The Show Must Go On


I have been doing conventions for a long time. A long, long time. Both comic and horror with some art and book festivals thrown in for good measure. This past weekend I went to what was easily the biggest horror con I have ever done – Days of the Dead, Indy. I was so fired up for the show I even booked a room in the host hotel. I know, CRAZY!

It was an interesting weekend. I don’t really have a huge interest in writing a ‘review’ of the con per se because it was a good show, a big show, and there was a ton to do. If you were a fan and wanted to go to a show that gave you the best bang for you buck I am betting this is one of the ones you’d want to hit. I never want to go to shows as a fan just because I figure I’d get bored but man, there were events going late into the night on Friday and Saturday and you’d be hard pressed to be bored if you were looking for some fun. As far as I could tell it was very professionally run, the traffic flow was as good as you could have expected, and people were having a good time. Any issues were the kind of things you have with every show – it’s too cold, I didn’t sell enough, this happened, or that happened, or whatever. That’s the sort of stuff that falls under the ‘annoyances’ category but which I can’t really slam the con for – it wouldn’t be fair. No show is perfect. None.

That was one of the big takeaways for me this weekend was that, as big as this show is and as small as our Flint show was our little show got a heck of a lot ‘right’ in regards to how we ran things. Our experience came from doing community and arts events, not large scale conventions, so we did pretty darn well. We had our hiccups like every show, and limitations, but with what we had…we did pretty darn well. I was always disappointed we didn’t get more folks out to the show but I forget that we were a one day show, which limits attendance. And let’s face it, whatever it is, people will always tell you they are going and not show up. It’s not you, it’s them. It’s life. It makes me happy though to know that we did things right. We always felt like we did but it’s nice to see that, compared to big shows, we were right in thinking that.

I love, love, love the atmosphere of these shows. The ‘freak show’ nature where everyone is doing their thing and flying their particular flag. It was great to see the sheer enthusiasm people have for horror, for the guests, and for everything in between. It’s great. It really is what pure fandom is about, the fun of it all. Fans get painted in a negative light pretty often, especially horror fans, but when you see the fun these folks are having, and talk to them and see how passionate they are you see them not as a stereotype or idea but as PEOPLE. Fans. It’s silly that horror fans are seen as freaks and weirdos because we love things on the dark side, as if watching two people beat the crap out of one another in the name of money and sport is an innocent way to pass the time. Sheesh. And I tell you what, you rarely find more welcoming, friendly, and generous celebrities than you do with the genre films. Not everyone is great but man, most of these folks understand that without the fans they might not be working and they appreciate that. It’s nice to be appreciated!

It does make me sad, I have to say, when it comes to celebrities because I wonder who the next generation will be that will do these shows. There just aren’t the personalities or career horror people that we used to have. Many actors look down on genre work and would never ‘stoop’ to do a convention. It makes me wonder who the next generation will be then to populate these shows. They will find folks but I am not sure if they’ll be as compelling and fun as the generation we have now though.

I had one of those weird things happen to me that happens from time to time that I just…I just don’t get. Once in a while at shows you get the Know It All, the person that feels compelled to tell you what you’re doing wrong, that they don’t like your stuff, that you’re a hack, any number of things that are just nasty and childish to say. Giving unsolicited opinions is something a child does, not an adult with any common sense. Ah, but these people don’t have common sense. There was a woman at the show, a fellow author selling vampire books, who kept wandering around the show being three shades of obnoxious. She came up to me as I was just standing behind my table and proceeded to tell me how well she was doing, incredibly well. Great, I told her, genuinely happy for her because to me, I am not in competition with other writers. I do what I do, they do what they do, whatever. People read what they want. Well she had said this, literally, in passing, and turned to start a conversation with me. She spoke in the most condescending tone I think I have heard in many years and started quizzing me – so you’re the author, so you’re self-pub, oh… She looked my table over, then picked up one of my novels, flipped through it, got a very upset look on her face then said ‘ooooooh, do you have many copies of this?’. I was freaked out because I thought that there was some obvious typo that she’d found. I told her ‘yeah’, because I had a few copies for the show but it’s not like a keep a vast stock on hand. ‘Well, black words on white paper burn reader’s eyes. That’s why they print on off white’ she said matter-of-factly. I was at a loss for words. I had been growing angrier and angrier with her but that was the topper but I kept my cool because I am too old for games and I didn’t really wanna get into some silly vendor war at a convention. I thanked her for that ‘sizzling hot tip’ – something an ex-manager would say, which always made me laugh – and she spun around again, satisfied she had imparted her wisdom on me and heading off, and she gave me a crap eating grin and told me something like ‘any time’ and wandered off. I assume she was drunk. Both times I ran across her she seemed terribly drunk. If not, she’s got issues to deal with. I was not the only author she did this to. She made sure to go by another author I know to pull the same sort of nonsense with him, telling him all about how great she was doing and taking down to him about his work.

She doesn’t know us.

She doesn’t know what we do.

