The Horror, the terrible geeky horror
Starting a convention to celebrate the multiple fandom that all geeks enjoy seems pretty easy. Just an exercise in organization and raising enough money correct? Look at all that sweet money that SDCC and DragonCon pull down (not to mention all the cosplay honeys). Its got to be pretty easy right?
Oh my friends I wish it was true.
First off there's the organization. If you're lucky you have six or seven good, trustworthy friends with diverse skill sets. No? Then you better have access to a lot of backing or be fairly wealthy. Depending on the size of the con you want to run determines how much cash you'll need.
Then there's the location. Don't try to set up a con where other have saturated the market. Most major metropolitan areas have at least several large cons a year.
"Well that's okay. My con is going for a smaller niche fandom."
Remember what I said about organization? Large established cons have made the inroads with the local infrastructure. Hotels, convention centers, tourism boards, advertisers, comic book shops, and local fans have an established relationship with the old cons. When a new con appears on the scene they have an up hill battle. They have to prove themselves economically viable or promising enough to draw in vendors and guests. That's difficult enough if the established con doesn't actively work against you.
"But we're all geeks!" you cry "Can't we all celebrate the fandom we love?"
I really wish that were universally true. In most regions cons will help each other out. They exchange volunteers, AV equipment, and vendors. In other smaller markets they will actively work to crush fledgling conventions. Campaigns of misinformation, Intimidation, slander, and outright sabotage have been utilized to crush new cons in the cradle. Unbelievable? Look at how much money a DragonCon or ComiCon can generate. Those are the flagships, the ideal to work towards. There are those few unscrupulous enough to do whatever it takes to reach that dream of being the next SDCC.
However its not all clandestine campaigns and hacker sabotage(don't roll your eyes its happened). I haven't even told you about the guests. A big part of the draw to some cons are the fan favorite guests. Not every convention can afford a Matt Smith, William Shatner, John Barrowman, or George Takei. These are actor/celebrities who can(and do) ask for appearance fees in the tens of thousands of dollars. Then there are the plane tickets, accommodations, per diems and guarantees. A guarantee is an agreed upon sum that the actor will make via autographs. If they don't sell enough the promoter is to pay the difference. See what I said about the cash?
Can't afford The Shatner? Then you go shop around and find a guest you can afford. Its been my experience that a lot of lower tier guests are more than willing to work with con organizers on every aspect of their contracts(Everyone gets a contract. Everyone. Its safer for all involved). In fact while organizing our convention, I have been lucky enough to meet some stellar actors who have been incredibly helpful. Not only have they been more than generous with their time, they have actively hunted down other guests and recruited for us.
I could literally write a book about the minutiae, the psychosis, the back stabbing that goes into planning a first year convention. In fact I already started (publishers the line starts here). After learning all of this stress inducing nonsense why would I continue to do this?
Because, gods help me, I love this.
I'm a 43 year old geek. I married a beautiful geek girl and I'm raising two great geek kids. I'm OG baby. Original Geek. So no matter the stress, the toil, the slander, or the minutiae I'm gonna run this till the wheels come off. I want to share my love all things geeky and nerdy with all my fellow minded fans. So if you're free December 12-14, 2014 and happen to be in Biloxi, Ms. drop by Geekonomicon. We'll show a geeky great time.
Is it all bad?
This all sounds pretty negative right? It isn't, in the past year we've spent organizing this thing I have been to dozens of conventions. I have been to events I can't wait to go back to and people I can't wait to see again. The great thing about conventions is that you are truly amongst your own kind. Being in hotel lobby of three thousand rabid Doctor Who fans all singing Monty Python is a bizarre and humbling experience. No longer are you the weird kid who can't talk to anyone else about your interests. At the con you are among friends.