This past weekend, I exhibited at a convention for the first time. Thought Bubble is a comic art festival held annually in Harrogate. I’ve been a regular attendee since 2015 but this was my first time on the other side of the table.
It’s worth mentioning Thought Bubble is primarily for comics and comic art, so there were only a handful of TTRPG tables (Soul Muppet and Peregrine Coast Press, among others).
I thought it’d be useful to document my experience as a first-time TTRPG tabler, covering the highs and lows, expenses, revenue, and set-up/breakdown process.
|Table rental (full size)
|Total cost of expenses
I initially booked a half table (£80) but decided to switch to a full table (£150). I decided not to pay extra for electricity (£70) or for a backing board (£45).
Some of these items were one-off costs (like the banner/runner and card reader), so I’ll have these for the next convention.
|We Deal in Lead
|Runecairn: Core Rules
|Runecairn: Beneath the Broken Sword
|Runecairn: Advanced Rules
|The Howling Caverns
|Mysteries of the Mists
|Dice sets (small)
|Dice sets (large)
|Prints (A5 Bundle)
|Prints (A4 Bundle)
|Watch & Warrant (Cassette)
Total amount of revenue: £1057
Some interesting things to note:
- Runecairn was a clear favourite here, across the Core Rules, supplements, and bundle.
- We Deal in Lead was also popular and the most expensive item (£30).
- Dice were a clear draw to the table and very popular.
- Prints and t-shirts were both near non-starters.
Looking at the sales, people were more interested in the indie TTRPG titles (Runecairn and We Deal in Lead) over the 5e adventures (The Howling Caverns and Colossus Wake). Between the two adventures, Colossus Wake was flipped through the most (more attractive cover maybe?).
I was surprised by the under-performance of the prints, as I knew Thought Bubble to have a big focus on art. Maybe that was the issue—mine didn’t stand out enough against the other options or maybe I’d priced them too high?
My wife and I worked both days of Thought Bubble (8 hours on Saturday and 7 on Sunday), plus 2 hours setup Friday night and Saturday/Sunday mornings, and 1 hour breakdown on Sunday night.
So, 18 hours worth of work (not including travel) per person is 36 hours.
£419 profit / 36 hours = £11.64/hour
UK minimum wage is £9.50/hour so we beat it slightly.
We drove down from North Yorkshire and Friday night setup was really easy thanks to Thought Bubble’s good organisation. We picked up a delivery pass from a local carpark/staging area and drove right up to the loading bay at Harrogate Convention Centre. They provided us with a trolley and we loaded up and dropped the boxes off at our table.
Side note: I overestimated how much stock to bring (by quite a large margin), but I decided I’d rather regret bringing too much stock than regret not bringing enough.
We had plenty of time to setup on Friday night (we could’ve also done it Saturday morning) and it was pretty painless.
Breakdown on Sunday was also easy, especially considering everyone else was loading up at the same time.
- I love how inclusive and welcoming Thought Bubble is. Great diversity among guests and exhibitors, and everyone was super friendly and happy to be there.
- It’s a COMPLETELY different experience tabling vs. attending. I only got the chance to do a table wander and check out the other halls on Sunday, and that’s even with my wife being able to cover the table. I was torn between wanting to experience the day as a seller and seeing what cool stuff was out there. I think you’d really struggle to check out the con as a solo exhibitor.
- Dice were a big draw for my table; if you’re selling TTRPG stuff, consider having some shiny math rocks to entice people in.
- I followed advice I’d been given and it worked really well: have something on your table that draws attention (the bronze skull), have something small you can give out (my Runecairn cards and business cards with a location generator on the back), and have something you can include with purchases (an A6 print of one of my monsters with a discount code for my online shop)
- 2 days of tabling is exhausting; I’m not the most sociable person out there and it drained most of my spoons. Thankfully my wife Amy handled the majority of social interactions and I couldn’t have done it without her!
- I really enjoyed meeting people I’d only ever spoken to on Discord or Twitter; going for a pint with Matt, Eryk, Zach, and Hugh was a definite highlight!
Improvements for next time
- Offer stickers, badges, and patches
- Bring less stock
- Rethink prints and t-shirts
- Consider bundling dice with books (good advice Matt!)