She can be the world’s bestselling author of books about vampire knights but baby, if you got no class, you got no class. She has no class.  I do this because I love it. I wish, wish, WISH I could make a living with my writing but I don’t. It is what it is. I get that some people look down there nose at me for being self-published and I deal with it. I wish I had other options. I don’t. Unless someone wants to read all of my work and prove to me that my work is lesser than much of the garbage dropped into the mainstream market then they can eff off all day and night. It’s funny to me that musicians, poets, and artists are ‘allowed’ to self-publish and produce things themselves but authors can’t. We’re trash if we do. That’s ridiculous. Don’t tell me it’s about ‘saturating the market’ and ‘watering down the talented writing with bad writing’. That doesn’t wash. People choose what they want to read. If I read something I don’t like I don’t punish the world of writing by not reading anymore. I doubt anyone does that. It’s the old guard being afraid of the new wave. Sure, a lot of crap is getting published, but BIG SURPRISE! Look at the bookshelves and you’ll see a lot of crap, but someone reads it so it is what it is.

Back to our friend.

I just don’t get the mentality of talking crap to people, especially people doing something they love. It’s petty, childish, and pathetic.

We ran into her later that night and she said ‘hello author’ as if she had told me to screw myself with a wrench.

The thing too is that her ‘tip’ doesn’t hold a ton of weight. Sure, black on white CAN hurt the eyes, but that tends to fall on the lighting more than anything else. You know why paperbacks were printed on ‘off white’/news print style paper? Because it was inexpensive. There may not be a lot of books printed on white paper but, really? Magazines? White paper. Computer screens? White. Many books? WHITE! If I fail as a writer because of the color of the paper in my books then I am in bad shape.

I wish her well in her writing, I hope she’s successful, but more than anything I hope she wakes up one day and gains a little humility and some better people skills.

It was definitely not a show where I did well though with the books. I don’t feel terribly bad because a lot of the vendors and my author friend didn’t do well either. A lot of the fans were either spending their money elsewhere or not at all. It is what it is. It sucks for me, but fans know what they wanna buy and buy it. I had some sales. I had some nibbles. I got a couple people who were unimpressed I was self-published and some that were surprised at my book output – to which I answer that for ten years all I had to do was write with no publishing outlet so work piles up, as well as ideas. I get the impression that, for whatever reason, my books just won’t do well at shows, at least not horror cons. Again, maybe it’s me. Maybe the books stink. All I can do is promote and sell what I have. It is what it is.

I did realize on this trip that yeah, I am too old for the loud, late-night drunken shenanigans. I sorta always knew this but the trip definitely pressed the issue.

If there was one thing that upset me about the show it was that vendors, our writer friend among the very first, started shutting down at 3PM on Sunday. That really bothers me, as a vendor, as a fan, and as someone who put shows on. It’s unprofessional and it cheats the show and the fans. Things die around then at a three day con, I get it. You start to get antsy, you get bored, and you wanna go home. I even packed up and left at 4:30 because EVERYONE was packing up save two or three vendors by then. There were no fans. It was so bad that the hotel had a scissor lift out removing things that were hung up. If we didn’t have a four and a half hour drive we would have stayed ‘til five, but I still feel bad. I feel worse though for the fans that came for that one day and come to find vendors and guets coming in very late, some hungover. Then to have the vendors shut down early too. Why get a weekend pass? Why bother?

This is why I wish, wish, wish conventions would just move to two days shows. When you take how mediocre Fridays are, and how mediocre Sundays are and put them together you have another solid day, making two solid days. I get that venues, and guests have better prices if you book three days. I get it. But it just makes way more sense. It makes a weekend pass more exciting because you won’t get bored as easily. For vendors and guests it means you don’t have to waste Thursday to get to the show or get ready for it, you can just head out on Friday. Have two, solid days where people may miss stuff but miss it because they were so busy with awesome stuff. I’d rather that than run out of things I wanted to do.

It will never happen, but it’s my dream.

The way vendors treat Sundays it’s basically a non-day anyway right now.

Overall though I had a great time. We saw a lot of friends, bought a lot of awesome stuff, got some photos with celebs, and I don’t regret the trip at all. I am sad that it feels as if another market for my books is gone but it is what it is. I don’t blame a show for that, and I don’t blame the fans, and I don’t blame me. It just is what it is.

If there was a lesson to be learned it’s to have fun, no matter what have fun, then the rest doesn’t sting as much. I also learned that I miss doing our show, but that’s another story.


The Professionals – more rambling about conventions


The Professionals

I have written a lot about conventions and I will keep writing more because I have been attending and involved in them since 1994. I am certainly not the biggest flag bearer for cons out there because I don’t attend that many, but I have vended, attended, and put one together for four years so I figure I have pretty strong opinions which I spout often.

This time around I wanted to write about professionalism. The word means a lot of things to a lot of people and with each job and career and situation it’s different and so it is in the world of conventions, a place where too often professionalism is left by the wayside.

Professionalism at a convention is a two way street – you have to act professional to have people treat you like a professional. Like respect, you just don’t magically attain it.

