Doing ‘comic-con’ type events are part of my strategy for reaching out and connecting with people. Last year, I did a few: ReginaFanExpo, Toronto’s FanExpoCanada, CalgaryExpo, EdmontonExpo, SaskExpo, Winnipeg’s C4, Vul-Con, and Prince George’s Northern BC FanCon (aka FanCon). I think that’s all of them. I also did a bunch of book signings.
If you’re planning your year and can get to FanCon, do it. It is a con unlike others I’ve been to. Whether as attendee or as exhibitor, I have found it to be a well worth it. This will be my third year driving 9.5 hours EACH WAY to get there, and I look forward to it (not just because it’s through the beautiful Rockie Mountains).
Hitting Above It’s Exhibitor Weight Class
When it comes to cons, not all cons are created equal. My benchmark for ‘top tier’ con is CalgaryExpo. It draws over 100k people, and I get a lot of engagement from people. I get a lot of fans returning, year on year, and I sell a lot of books. This allows me to pay for some of the print runs of my books, as well as helps funds going to more “break even” level cons in tier three.
In the next tier are cons like EdmontonExpo. About 30-40k attendees, with very good engagement and sales. Again, it helps replenish the coffers (being an indie publisher, never mind author, is costly) and allows me to fund some experiments (trying new cons, doing new events, flying to an event to be a speaker on my own dime).
Then there’s the third tier. These are my long-term-investment cons, the “as long as they pretty much break even, I’m happy” cons. Smaller, scrappier, they vary in size but all have about the same volume of values. Here you find cons with usually around 10k attendance or so, but it’s more about the volume of people x engagement x sales, like ReginaFanExpo, SaskExpo and C4.
When I went to Toronto this past year, I expected it to be in the top tier class. I thought it would push CalgaryExpo aside and stand supreme as the Killer Con of Cons. Yeah, well, despite having a supposed 125k people, engagement was really low. I mean, I didn’t see a single baby-stroller done up as a Bat-mobile or anything. Factoring in sales (and don’t talk to me about costs), it was between tiers two and three.
And then you have Prince George’s FanCon. There’s a lot to be said about the master minds behind a con. Do they know their market? Do they know the people? Will they do the leg work to bring people in for miles around? And can they create an experience that makes everyone, attendee and exhibitor alike, have a great weekend. Since when I went to my first con there in 2015, it was clear that Norm and the team not only had the experience and knowledge, but they had unbelievable passion.
From a weight class perspective? It should be in the third tier, they had about 10-12k people last year (up from ~8k the first year), but it’s a pillar of my second tier. As an author, I get great engagement from people who are excited to be there, and last year I nearly the exact same number of books at FanCon as I did at Toronto’s FanExpoCanada.
There’s a real, grounded, magic at FanCon
Every show has celebrities, but on one end of the spectrum you are kept at a distance unless you flash your cash and then you will be processed so quickly you will hardly remember the moment. EVEN if there’s no one talking to the star, you are policed away. And the stars? The stars are bored, uninterested, or flashing you a tarnished, tired smile. Not Fancon.
I’ve met people who drove for two days to come down to Prince George for FanCon. The masterminds behind it understand how their city is a magnet for the region, and they work it. There is a much higher percentage of people dressed up in quality costumes than I’d expect for its size and location, which only goes to remind me that you can’t make assumptions about people and places.
The stars that have been there have been more engaging. Only at FanCon, have I ever seen stars doing what John Barrowman does everywhere, which is stand on the ‘people’s side’ of the table. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and talk (not sign and get out of here) with Tia Carrera, Denise Crosby, Michael Hogan, and others.A bunch of them came over and visited my booth (did I mention John DeLancy did that too?) Most of these stars are having fun and it radiates.
From an attendee’s perspective, I hear how they look forward to the variety of exhibitors almost as much as the celebrities. Having a well put together dealer’s room is hard to do, particularly if a growing con.
As with any con, there are, and will be, growing pains, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a team like these guys who jump at the opportunity to continuously improve it.
While the con isn’t until May, I started getting excited as soon as January arrived. I’m looking forward to meeting Karl Urban, Kevin Sorbo, and the other celebs, and seeing my small army of devoted book fans, never mind getting together with my Prince George con-family (hi Chris and Nicole) and having some great food at restaurants like White Goose Bistro.
So while the CalgaryExpo family of cons (Calgary, Edmonton & Sask) are near and dear to my heart, you really should check out Northern BC FanCon, whether as an exhibitor or attendee. And hey, if they aren’t getting back to you, let me know, I’ll poke someone at the top for you. Feel free to mention that Adam Dreece sent you 😀
Got a question about this con, others, or about them in general? Ask away.