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Quick con-type question!

I'm doing an event at work and there's a discussion underway about having what would be billed as a VIP/exclusive access dinner as a fundraiser. We'd have our main guest and hopefully a couple additional guest authors and then people could pay for a fancy dinner, getting to hang out with writers, and pre-view the exhibit before the opening. I know I've read about cons and things like that, and some cases there have been stipulations (you can talk to the guests but no autographs/photos), and I'm also trying to track down figures of what people would pay. We're throwing around the number of $500 right now. Can anyone point me towards things they've seen like that advertised online, or share experiences?


( 11 comments — Add your .02 )
Oct. 11th, 2012 05:47 pm (UTC)
Well, a full convention pass to a WorldCon is usually under $200, and that includes everything for the whole 4-5 days, including admission to the Hugo Awards, all the other special events, and no one who signs at the convention is allowed to charge for autographs. A World Fantasy is about the same, except you have to buy a ticket to eat at the awards banquet.
Oct. 12th, 2012 01:00 am (UTC)
Hmm. The typical library fundraiser tends to go for ~$200 a ticket, but the typical audience for that is the scholarly types/patrons of the arts types ie. not the people who would typically do a SF/F event--which I think was a major reason that for 100 Years Hence they didn't do one of these types of shindigs for it. But for a couple reasons there also hasn't been a major library event since that, and with the Deeper Than Swords thing coming up they want to do...something, and I want to do it for the appropriate audience. I did find Clarion dinner event that was bigger and cheaper--but if we do something that big we'd again have issues with bringing in enough to help the library. Thoughts on a happy medium suitable for the local (Texas) scene?
Oct. 12th, 2012 01:35 am (UTC)
If there's a nice dinner included, I think you could probably get around 75 - 100 a person. The problem with charging $200 is that this is such a small town. If you were holding it in Chicago or NY you could probably get enough fans willing to pay that, but as it is, people will have to be coming in from Austin, Dallas, and Houston, and staying the night, etc, and I just don't think we have that many rich fans within driving distance.

Back in the late 80s we did an event where we brought in Gene Roddenberry, and had him give a talk in Rudder Auditorium, and I think he also showed the original version of The Cage (this was long before it was ever released on the DVDs etc) but I think most people came just to see Roddenberry. I think you could do something similar with Martin but maybe in a smaller venue, maybe something that would hold a couple hundred people. You could probably charge a more reasonable amount, like $30 or $40 for non-students, and make it clear it's to benefit the library, etc. Doing that in addition to a more exclusive dinner event would generate some more money without a lot of extra overhead.

The key is going to be advertising, especially online. Places like SF Signal might let you do a guest post for free, Locus Online might do a note about it if asked, ask Martin to mention it on his blog, etc, but there has to be a lot of advertising. One problem that really killed off AggieCon in the late 90s, early 2000s was a belief that the con did not have to be advertised, that somehow people all over the country would mysteriously know it was happening. (One of the Cepheids back then actually said this.) They have to advertise the crap out of WorldCon to get enough people to make it break even, adn that's when it's in a big city like Chicago.

I think this could be successful, but there will have to be a lot of advertising in the SF/F fan and con news sites and blogs and everywhere else it might reach Game of Thrones fans.

For advice on doing a bookstore signing, you might check in with Murder by the Book in Houston. They do huge signings a lot (they had Patrick Rothfuss last year, I think) and I think they've also done some lunch and dinner events with popular authors.
Oct. 12th, 2012 01:37 am (UTC)
Those are brilliant ideas/notes/things. (Hello end of day, brain what?) You are epic, in short. <3
Oct. 12th, 2012 12:49 am (UTC)
Planning on running a Creation Con, are we? ;)

Ok, let's look at the economics of the situation and who your target market is. Your serious Sf fans who do the major cons know that autographs and taking pictures are free at Worldcons, World Fantasy, etc. Only the commercial cons like Creation Cons charge for everything, and that's mainly because of actors being the main guests. Of course, you're doing two things: raising money for the library program, which is commendable, and providing an intimate VIP access to the guest.

Who's your target market? The majority of the SF fans can't or won't pay $500. That's a lot of money, especially if you're counting on out-of-town people who are already having to pay money to come here. They are not used to paying anything to meet authors if they've done literary conventions. The majority of the locals who can pay $500 probably aren't SF fans and so aren't interested, unless they just want to support the library.

I think if you charged under $100 you might get some takers, especially if the membership were strictly limited so the attendees really have intimate face-time, and should get a chance for pics and autographs, and a personal tour of the exhibit by the guest. The problem is that by limiting it to a small size to make it worth the cost you cut into the potential income.

So, I don't mean to rain on your enterprise, but I don't think the audience will be there for that level of cost.
Oct. 12th, 2012 01:06 am (UTC)
The other thing is that we're going to do the booksigning separately on the next day for the larger public (which, we're still trying to sort out how best to do that to keep it manageable and orderly). Part of the attraction for the dinner is having it be Westeros-themed and catered by either Madden's or Chef Tai, which is going to push the plate price up automatically, and also the "exhibit preview" since it'll be before it opens and then George will be there. So it'll be a really neat event, and we could probably push the number up higher--the Clarion dinner did a 100-guest/$75 plate deal, which if you knocked it back to 25 and did the math gets ~$300 a plate. Would that be a number people would be more interested in (typical library fundraiser is about $200 a plate from what I understand)?

I was in a weird planning meeting. The development people are all Old School and I'm not and we so don't know what to do with each other. :|
Oct. 12th, 2012 01:25 am (UTC)
I can only analyze from what I know of fandom and its makeup. At that price range, don't expect much from the fandom community. I have no idea what the local patron types would go for. That's outside my expertise. I do know a young professor couple in my dept are just itching for the exhibit so they might lean towards the high-end, but don't know how indicative they would be of the community at large, not to mention new faculty are not that highly paid either.

I don't envy you having to do the number crunching and trying to predict the optimal pricing strategy.
Oct. 12th, 2012 01:29 am (UTC)
Yeaaaaaaaaah, and I'm the ostensible expert because, you know, genre, but then at these meetings--which, okay, only two of them have I been to because for some reason they don't even think to invite me, I actually just got pulled in by Todd this am--they alternate between ignoring me completely and then wanting me to fix everything. IDEK. (Well, okay, Todd doesn't ignore me, he values my advice, which is why I want to give...good advice.)

Maybe I should tell them to say screw the super-fancy dinner, let's just sell tshirts and mugs???
Oct. 12th, 2012 01:57 am (UTC)
Just an idea to throw out. John Picaccio in San Antonio, who won the Hugo and Chesley awards this year, did the Game of Thrones Calendar and is selling prints of them now. Don't know if you'd want to look into adding him to the festivities or not. Maybe as another guest for the VIP evening.
Oct. 12th, 2012 01:58 am (UTC)
Yep, I brought that up this am. Also, a certain local genre author and consort. >_>
Oct. 12th, 2012 02:00 am (UTC)
(What, ya'll thought I was going to leave you guys out? How machiavellian do you think I am?)
( 11 comments — Add your .02 )

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