I went to a comic convention here in Michigan yesterday and got the chance to catch up with some vendor friends, which was awesome but while there I was reminded of something that has always bothered me about conventions. Love them though I do the notion of a three day show seems like you’re asking a lot. I know, I know, I know – the gains are better than the losses, I get it. It’s more cost efficient to book guests, space, and everything else if you book three days, and so long as you still get people through the door that’s all that matters. And that makes sense for the large shows. I used to not like three day show, and still don’t, but my view has softened. For a show like Motorcity Comic Con it has to be three days so families can make it, so people who work can make it, and so folks that want to soak it all in can do that. It’s a huge show. Shows like that make sense that they are three days. They have probably 50+ guests, well over a hundred vendors, and a ton to see. The problem is more with the medium and small shows that don’t have that much to offer but they still stretch it over three days. It works for some because it’s basically a three day party but for too many shows it becomes a drag on everyone as you watch the attendance plummet, the money stop flowing, and boredom sets in. Here’s the thing though, and this is where we get to professionalism – to me, if you sign on for a show and whether it’s a one day show, a three day show, or whatever you need to be there. If you’re someone listed as an attraction you need to be there and need to be engaged and engaging. Yeah, it gets boring, it gets repetitive, and it gets weird but YOU signed on for this. I was really impressed and respected the hell out of the guests I saw yesterday who were at their booths on time and signing as soon as the doors opened. That’s professionalism. And there’s a window of acceptability to me, I mean, heck, if you’re a half an hour late then I can live with that because many of them leave from the show to head home and have to get ready. That makes sense. Too many though are bored by Sunday, were out partying the night before, or just don’t feel the need to rush out there. The thing is – people paid you to be there. And even if your deal is structured in a way that has you making your money via tables sales or whatever people are still paying to see you. Heck, even if someone just wants to say – OH MY GOSH I SAW SO-AND-SO – that’s why you are there. I have vended, and just that can be a huge drag so being nice and happy and outgoing as much as celebrities have to at a show has to be hard, I don’t doubt that at all but I also know that they are the ones that to some degree are being paid to be there.

To me it’s just one of those things – be a professional.

Last year at our Flint Horror Con we had a guest who was booked well in advance and all was hunky dory until they found out they had to shoot the day they were coming into town. Crap. We talked a lot, they were willing to still come out but it was going to be a different flight, the day of our show. This cost us a lot of money, and a lot of stress but the fact was that this person was going to get next to no sleep to take an early flight to our show to do it for not a lot of dough to be there for about four hours to turn around and have to fly back home Sunday to go back to work on Monday. THAT is professionalism. They were so loathe to cancel on us and on the fans that they made it work because that was what they agreed to. Did it cause us a lot of discomfort? Absolutely, but we got over it because the person came out, was great with us and with the fans, had a good time, and did everything possible to make sure we felt like it had been worth all we’d gone through. Again, that’s a professional.

And once more I don’t blame the celebrities for getting worn out and worn down because many fans act as far from professional as you can get, taking pictures when asked not to, being too aggressive with them, trying too hard to be their buddy, and overall acting like dopey kids even if they are decades past that. These fans are in the minority but they’re there. The fans that want to talk crap about guests because they can. I can’t imagine how draining that would be.


Be a professional.

You signed on for it so be there when you are contracted to be there, make the best of it, and remember that the fans coming to see you, the fans that can be a little weird and awkward, the fans that get nervous being around you, the fan that has everything you have ever done, and the fan that acts aloof but still wanted to just say hello, those are the people that you touched in some way with your work. Those are the people you supposedly do the work for. THOSE are the people that, complain as they may, have put money down on your career because they believed in you and what you were doing. That’s powerful. Don’t screw with them. And when the day comes when it’s too much, when you just can’t do it anymore get out of that side of the business. It does no one any good when you are not into it and faking it and have more interest in your phone than in them. If that’s the case, get out of the convention business, focus on your career, your hobbies, your friends, or your family, and just leave cons to people who still enjoy them.

Because if you can’t enjoy it then don’t bother. Fans pay a lot of money to attend these things these days and they deserve guests that won’t treat them as a nuisance.

The other side of professionalism comes from the vendors themselves, the backbone of conventions. Were it not for the vendors conventions wouldn’t survive. They promote the show, their friends and fans attend the shows, and they are more than willing to help when asked. If you treat your vendors well you will do OK. They will have your back. The thing is though that as great as most vendors are you are bound to get more than a few that need a class in manners. These are the louts that pack up early on Sunday and leave before the show is over. These are the jerks that treat their weekend areas like a bachelor pad, who don’t feel the need to look up when fans come by their tables, who act rudely and loudly during the show, and who generally act like jackasses. I have seen this WAY too often and it has never ceased to grate on me. The thing is that vending is fun, even when it’s not it’s sorta fun. It’s long hours, sore feet and legs, a lot of disappointment, some jerky fans, and a lot of monetary investment. But you are hanging out with like-minded folks for a day to days on end. You are around a scene that, I would hope, you love. You are promoting and selling YOUR work or work you had a hand in creating. It’s fun. People should HAVE fun vending. They should be treated well by the con, and by everyone else because without them these shows have little to offer and less to do. The vending areas – your artist alley, your movie sellers, and your retail merch dealer – are where you find things that will just blow your mind and become cherished items. But you don’t want to buy from a jerk.

