when it rolls around. Whitney does the same thing during their goth weekends. North Besthesda (for example) doesn’t need the money from the attendees of SPX, so there’s no local buy in.
If I was 20 years younger, I would have sunk a chunk of money into a bookmobile full of comics that I would drive from festival to festival. I like the idea of having a table run by a retailer, but what do you do for creators whose work doesn’t sell? I think there are a lot of practical, logistical challenges that have to be worked out in translation from good idea to reality.
There’s a reason why the flea market is the default model – it’s easy to set up and easy to run. I’d recommend that you focus on setting up something simple as a replacement so you can easily deploy it as a repeatable process.
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