Thought Bubble is the biggest comic (only) con in the UK. Of course, it’s never going to be as big as a US con, but, then, we haven’t quite the same audience size – and there’s likely a growing percentage who can’t read English, or is that a contentious statement to make? Whatever.
I wrote the following for someone else’s blog in reference to Thought Bubble, with some minor amendments in this version:
It’s very difficult for those of us who have tables at conventions to fully appreciate the success or otherwise of a particular convention, particularly if you’re the only bod manning the tables. Dealers tend to gauge success purely by sales, and one dealer can do well while the next dealer has a bummer. Thought Bubble has to be the biggest comics-only con in the UK and is blessed with a multitude of amazingly talented people, both famous and aspiring. I don’t think there’s any other comic con in the UK that has such a huge yet somehow integrated mix. You can’t help but respect the time and commitment that the creators have put into projects whether it’s their own or commissioned – and, as a publisher, the amount of money! I challenge any other con to equal the Thought Bubble party on Saturday night in the awesomely breath taking Corn Exchange. That has to be the icing.
I was then asked my views on how the downturn has affected publishers:
Well, starting a publishing house as a recession hits (that was back in 2006) is probably not a good business plan, but to even think about starting a business you need optimism in gargantuan proportions, and a bottomless wallet. You hear tales of small press publishers mortgaging their houses, and I could have saved up and been able to buy a brand new BMW with what The House of Murky Depths has cost me, but we struggle on with our dreams. Marketing is the downfall of the small press – we just don’t have the budgets – and social media isn’t all it’s cracked up to be for the majority who try to use it for promotional purposes, unless you just hit lucky. High quality limited editions still seem the best bet for small press, but then production costs are higher and margins lower, but talk to a small press publisher, after a few drinks, and he’ll boast about all the boxes he has stacked away somewhere with unsold stock. Most of us talk ourselves up when in fact we’re all struggling. The downturn has certainly a lot to answer for but I think it’s always going to be difficult for small press publishers. We still struggle on with paper too, when online content is beating us down. Bottom line? If there hadn’t been a recession there’d be a lot more comics around but we probably wouldn’t be that much better off (or should that read, we might actually be breaking even).
So, what does all that mean for The House of Murky Depths?
We’ll be looking a lot closer at what conventions we attend. We won’t be attending the likes of Fantasycon (World Fantasycon next year) and Eastercon unless there’s a big upturn or organisers make their table deals more attractive. Sure, you’ll most likely achieve greater sales at these cons … but at a cost. Of course, there’s always an optimistic dealer who’ll take up a table, if you don’t, so it’s unlikely that table prices will go down, and organisers have to pay their bills too. The main difference between a comic con and a literary con is that the former has the dealer room as its main attraction whereas the latter tends to just tag the dealer room onto a busy panel schedule.
Another option we’ll be investigating is more one-day events or conventions that allow us to book just one day (many don’t), thus avoiding additional hotel costs. Each one will be weighed up against the pros and cons (snigger). Of course, you never can tell from one year to the next how a convention is going to pan out. A good con one year can be a disaster the next, and vice versa. Have no fear, you’ll be seeing us somewhere next year. In the meantime we’ll be a feature in the Lincoln Artists’ Network shop from 6 December until 9 December (18 – 20 Sincil St., LN5 7ET). Lincoln has a lot going for it, so if you haven’t visited this city yet, pop along and say hello.