Too many times I have seen people who sign up for a weekend show only to pack up and bail on Saturday night, or early Sunday. The thing here is that YOU are part of the attraction. YOU are part of the show. When they list your name or promote you as being there you’re a part of the deal. Unless there was an emergency you signed on to be there for the weekend so be a professional and be there. If you’re more of an artist and can’t do the sales, cool, then don’t do the show or have a proxy there to help. Don’t just leave and don’t act like you’re too busy or too good to talk to people. Oh, and hey, don’t always be selling. Maybe if you actually act like you give a crap about the person talking to you beyond a sale they will be inspired to give your work and maybe a buy. You never know. For a couple years I got stuck by The Really Loud Young Woman Who Likes To Be Overbearing And Pushy And Rude who yelled at people to buy her work and The Vendor Who Takes Up ALL The Space And Wants More who seems to think that the show is about them and what they are doing. It was beyond annoying. I was tempted to kill but instead reigned it in to shoot mind bullets at them instead.

For me, if you are at a show and representing your ‘brand’ (the new buzzword these days) and your work then you need to act like you are somewhat professional. Have fun, be silly, be kitschy, but let people know you aren’t a child and aren’t a jerk. I dunno about you but I don’t tend to buy a lot of art or merch from someone who acts like a jerk. Maybe it’s me. Remember that there are families at these shows, that there are people with special needs, and people not used to being out in large gatherings like this. Remember that you’re, by virtue of choosing to vend there, a spokesperson and representative of that show. If you’re a jerk, and treat someone like crap then you may well sour someone on not just you but that show. If enough vendors are jerks then why bother with going to that show?

Professionalism baby, that’s what it’s about.

Conventions are tremendously fun. They are strange, overwhelming, obnoxious, scary, and filled with more things you need to own than you imagine. They are filled with friends you have yet to meet and may never meet. They are filled with the people and things that remind you of how great life can be sometimes. They are filled with inspiration, challenge, and awe. And if they are don’t well a convention is the place where dreams can come true and hope in an oft-times dark world can be restored. It’s a place that remind you that you’re not alone in your fandom or your weirdness. Nothing cracks the illusion that these shows weave though faster than rude and unprofessional people. Sure, the celebs and vendors are why the people come out to the show but without the fan attendance…there are no shows to do. Lose the fans and you lose it all. People would be wise to remember that.


Keep Believing – In defense of small conventions


Keep Believing

Sometimes we need to fight. Not out of anger, or against some grand enemy but for what we are passionate about. We need to fight because sometimes we’re the only one that will and because if it’s our passion and our dream it’s worth fighting for.

Too often we hit road blocks, drop our heads, and wander off to something else. That’s fine…but there has to come a day when you are willing to fight for something you are passionate about or you’ll be left with nothing but regrets.

That’s a hell of a way to live.

It’s an empty way to live.

One of the things I am willing to fight for are small shows. As you know, I guess, I created and was part of the Flint Horror Con, a one day show here in Flint that brought horror and fun to folks for a low price. We created the show knowing that we were doing something most folks don’t do – a convention – in a place they don’t do them, and as a one day show and not a weekend. The odds were against us but we did it. We lived our dream. It didn’t last forever but nothing does and we ended things on our terms. Not many can do that. One of the things I loved about our show was that we knew what we were and were OK with it. We weren’t a mega show and we didn’t try to be. We grew when it made sense but stayed true to what we were – an intimate show about the fans and put on by fans.

Our show folded but there is still a place for shows like that.

There is still a place for small shows.

I believe this.

I believe it but not many do.

We are in the era of the super-con and that means that the smaller shows are losing interest, funding, and hope.

But hope isn’t lost.

Hope is never lost.

I get the interest in super cons because as a vendor and fan I like them too. From a vending standpoint you see big cons as a chance to potentially sell to a LOT of fans. Makes sense. As a fan you see all the guests, the dozens of guests in most cases, and think it’s a perfect chance to load up on autographs, pictures, and casual celeb encounters.

Alas, life is not as we usually think it will be.

Mega conventions bring in a lot of people but they also cost a lot to get in, to park, to stay near, and the celebrities and the photo ops eat up most of the spending cash people have leaving vendors to fight over the few people who still have money left over. It would seem as if the mega con would be one of those Oh My God sort of shows that you attend once a year but there are so many big shows now that they are starting to feed on one another. This one has THAT guy, that one has THIS guy, this one has THAT exclusive, that one has THIS exclusive and each show is billed as a can’t miss event. Which is what you’re supposed to do if you run those shows. Except, with so many huge shows, and all of them with huge guests you get two things – a plethora of lower rung guests who end up not drawing attention and vendors who don’t make their table fees back. The economics of the large shows has created a killing field where shows are dying left and right because they can’t compete. This is a war that is only going to harm fandom.

But fans are partially to blame.

And so are vendors.

Naturally I am both.

I LOVE big shows but the fact is that I don’t really go but to one or two celebs, and maybe one or two vendors. I just don’t have the money to do more than that. So it ends up being huge costs for everyone when I don’t even take advantage of it all. At the big FLASHBACK show in Chicago I ‘met’ Robert Englund and my wife and I got our pic taken with him in makeup and I did the whole package so that was great. After that I met Robert Kerman from CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and talked with him for a bit, and I met and we got our picture with Lance Henriksen and got an autograph but that was it. There were about, well, twenty guests I didn’t even say hello to. Which is not to say they didn’t do anything, as I am sure fans turned out to some degree for everyone, but the fact is that these shows are so big and so expensive that many of the guests end up as little more than filler. The bigger problem is that the shows are so pricey to attend and the guests so expensive that fans can’t keep up and vendors don’t have people with money to spend on their stuff. When everyone is a mega show the whole eco-system suffers. Every other week is another ‘CANNOT MISS’ show and eventually fans will have seen all the big names and won’t care enough about the smaller names and then even the big shows will start to falter.

