I went down to Wichicon this past weekend. Overall, I did far better than break even, though it was not entirely because of sales.
Traffic was sparse on Sunday, at least early on, and it was an odd crowd for a con. Wichicon is part of the Wichita Riverfest, which is a week long thing that’s been going on as long as I can remember. It’s got all sorts of stuff that in general is not related to SF/F/comics/anime at all.
Entry to the con only required a Riverfest button, which in general gets you into everything. Nominally, those are $10, but they’re in just about every radio competition, given away as parts of specials in stores, and many businesses just give them to all of their employees and their families.
I expected that would mean a completely different flavor of crowd, but in general, I saw little difference between that crowd and that of Planet Comicon. The primary difference was a much smaller percentage of cosplayers. In my suggestions to the con, I will suggest that they do more to make it fun for them, which I think will improve traffic for us all.
I did, in the end, break even with my sales. Cost for the artist/author table was $80, so it wasn’t a terrible risk anyway. Also, since one main reason I attended was to visit my mom, I did not have to worry about hotel expenses, and those vendors who did have hotel rooms probably did not break even.
The big profit from the weekend was the interview that ConCast did for their podcast. I don’t look completely stupid! And it’s a video. As soon as I have a solid link, I’ll be posting it everywhere.
Many thanks to ConCast for doing that.
The best news, I think, is that the Riverfest wants to make Wichicon a success. I was asked by quite a few officials at a variety of levels how I was doing and how to make things better. This came from actual Riverfest people and the normal organizers of SF/F/comic type things in the Wichita area. Everyone seems to be all in.
So here are the criticisms I see that they can fix.
One, the Bob Brown Expo Hall was too big for Wichicon. The good news is that they also held a gaming event this past weekend. The plan is to combine the two. This is all e-gaming, but the crossover is there. Plus, if they reach out to the local game stores there shouldn’t be a reason not to have more than just Magic: The Gathering tabletop gaming going on.
The load-in could have been better. Primarily, the big thing is Friday setup. It turns out a bunch of people were allowed to set up Friday, but they did not mention that and I didn’t think to ask. It made Saturday morning far more hectic than it should have been. I have a lot more patience when I have a whole evening and morning to set up than a 7am to 10am window, and it would reduce the hit on the dock.
Wichicon did not do enough to support cosplayers, as I mentioned. Some specific changes I’d suggest is making the cosplay contest a big thing. They had one, but make it as big as they can make it within the structure of the Riverfest. Perhaps even inviting cosplayers to walk or ride in the parade the Friday before Wichicon opens.
Whatever else, cosplayers add a level of wow to cons that brings people in, and I’d like to see more of them.
Oddly, since some of the con organizers are in a pirate band, there wasn’t any music. They had a stage set up for panels, but only one. It would seem like that stage, which was too big for most of the panels, could be used for music.
Panels, on the other hand, might be able to go along another wall. The expo hall, as far as I know, is one big open space, but one wall has some half-contained areas that might work for at least one panel room.
There was absolutely room to have an SCA demo, plus other similar groups like belly dancers and such. Put it this way, we vendors occupied about 1/3rd of the hall, and we were not squished together. They were 8ft tables, which meant rows were 20ft wide (8ft table – 4ft gap – 8ft table), then about 50 feet long (5 8ft tables with 2ft gaps between them). Plus some endcap sections which were something like 20×20.
In other words, they could add a ton to the event and it wouldn’t feel squished at all.
Overall, I had a good time. I doubt it will ever be hugely lucrative for me, though some vendors did pretty well. I do think it can be expanded, though, with maybe even some cross-overs I’ve not thought of.