I have attended many a con as a little dweebette, prepped with cosplay finery and dollars to shred on prints that couldn’t fit on my walls. I have become addicted to the frenzied madness, despite the cost, the stress, and the crowds. What started with Sakuracon in 2008 has blossomed into PAX Prime, Anime Expo, and Emerald City Comic Con.
And Wizard World. Oh, Wizard World. You’re not going to like this.
Wizard World Portland 2017 was the best way to start as a seller, I thought, because:
- It’s close by. It’s about a 3 hour drive from Portland to Seattle, where I’m at.
- It seemed cheap. Emphasis on the seemed. The actual breakdown was not what I initially expected, because we lost time.
- It was first come, first serve. I didn’t have to get past a jury with no con experience under my belt.
- It was short. With only one full day (Saturday), it seemed like an easy, low stress entrance into the seller side of things.
I’m not going to go into every detail of the overall trip, and I’m going to focus on how Wizard World staff could’ve done things better. That being said, they done fucked up.
Things were confusing initially because Friday was a short day, with an all day set up period and an expo start time of 5 PM. People would be there from 5 to 10 PM Friday, 10 AM to 10 PM Saturday (a change that had happened a couple of weeks prior to the show), and 10 AM to 4 PM Sunday. This seemed strange; I’m used to shows being all day Friday, and expo halls closing around 6 or 7 on Saturdays.
The reasoning behind this madness became clear when we got there, and saw that the entire con was in one hall. One reasonably sized hall housed the artist alley, the exhibitors, a beer garden, three stages, and all of the autograph areas. It was unorganized and manic, and it only got worse when we saw that the map that guests had was from last year. Strike 1, indeed.
Our sales were alright on Friday, and we did even better Saturday (no surprise there). Attendnace seemed to hit a high 6,000 count. Things were never packed, and there weren’t really lines or clusters to speak of anywhere in the hall. We were chit chatting with our booth mates around 8 PM Saturday when the intercom came on overhead, and announced that we were closing early. No explanation, no justification; just that everything was closing two hours early. I lost a sale immediately, as the family left and didn’t come back because they heard the rules change. Which really made me happy, as you can imagine. Strike 2.
Strike 3 came in the form of the morning meeting on Sunday. Artists and exhibitors gathered to talk about the con with the Wizard World staff, and luckily, my booth neighbor recorded the meeting. It’s since been taken down, but a few key bits:
- They changed the close time because of a miscommunication.
- They changed the close time because traffic was slow.
- They changed the close time to experiment and try new things.
- Their guests are a big draw.
- They’re under new management.
- The wrong map was printed because Tucker screwed up.
So basically, they changed the close time for reasons. Three different ones that don’t all work, frankly. You can’t have us pay for certain hours and then take them away without discussing any of this with the people who paid to be there.
We were told from other artists that tickets had been printed with three different close times (I’m assuming that’s also Tucker’s fault, because Tucker’s an asshole), and that artists had been contacted by fans because they were on the map but weren’t actually there. An outdated map will do that, definitely.
We were also told that the end of the costume contest at 7:30 PM on Saturday led to the announcer saying the event was done. So people left. People left because they were told to leave, despite everything staying open for another 2 and a half hours.
And, icing on the cake, we were also informed that Dark Horse had refused to come this year and that WWE guests were not happy with how they were treating. I can’t verify a lot of this because I can’t find confirmations online, but it looked like a few guests left early Sunday for whatever reason.
Ultimately, we made money (not quite a profit) and made a lot of great new friends. It was a fun experience as a new con, and as a first time seller. But I won’t go back. I lost almost 3 hours of selling time that I’d paid for, and after shopping around, this con is ridiculously expensive for less time than other cons (like Rose City).
I’m not happy with how Wizard World treated this event, and I don’t want to sell at one of their events again. Please don’t come to Seattle; we have great cons here that are really well organized and nicely programmed, and I’d rather throw my money at them.