“Arnie’s penciled in the event for next year on the calendar, he just needs to ink it in,” shares “Spectrum Fantastic Art Live!” planning coordinator, Bunny Muchmore. Her prediction on the Sunday eve of the show is proven accurate. Arnie Fenner announced on the Muddy Colors blog that the show will go on. I’m stoked with this news. Heck, I’m sure a lot of people are. Not just for those who made it, but for those who didn’t and can attend next time.
Here’s an interesting statistic. It has become public knowledge that just over 2000 people came through the door in Kansas City. Comic-Con International in San Diego has 125,000 people attending. When I factor all of my costs associated with the Spectrum show a few weeks ago and Comic-Con in 2011 they almost match. There is less than a $500 difference. At Comic-Con I have two booths. At Spectrum I have an island (four corner booths). I drive in my books and staff for Comic-Con. At Spectrum I shipped our books in advance, then flew in my staff and three artists and covered the hotel rooms for us. Now here’s the kicker. The money brought in from book sales between Comic-Con and Spectrum Fantastic Art Live! (SFAL!) is a difference of $300.
There’s been a lot of talk about the power of the one percent over the last year. Given that 2000 people rounds up to 2% of the Comic-Con attendance, I think I can still make a point. I’ve always felt that 1% of the Comic-Con crowd is our core audience. The rest are there for the pop-culture elements. Reflecting on the two shows creates some legitimacy to my gut feeling. Big crowds do not translate to big sales. The Alternative Press Expo (APE) in San Francisco is another show that entices a focused crowd and does very well for us.
A good balance, to me, is that core 2%, then another few thousand people with peripheral interests that we can meet and introduce ourselves to for the first time. While I like to sell books at a show, it is my third goal. My first goal is to meet and interact with new people and existing fans. Basically, promoting Flesk, the artists we publish and the arts in general.
Getting back to some observations, keep in mind that Comic-Con is a five day show and SFAL! is three. The bonus with SFAL! is that with a shorter show, that gives me two extra days back home working on and selling books. Every day gone from the office is a lost day of productivity, which I need to factor into the value of exhibiting at any show. The promotional value of any event should supplement the lost days back home. I feel both Comic-Con and SFAL! do this, yet SFAL! is a mellow environment and is not the marathon that Comic-Con is.
Why am I referencing Comic-Con? I’ve been either attending or exhibiting at the show since 1994. I know it well. It is a major venue for an artist, or in my case an art book publisher, to promote himself. During the last five years, especially, I have seen many artists drop out of the show for reasons such as it becoming too expensive to attend, sales are down, the increased jobs picked up at the show have become less frequent, the longer hours requiring extra help at the booth and the perceived focus of the show that has gone more mainstream pop-culture. And what I mean by more expensive is not the booth costs, which I feel is a deal for what you get (Comic-Con keeps the booth prices very reasonable when compared to other trade shows I have been too, like BEA—which is a total waste of time and money in my opinion), but instead the hotel costs that have been driven up over the years. Besides this, there’s been a feeling by the artists of their not being relevant to Comic-Con anymore. The Comic-Con organizers keep the focus of the program book, panels, guests and name of the show all very much focused on comics and the people in the comic industry, but the large film studios, game companies and other peripheral pop culture genres cast a shadow over the theme a bit too much, contributing to the perception that Comic-Con doesn’t care about the artists, which I don’t think is true. I think they do care, but they are in a pickle dealing with the perceptions and the mass of people that attend and exhibit at the show. I don’t envy what they have to deal with. It’s like chasing King Kong and trying to tie him down with a few dozen people and a rope.
Getting back to SFAL!, I feel it can only grow from here. The core audience that supports and sustains us was there. For this, I am very grateful. I feel with each new year more core fans will arrive, followed by those with a mild-curiosity for what is going on. The very fact that the focus is on the artists, not the products they create, is refreshing. The artists don’t have to compete with the cast of Glee near them. (I had this happen at Comic-Con one year. There was a massive line blocking the entrance to my aisle. No joke. I’m like, what the #*!#& is Glee?) Or, the carnival antics of major studios with bullhorns, gaming companies blasting explosion sound effects, sword dealers—OK, don’t get me started. You get my point. SFAL! is all about the artists and King Kong is not running amok on the show floor.
So why was I there with a big booth? I’m not an artist, but a book publisher? Why did I get such a primo spot right up front? We’ll, I feel my mission in publishing fits the theme of the show. We are all about the artists. I’m not publishing books on genres and products. I publish artist individual collections and make sure they are about them. I had six artists at my booth, and not just books. About the space: When I heard about the show, I immediately signed up and asked for a big spot. In knew the show would be a success and would grow. I decided to grab my space when I could, knowing later that it might not be possible. I had faith early on. That, and Stout encouraged me with this decision as well.
The SFAL! show organizers have been honest about what they felt went well, and listed out areas for improvement. I respect those that can point out his or her flaws and work to correct them. I look forward to continuing to support the show and to see where it goes.
I will end this blog series about the show with some random pictures; both at the show and around downtown Kansas City.
Petar Meseldzija sketching in a copy of Flesk Prime. Taking pictures of Petar is like trying to take a picture of a five-year-old boy. He rarely stops moving around and likes to make silly faces at the camera. This is a grab shot that I took while he was focused on drawing.
Gary Gianni (right) signing bookplates for his adaptation of Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Gary was kind enough to offer his hand. These bookplates will come with all future orders direct form us for the book. We also have a separate exclusive for the Prince Valiant Page.
On Sunday evening a small group of us had a relaxing and fun dinner. I snapped some pictures during the meal. The lighting was dim, with an assortment of interesting lights and colors. I prefer not to use a flash. Here are a few of the results.
See you next year!
text and photos copyright 2012 John Fleskes. All rights reserved.