At my second Phoenix Fan Fusion as a vendor, I learned a valuable lesson: Don't put everything on the Prize Wheel.
Going into this year's event, I was eager to try out a number of new things to bring people to my table and make them remember their experience. I had seen other vendors using gimmicks like prize wheels and other games to lure people over. The wheel itself is fairly inexpensive, and with a dry-erase surface, I would be in complete control of it.
I also invested in a button maker. I designed a half dozen collectable buttons featuring characters from AU as well as on featuring the logo. Each button cost about .20 to make, so to give these away for free was not a crippling investment (if anyone wanted to buy one, they were 2 for $1).
Here's where I hurt myself. While most of the prize wheel spaces were "Buttons," I initially designated a few with bigger give aways like 1 comic, 2 comics, 3 comics, 5 comics. What are the odds the guests would frequently land on these spaces before I would make a single sale? The odds were pretty good for them, it turns out. Like 50/50.
The good thing about giving away comics is they get in the hands of new readers, which is something I absolutely want. But, considering how much I've invested in the products already, I really should get some revenue back as well.
On Friday afternoon, I made a major pivot. No more free comics on the wheel (save one special prize that will only happen at on designated time of day). Instead, a handful of of the prize slices would give the winner a choice: "Button or Discount." The "or" was important. While AU isn't as intense or graphic as something like The Watchmen, Walking Dead, or The Boys, it's not really intended for kids under 12. Kids loved to come up and spin the wheel. They're guaranteed a button for spinning. If they land on a discount space, I would encourage them to take a button, especially if their parents weren't with them. While I only came away with one sale at the end of the day on Friday, it was a result of the discount offer. I think I was on to something.
Saturday went a lot better. This was the day I chose to cosplay as Saturn (Sean Baxter).
I figured since nobody else knows about this IP, then nobody else will do this cosplay, so it may as well be me.
The discounts actually led to a lot of sales. To my joy, there were quite a few people who were interested in the comic who had no interest in the wheel. When I discussed this with my wife, Suzanne, the other day, she suggested that perhaps I had become more confident in the product and that was attracting more people to buy it. That may be true. Whatever the case, I'll take whatever I can get in the "W" column. I did give away one batch of comics. Between 3 and 4pm, I had a special spot on the prize wheel where one lucky winner would get a tote bag and all 5 existing AU Comics. I gave away two similar prizes the day before to broadly different levels of enthusiasm. When the prize was awarded on Saturday, the young person winning the prize said I made his day. Wow. Knowing all there is to offer and a big convention like that, it's nice to be at least one person's high point. The experience was a little similar on Sunday, but with a much younger child. I advised the parent to give the books a read before letter her son see them, just to make sure they didn't offend her values.
Sunday was about as lucrative as Saturday, minus my self-indulgent cosplay.
I'd say the good news is I actually sold out of issues 1 and 3 (possibly because I gave away so many on Friday). Sadly, though, that means my remaining inventory of Issues 2, 4, and 5 weren't going to move for the rest of the day. Oh well.
I feel that my convention experience improves a little bit each time. Currently, though, there's no way for me to do a big one like Phoenix Fan Fusion without losing money. Even if I sold every single piece in my inventory for full price, I still wouldn't clear the price of the table. So, my priority for doing these conventions can't be money. To paraphrase Suzanne, so long as I'm getting some joy out of it and I can afford the expense, it's worth doing. But, if the prices exceed my grasp and/or it just isn't fun anymore, I'll stop. I think if we continue to invest in ourselves wisely and choose not to live beyond our means, then I can continue to do local and regional events for the foreseeable future. And who knows? We may yet find an audience someday.
*EDIT: Just a reminder, the INDIEGOGO for Issue #6 is still running through July 25th.