This dragon will eat its own tail.

There are ways to make the big shows work but the way they are growing, and with as many as there are it just doesn’t feel like this is something that can sustain itself.

Think small.

There is a charm to a small show that is desperately absent in the large shows. An opportunity to chat with fans, to meet and speak, even for a moment, the guests, and opportunities to not feel rushed from here to there to get this or that. I have vended at big horror shows and comic shows and everyone seems rushed and not relaxed. With small shows you don’t feel that same push, push, push. Which isn’t to say that the small shows can’t get good guests, they just get different guests. We focused on more cult personalities and props, things that created moments for people. You can still get ‘big’ names, you just don’t populate your show with so many people that they are the only draw. You also can’t create a show so big, so costly that it collapses in on itself.  That’s something a lot of people forget – the show has to continue so don’t break the bank. And then there’s the shows that WAY over-extend themselves and harm not just themselves but the whole convention circuit. Shows that want to be too big, too much, and want to compete on a national level with other shows when this ISN’T A COMPETITION. If you do it right you don’t compete, you accentuate. You can’t always avoid other shows but if you can you should. There’s no reason to compete when there’s an entire calendar to use. There’s no reason to be snotty and snippy and childish, as many promoters can get.

This is supposed to be about the fans and guests.

The one thing that sets horror apart is that we’re all family, of a strange kind.

The more we fight amongst ourselves, the more we harm one another the worse the scene gets.

We need big shows. We need the shows that can afford to bring in the superstar guests that make your mouth drop and eyes go wide. Only at genre shows do you get the biggest names making time to meet fans. Only at these shows do they want to meet the fans. But not all the shows can or should be mega cons. As soon as that happens fans get unrealistic expectations – Why isn’t THAT person at the show? How lame? – the vendors get unrealistic expectations – I paid that much money for THIS sort of show – and the fun factor falls.

The fun of a convention is in discovery as much as it is in going in with a plan. I have made so many friends at shows, and have met so many incredible people and the bigger the show the less that tends to happen. Not every show should be small, and not every show CAN be small, but they can be intimate, they can be fan-focused, and they can be fun.

And that’s the key, fun.

Cons are not as fun anymore.

They feel bulky, expensive, and jaded.

We need the small shows to bring back the wonder and fun of conventions and to remind fans that it’s an honor and privilege to be able to meet these people, to have merch like we have now, and the acces to indie horror like we have now. This is a special time to be a horror fan. Let’s not screw things up.

Keep it small and let the big boys fight amongst themselves.


If I can put on a small show with friends so can you. With careful planning, favors, and a great concept anyone can do it.



Pulling Down The Tents


Pulling Down The Tents

The thing you never think about when you do your little dreaming is – what happens if you get to live that dream? What then?

Good question.

Though first, let’s take a moment and appreciate the dreams when we can live them. It’s not all the time, unless you have very narrow focus and dream small, which is fine, but sometimes, SOMETIMES it’s the big dreams that really push you. Sometimes it’s the big dreams that make you stretch. If nothing else it’s the big dreams that keep our hope alive. Even if it’s a dim and distant hope. Hope’s what drives us through life, and without it things get awful bleak.

We recently decided to put an end to my baby, the Flint Horror Con. This was a decision made for many reasons but for now, and maybe for good, it seems that it’s an idea that has run its course.

I have had many dreams throughout my life but as an adult one of the ones I had was to see a horror convention in Downtown Flint. This is a story that anyone who knows me or has read my blog knows so I won’t go into it again. It was thanks to some amazing friends, the trust of some great folks, and a lot of hard work but we pulled it off and the Flint Horror Convention had four fantastic years. We had our bumps and bruises, we had our stress, but we did what very few manage to. We did it our way, and we did it following our rules.

For me, and for the group that did the show, we started things as fans and remained fans throughout. And as such, it was about the fans. Too many conventions focus on hanging out with the celebs or on everything but the fans. It’s the fans that are the reason to DO a show. It’s the fans that make horror so special. And in Flint, there are a lot of fans. The thing is, we were a one day show, with a limited budget, and we weren’t going to try to drain every last dime from those fans. I figured ten bucks was a good price to get in. It is low enough for casual attendees to try and leaves people money for celebrities and vendors. And the thing is that you can do as well as you want at the gate but if the celebs and vendors don’t do well you’re screwed and the show was a bust. It’s a hard line to walk. But if you don’t walk it you don’t do future shows. I am sure we could have charged more, but I am glad we didn’t. Same goes for vendor tables. I have vended shows for twenty years and the costs are outrageous. I get that most shows are huge these days and that you have to charge according to cost of the show and the size of the guest roster but for smaller folks like me there was just no way I could make the table cost back. I would love to say I could but two hundred and fifty to three hundred dollars for a small writer like me is a LOT of money. I still did the shows, so I am not complaining that loudly but I also was keen to that when we did our show. For many vendors this is their livelihood and they have to be able to make money. For us, by treating the vendors well we got a LOT of good will from them and in earning their trust and respect we earned a lot of allies. That’s worth much more than money. Each of the four years we had to turn vendors away, something you hate to do but which happens…if you are lucky.

