Cost and Cons
I posted a status earlier encouraging people to sign up for Leaky and such, and a friend of mine responded saying that Leakycon was “the most expensive con ever.” This resulted in me wanting to clear up some misconceptions here.
Leakycon is VASTLY different from other cons in terms of what you pay for and what you get. Firstly, it’s a small con with a disproportinately large guest roll. Guests cost money, and the fewer attendees you have, the more cost gets passed on to each attendee. So strictly on dynamics, Leaky has more guests than most other cons at that size and also more known guests. Even in terms of Lit Day, that’s a lot of published, well known YA authors, and each of those authors costs money to get to appear (not because authors are mean, but because authors are working businesspeople and authoring is how they make a living, including appearances on behalf of their work.). Basically, Leaky costs a lot of money to start with, and is much smaller currently than other cons with similar costs.
Secondly, at Leaky, you get what you pay for. Unlike a lot of other cons, Leaky does not ever charge for photo ops or signings with guests. There is not extra ticket for that, while many other cons charge for signings and photo ops (particularly Supernatural cons on similar size scale, off the top of my head). There’s nothing wrong with charging for signings and such, but it is a different (and potentially more exclusive) way to manage costs of having guests. At Leaky, paying for registration means at the very least a fair chance at any signing, and with Lit a near guarantee of author signings, and with Rockstar two guaranteed signings. That is part of the cost of each ticket, so each attendee pays less towards that opportunity as part of the ticket than one might pay for a separate signing or photobooth ticket.
The biggest thing you get that you pay for in terms of my personal tastes is that all major events pretty much never reach shutout status. The notorious main hall at ComicCon is known for being nearly impenetrable, good luck attending main events there once folks start camping in the seats. When you pay for Leaky, you get a fair chance at most if not all programming and will rarely get shut out of an event due to capacity. It’s only happened to me once in four years, and that was due to an unfortunate situation with early entry to AVPSY causing flooding in attendance of panels prior to that.
So yeah, Leaky costs a good bit of money, but it still isn’t all that much, and you’re getting what you pay for. You get potential access to special guests, access to any and all panels those guests present at (unlike shutouts at other Cons), and many other perks of having a smaller, more manageable con with a bigger, more exciting special guest list.
Basically, Leaky is a different type of con. I’ve been to a lot of cons, and I’ve never once felt immersed and involved in the way I do at Leaky. It’s a different sort of experience, and while I understand a bit of sticker shock, please do realize that the pricing isn’t arbitrary.
Everything about this. :)
Thank you Dani! We fight this battle on both sides: on the special guest side, because special guests of a certain type are used to being paid to appear at events because it is part of how they make their living (and that is nothing negative per se, it is a business model that exists*, and when they get approached by any conference they think that is the business model they are going to be greeted with, and so of course think we have the type of money to handle those kinds of costs), and on the fan side, because they’re used to lower entrance fees for some conferences (key SOME conferences - plenty cost more).
Here’s the thing: those conferences that cost less ALWAYS do for one of two reasons:
a) it is an official conference, sponsored by deep, deep pockets who can absorb a bottom line coated in red
b) they are charging for autographs and photo ops and that is the major business with which they contend. Again, that’s not a negative or a criticism: it’s a valid business model, just not something anyone at Mischief Management wants to do for a living. I’ve been to these conferences, and they mostly (there are exceptions) exist of long lines that you stand on to get a chance to pay $30 for an autograph and three seconds with the guest for which you have been waiting. $50 for photos. I went to one that David Tennant was at and it was absolute madness. Guaranteed he made in the six figures at that event, because this is how those events work:
Special Guest A guarantees the conference a certain split of money. Say that is $5000 (you probably think that a major star draws that much for a couple days’ work - no, someone with clear name recognition will probably always be in the five figures). That means that you guarantee that you are going to draw enough people and sign enough autographs to earn the show $5,000, which typically means you have earned $10,000 to split between you and the show. That is about 330 signed autographs over two days, which is about what people handle in 90 minutes for free at LeakyCon. (Which, by the way, no special guest has ever complained about doing, and several have been really thrilled to do for free.)
So, as long as you haven’t overshot how much pull you have with the audience of the conference, and don’t spend all that time sitting at an empty table, you should make your guarantee. Anything you make after that is also split with the conference, probably at a better rate for you than 50/50.
(There may be different splits, and there may be different deals worked out between different guests - a higher draw guest may insist that they, and not the show, get guaranteed the money. Everything is changeable between a star and the show and his or her agent.)
Mostly these conferences are a business with the autograph spinning as their main method of moneymaking, and there’s a reason for it: it is incredibly successful. These shows are money spinners.
When you walk into one of these shows you see thirty or more people lined against signing tables, and it’s literally all they do all weekend. I went to one once just to check it out and I was astonished at how many people not only cheerfully line up to spend money, but will do it all day. Without a doubt these people were spending far more on their total autographs and photos than they ever would on a LeakyCon ticket.
And that is totally cool: if your priority is making sure you go into a conference and come out with signed things, that is 100 percent why these conferences exist and you should feel 100 percent happy spending your money the way you feel is best.
It’s just not a type of business anyone at Mischief really wants to engage in. We’re in the business of creating valuable experiences with guests - of creating valuable crossroads between creators and fans - of making something experiential and memorable and exciting and awesome. We don’t want to get you in the door for a small fee and offer you additional things for money: we want to offer you a full experience for a full ticket.
And we have to always and always explain this. That’s OK: That’s what happens when you go against the mold. When stars who have only come to the typical type of conference come to ours, they come away huge fans and wanting to come back as soon as possible (Anthony Rapp, Amber Benson and Tom Lenk said and wrote us some of the most complimentary things we have ever heard after last year, specifically on the topic of being professionally fulfilled and making fans feel involved), and slowly but surely show agents are realizing the positives of lowering fees or abolishing some altogether and getting their people just in the door to have some fun with us. It is definitely an uphill battle, though!
But Comic-Con prices this year from Wednesday to Sunday equal $190 (though I cannot see what a full weekend pass would be on that page; it is probably less). Comic Con obviously is Comic-Con, but we are also frequently charged with being “most expensive ever” when that clearly isn’t true.
And on the crowding front, while we can’t promise that we will never sell more tickets than can fit in the MainStage (our biggest room) we have before and will again call it sold out before it gets too insane. I’ve been on those Hall H lines. Not fun. Then again we are ages away from that. If LeakyCon ever gets big like that you can expect a lot of our efforts being put toward avoiding that type of thing. (Or doing multiple conferences per year, or some other solution. No one wants to put on a con just to shove as many people through the door as possible: what we love the most is when people come and have a great time, and we see a great flow and crowded but not disastrous rooms, and a packed vending space etc etc etc).
All this is harder to accomplish than I can say. But the cost thing is a giant balancing act, and I always appreciate when people can take the nuanced view. :)
*no Lit author has ever asked for money, FYI! LeakyCon Lit is now and always will be a no-fee-for-guests track. It’s the prestige of the thing, you see. Authors are amazing and can’t wait to come and have real and amazing experiences with guests. They bring so much value to the conference and they’re pretty much the best.
** PPS, even without a fee, a typical guest costs a few grand! There’s travel (often for two), lodging, transportation, food, security, and more. I was just saying yesterday, as I delved yet again into the maw of budget land, that if people saw these line items they would cry. Hell sometimes I do. :P