In terms of size, here’s a comparison of attendance:
Because of its size/scope (more akin to our version of a San Diego Comic Con), FanExpo receives more mainstream press coverage than Anime North for the event itself and the big ticket guests attending. If you are looking to promote your work to a more mainstream audience (e.g., establishing yourself as an artist beyond fanwork), this may be more in line with what you are looking for.
2. FanExpo table costs are more expensive than Anime North.
This affects your upfront costs and your potential profit. Here are a comparison of 2014 costs:
- Anime North:
Comic Market (print/paper based work only): ~$185 ($135 + ~$50 for additional helper, tax included - possibly less if you prereg for the helper. Also, if paying through Eventbrite for your prereg, there may be a small % service fee) - 2 chairs/passes
Crafter’s Corner (crafts only): I believe it is the same as Comic Market.
Professional Plaza (no fanart permitted, otherwise can be print/paper/crafts): ~$200 (I think this is tax included, please correct me if I’m wrong. If it followed the same setup as CM and CC, it would be ~$250 for additional helper. If somebody could confirm that’d be awesome!)
Source: http://animenorth.com/, our own application emails
I haven’t bothered including Gallery Momiji because the art show is a different type of venue.
3. FanExpo may or may not be more expensive to attend than Anime North.
I’ve heard this point raised as a concern that attendees have less money to spend in places like the Artist Alley. The actual cost fluctuates also depending on other paid events (e.g. guest signings, concerts, etc.) that are vying for the customer’s attention. FanExpo appears to have a reputation for more paid events than Anime North. For comparison, the following are ticket prices alone for 2014.
4. FanExpo is a four day event. Anime North is 3.
This means you must commit to a longer period of time. On the flipside, it could potentially mean more sales since there is an extra day of business.
5. FanExpo is based out of downtown Toronto. Anime North is located closer to Mississauga.
This may mean that it is more accessible, and costs could be lower depending on where you are coming from (e.g., no need for hotel). On the flipside, this may be offset by the fact that table prices are more expensive, you may have more expenses for food, or if you are coming from out of the city anyways, hotels may be more expensive.
6. FanExpo is a corporate run convention. Anime North is run by volunteers.
The emphasis of FanExpo is overall profit for the organization running it. Thus, a significant focus of the convention would naturally be on events/activities that generate profit.
(For those who are wondering - Artist Alleys are rarely if ever a significant profit generating channel of an event for the organizers. They are one-time revenue sources and tables may be subsidized in some way, particularly compared to dealers’ tables, depending on how committed an event is to supporting the indie or amateur artist presence. Much of the time, artist alleys at conventions tend to exist primarily because of tradition, e.g., people expecting to see it in some form.)
Are corporate run conventions better run with more responsive staff? This is not necessarily a given. We don’t have recent direct experience with FanExpo so if anyone does, feel free to share!
Now, here’s our personal experience from doing FanExpo.
Because FanExpo caters to a wider audience, your target is audience is, of course, diluted. There are still some anime fans but they seem to be a lesser percentage as the years gone by. From personal experience (2003-2011), we’ve definitely made less money than Anime North. High crowds don’t always translate to more sales partially due to the “wall effect” of crowded aisles.
Having a high display (both in physical height and impact) is pretty important because of the crowded aisles. This way people can potentially see your stuff from a distance. High impact is key. You never know who you’ll be seated beside. A friend of a friend’s table was beside a professional artist one year, handing out free posters and that did make sales difficult for him that year. Another thing is that, where AN is particular on what you sell in the comic market vs crafter’s corner, as far as I’ve experienced, FanExpo makes no such distinction. (Note: Anime North’s Pro Plaza is similar in not making that distinction either.)
Still, I’ve not written off FanExpo as a viable convention for us in the future. I’m still assisting a friend at her table since not having my own, watching where the pendulum sways.
From a con going perspective, FanExpo offers a lot (and you do end up with a lot of free goodies from the many corporate booths! ^^) so still lots of fun to be had!
Anime North is my best event every year. I cover my table and hotel costs usually within the first day or two. For FanExpo, I’ve only done it twice (2008, 2009) and both times split a table with 3 other artists (4 total). The venue always seemed to be crowded, but it didn’t necessarily translate into sales, and I always found it quite slow. The space is also tight - the tables were packed really close together with little room behind the table, so we were always butting up against somebody else either beside or behind us.
I doublechecked my inventory from the years I did FanExpo and sales were significantly lower than the Anime Norths of the same years. That said, this is back before FanExpo went from a 3 day to a 4 day event. Again, my sales may also depend on a number of factors, including the type of work I have (primarily print-based, comics/zines, more original works), and the visibility of my work since we had limited display space. I did find the event great from a consumer perspective because there was a lot of diversity in the work (and I love shopping for arts and crafts!), but from a selling perspective it wasn’t something I was interested in investing further time into back then. I’m not sure how my work would do now, so might be worth revisiting in the future.
I don’t usually recommend such a large event as a first time convention, mainly because:
- Your upfront costs are higher when you don’t have any past history/gauge for how you will do.
- If you do extremely well, it may set unrealistic expectations for future (smaller) events that may be discouraging.
- If you do poorly, it may be heartbreaking.
But everyone’s different and sometimes you just don’t know till you try! As long as you keep those things in mind and remember that your worth as an artist isn’t reflected in sales alone, and be positive about it as a learning experience, go for it! :) I do think it’s good to try it at least once to see how the reception to your work is, especially if you can share your table to reduce your costs! Good luck with FanExpo and have fun!
Again, if people have more recent experience/additional thoughts regarding the FanExpo artist alley experience, please let us know!