We built a community, and I am happy about that.

Not everyone loved us. Not everyone was happy with us. But that’s the way of the world. We did things our way and we stuck to it.

We built a show that we hoped was family friendly and tried to stick to that because every monster kid has to get their inspiration from somewhere and from something and we hoped we’d be part of that inspiration for some kids.

I am really happy at the work we did in the community. From the start we wanted to partner with charities and people in need to help as much as we were able. I am not sure what kind of impact we made but for four years we did the best we were able to bring in some extra funds. We tried not to beat that drum too loudly because charity shouldn’t be about taking credit but about helping people in need. We tried our best.

Unfortunately in the kind of business like cons you have to beat the drum a little because you need the attention and the exposure. You need the help. We had a LOT of help from people. From fans, to celebrities, to vendors, to friends, and to some local sponsors we had a LOT of help. We were never able to bring in much sponsor money but that’s blame I’ll take because I am sure there’s more I could have done. What, I am not sure, but there had to be something. As it stands we had more support than I could ever have dreamed of having. This began as my dream and became a dream a lot of people began to share. That’s what’s so humbling to me – that so many people believed in what we were doing and supported it. We had never put anything on of that scale, I know I never had, and we did it. For four years.

For four years we put together shows large and small where were able to showcase artists, musicians, and movies many would never have seen. We had an outdoor movie night at a local park. We helped other events with their shows. More than anything we tried to create fun, inexpensive things for fans to do.

Doing the convention I learned a lot. We all did. Sometimes you can build it and ‘they’ don’t come. Just how it goes. Sometimes people don’t care, don’t have time, and don’t have the information they need to come out. Sometimes things don’t work. All you can do is learn, learn, learn and move forward.

I believe in conventions and more than that I believe in doing small shows like we did. Shows that can be intimate and affordable and fun and family friendly. I believe that you can do some amazing things with shows that size. I think the super shows have their place and have their importance but not everyone can make it to those, or afford them, and those fans still deserve to get the benefits of going to a show on a budget. Heck, small shows can build a love for conventions that makes them want to go to bigger shows. Sadly, I think the days of DIY shows like ours are coming to an end but if we can do it, anyone can do it. All it takes is a little money, a lot of heart, and a lot of trust.

I am honored that we got the opportunity to do our show for four years. I cannot believe we did it. It’s sad to let it go, but we’re not letting go completely.

We still plan to do locally produced shows focused on horror that will be smaller but just as fun and just as passionate. This will allow us to be more experimental and still remain active. We are no longer the Flint Horror Con but are the Flint Horror Collective and we aren’t done, not hardly.

If you supported our show, or me, or us, or even gave half of a damn about any of it we thank you. We truly couldn’t have done it without you.


Chris Arrr

Con Game


It was on the second day of the Motorcity Comic Con that I realized that that show marked twenty years of doing conventions and indeed twenty years of doing the MCC.

Crazy, I know!

A lot has changed in those twenty years in that con, cons in general, and in me. SO this is sort of my further adventures and most recent thoughts. I am not going to dissect this show because it’s a well put together show and any issues I have are either minor or just come with doing these bigger All Encompassing shows and over the twenty years I have done their shows they have been consistently good with the rare hiccup. I mean, you can’t get upset if you don’t think people are coming by your table if 30K people came to the show. I mean, you can only do so much. But, having helped to put on a show for three years and having done shows for twenty, I do have my opinions on some things.

Every Show Is Different

For me, I have done comic shows, art shows, horror shows, and random shows in between and if there is one thing that is certain it’s that every show is different. Each one is run by different folks, for different reasons, and with different goals and it serves you well to know what the show is about before you do it. Know what to expect lets you plan accordingly, stock accordingly, and to have your expectations in check. The two biggest shows I have ever had was this past comic convention and the close runner up being a weekend long art festival. If you were to ask me I would say I would have done better at the horror shows but so far, that hasn’t been the case. Usually a lot of comic con folks don’t care much for books but I think the one I just did has reached so many people that more open minded folks are turning up, which is pretty great. It’s best to know what you’re getting into though so checking what the other vendors have, who the guests are, and how the show is being promoted will really help you get a feel for what to expect. There are always surprises but some surprises you can control.

Friendliness Counts

Speaking as someone who does, has done, and has gone to cons no one likes a pushy merch bully. No one. Sure, you may be able to bully someone into buying your gear but do they really want it? And do you need the sale so badly that you want to become a carny barker? Really? I may not always sell when folks come check my stuff out but at least I know I didn’t pressure them and accepted that sometimes you just don’t have what someone is looking for and that’s how it works out sometimes. I’d rather someone leave curious about me and my books and with my name on their lips and the knowledge that I was polite and friendly than to badger someone and give them a poor impression of my work and myself. I have seen that time and again and it drives me batty. I have worked shows and have been stuck next to the loud mouthed barkers and it drove me up the wall. Sure, they got sales, but mostly it was to people familiar with their work…and people who just don’t have the ability to say ‘no’. Again, I’d rather not bully for sales. Just how I am. It’s disappointing to get someone that’s interested but won’t pull the trigger but welcome to the fun of putting your work out there for the world. Welcome to retail.

I Hate Convention Economics

This is just a personal aside and not meant to reflect any one con or all cons, just something I see and dislike. I am tired of conventions that load their shows with SO many guests that it increases their costs SO much that all other costs go up dramatically. I love going to shows with a lot of guests, I do, but not when it costs me money to park, a load of loot to get in, then a lot of money for autographs. It’s crazy. There is only SO much money to go around. As a vendor you have to factor in the cost to DO the show into what you have to make and then it makes the show that much more stressful. If you don’t make your initial investment back then you feel like you didn’t work hard enough.

I get that costs rise. Believe me, with the small-ish show we put on here in Flint I get how much things cost, can cost, and will cost, but there are ways to push back against that and dumping the expenses on fans and vendors just seems like a lousy way to do it.

The economics of a con, to me, is pretty simple –

It has to be inexpensive enough for you to be able to put it on, pay your bills, and have money for the next year.

It has to be affordable enough to DO the show that vendors can make their money back and hopefully a profit. Look, if you don’t set the table for vendors to at least have a chance to re-coup their money then they won’t come back and will not speak well of your show and that can be death to what you are doing.

Fans have to feel as if they can afford to not just come to the show but can get some things as well. The show is about them. They want to spend money. Let them. If the guests and vendors do well, even if you don’t do AS well, then it means you can do another show. Sure, you need to make enough to keep doing shows but if you make it so no one does well but you then no one will come back.

One thing you can never forget if you do shows – it isn’t about you. Ever.



I hate that autograph fees go up and down from show to show based on the show.

I hate that we are on the verge of pricing cons into oblivion. ESPECIALLY since so many celebs doing shows act as if doing a con is beneath them. Trust me – I am sure it pays more to do terrible film that embarrasses you but is it really that shameful to spend a couple days meeting fans of your work?

THOUGH…in saying that I will also say that the cattle call shows don’t really do much for actors past their prime. It really is sad when you see well like character or background actors at huge shows and NO ONE is going to see them, speak to them, or even acknowledge them. I cannot imagine how embarrassing that must be for them. Sure, they are being paid to be there but dang, no one likes to be ignored and when you are among a lot of your peers and you are ignored it has to hurt even worse. Me – I’d lower my prices and up my fun. Have fun, make sure the fans have fun, and if you are affordable enough – like ten bucks an autograph – then even the casual person is willing to pop for that signature and photo op. (Though as I write that I have to wonder if the reps decide on the prices for shows and keep them to that, hmm…)

Nothing makes a con more memorable than a celebrity that you really like and admire opening themselves up to you, having fun, and being kind. And nothing ruins a show faster than a rude, bored, or indifferent guest. It’s one of those things that can make or break an experience. I don’t get why guests would do a show they don’t want to do or will have no fun in doing but people don’t always make sense.

Don’t Forget!

Bring change. Small bills. Lots of it. And keep it safe.

And bring signage. Clean, clear, and easy to read.

And bring personality. You don’t want TOO much going on at your table but you want enough to show your personality and your work’s personality. This is your store so treat it that way.

Have fun! If you aren’t having fun then why do it? And if you look miserable then no one will buy from you, just a fact.

Look at people. You’re there to work, so work.

Make friends! The people around you are usually pretty good folks that are in a similar boat as you. You are with each other for the duration of the show – get to know them.

Be clean. For the love of Pete, clean up after yourself. Seriously.  

Look Out For Each Other

I never noticed, consciously noticed, how many straight up creepers are at cons until the last few years and it’s chilling. I think it’s fair to say that anyone – man or woman – who dresses in a revealing fashion is OK with being seen in that state. I think that’s fair to say. For SOME reason people at cons – again, men and women – take that when someone dresses in a costume, or is scantily clad, that they must really, truly want to be touched, fondled, and peeped at by strangers. Not quite sure where that thought comes from other than a broken view of people and a twisted way of looking at the world. I feel for the people that just went to a show to have fun, to dress up in an outfit, and to let their freak flags fly among peers only to have people make lewd comments, try to get grabby, or snap creepy pictures when they aren’t looking. Heck, I am still dumbfounded by the crazy things people just say to you at shows. Me, I just get the random insults to my art – which are infrequent, thankfully – so I cannot fathom what it’s like to be told you look like someone’s favorite porn star – which a vendor I know told me she has been told by a fellow vendor time and again.

What. The. Crap?

Aren’t we all supposed to be safe together?

Not really.

At our first show we had a vendor who approached someone with the con in an elevator and propositioned them. This vendor was at the show with their wife. People are nuts. Absolutely nuts. The person who was propositioned came to me, told me, and I contacted the vendor to clear things up and they apologized…and disappeared. Never to be heard from again. But still…

We’re nuts, right?

It’s as if folks want to live down to the stereotype people hold of them.

But we gotta look out for one another and make sure we’re all safe. If we can’t take care of our ‘own’ then what the heck good are we?

Give A Damn

One last thing that I admire when it happens and hate when it doesn’t is when the con promoters, creators, and show runners are actively involved in the show. When they care about it and the folks who are part of it. Most focus their attention on the guests, and I get that because that’s where the money is and those are the ‘stars’. Some will even take into account the fans who are coming to support the show and will do their best to make sure they are happy. This year the MCC did just that and addressed what had been a huge issue in 2013 and made it much, much, much less of an issue. That shows they care. Very few shows indeed get so involved that they check on the vendors. Usually it’s a Green Room that may or may not have much to offer and that’s about it. To me if you wanna have not just a successful show but a great show you have to spin all three plates and keep all three factions happy.

Guests came here because they trusted you’d take care of them so you need to take care of them. It shouldn’t take a contractual obligation to do that.

Fans should always be in your mind when you build and populate your show. These are the folks that will drive you crazy with what they THINK you should do but who you need to take into consideration as far as what you really NEED to do. If the fans don’t like your show then why are you doing it in the first place?

Finally, and not lastly, come the vendors. Again, if they love your show they will tell everyone they meet and thus promote it more than you ever could. If they hate it they’ll make sure the circuit knows it. Treat them well, feed them well, and give a darn when they give you feedback. They are the spine of your show.

                I cannot believe it’s been twenty years. I can’t. It’s crazy. I started doing shows with the ‘zine my friends and I did and I have done shows since. They are fun, frustrating, scary, and some of the best experiences I have ever had. I have made so many friends over the years and have seen some crazy, hilarious, and strange things. It’s funny because I have done shows long enough that I don’t take as much pleasure in just GOING to shows anymore. It isn’t nearly as much fun. I have had some crummy experiences at shows but many were because of my expectations, though some were due to the show runners. What matters was that, for me, I have kept at it. You learn a lot about yourself, your product, and how to sell and promote your product by doing shows and that sort of experience is more valuable than words can hope to capture.

My next scheduled show is in August. Wish me luck!


Reign It In


There’s a lesson you need to learn, and learn quickly, as you go out and start doing art shows, book shows, conventions, or get involved in putting together events – the need to reign it in.

What you find, in all of those scenarios, is that you are entering a world that while new to you has existed for a while, and because you are entering it you are suddenly disrupting things.  This doesn’t mean you are trying to do anything bad, or wrong, or will ill intent, but that in all of these areas there is a lot of passion, a lot of investment (personal and financial) and a lot of time has been spent to establish these things and people so as soon as you start joining the party it creates a ripple effect.  And some people will welcome you and others won’t, and you just have to roll with it and understand – the quicker the better – that any poor reception to you and what you do may be simply because you’re new, and not because you are You.  The Arts are very volatile, and things have gotten very compacted.  People don’t look to a great variety of the Arts for entertainment right now and there is not much funding for it so it makes things difficult to find places to sell, promote, and to connect.  You joining the party just makes it that much more compacted.  So there are bound to be some colored feelings towards what you are doing.

The thing is though, people need to get over it.

No one owns the Arts, or any arm thereof. There needs to be new artists, writers, conventions, art shows, movies, music, everything. We need the inspiration and outlet.  We need to keep pushing our universe outward.  An example is that a lot of traditional writers hate/d e-books.  They’re a perversion of the Art.  Well, the market changed.  Tech changed.  People’s needs changed.  And unless we’re willing to let literature and stories disappear we all need to accept that the Times change and we need to evolve with them.  The wise writers stopped fighting and the rest, well, the rest are waiting for the asteroid to finish them off with the rest of the dinosaurs.

With so many of us using social networking to promote, sell, and connect it also makes things much more pressurized because comments are instantaneous, feedback is immediate, and grudges can form and become arguments and spin out of control in a matter of moments.  The temptation to return fire when someone starts calling your work, your professionalism, and what you are doing into question is too strong sometimes to resist.  And once you respond you can easily forget that you’re online, that what you are saying is being seen by the world, and that what may have been a mere disagreement or misunderstanding can suddenly become a caustic war that damages both sides. You get so wrapped up in the pettiness that you lose sight of the bigger picture and that is your reputation.

People pay far more attention to petty squabbles than we think.  Our minor wars that we may get over in a matter hours or days will leave a stain that lasts far longer.  So for the price of our frustration, for the price of letting someone get to us, or for our own hubris in thinking we have the right to attack others we have damaged our own cause.  Perhaps fatally wounding it and all the work you’d done.  And that is what people forget – that the good things we do last but that the bad things seem to last forever.  At least as far as forever can last in this digital age.  Mounting a campaign of hate on someone, what they do, who they are, or what you think they are saying about you will only lead to damaging your own credibility and all of the work you’ve been doing.

Reign it in.

You have to.

The internet and social networking is not the place for vendettas, grudges, or romantic drama. It can’t be because our social networks are our new faces to the world.  That’s why we post happy things, happy pictures, and all of the great things we do in our lives and not the struggles we have, the sadness, the sorrow, and the frustrations.  Sure, some of us are less filtered than others but even then we must be aware of what we’re putting out there.  And that is even more important when it comes to professional work.  A loved one or friend may forgive our temporary madness but the world often will not.  So we must reign it in and always remember that in business of any sort, even in the Arts, you have to treat everyone better than they treat you because you never know when you’ll need a friend, a favor, a job, or a new client.

It’s hard.

It sucks.

But if you can’t keep control of your temper and cannot watch what you put online and out to the world when you are upset then maybe the focus needs to be more on that, and less on what dream projects you may have stirring within.



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