This past weekend, I returned to exhibit at the Thought Bubble convention, following on from a successful experience in 2022. Thought Bubble is a comic art festival held annually in Harrogate, UK and I’ve been a regular attendee since 2015.
Thought Bubble is primarily for comics and comic art, but there’s a growing contingent of TTRPG tables, this year including Parable Games, Peregrine Coast Press, Rowan, Rook and Decard, and Stoat Stout Press (among others).
As previously, I wanted to document my experience as a TTRPG exhibitor, covering the highs and lows, expenses, revenue, and set-up/breakdown process.
|Table rental (full size)||£175|
|Hotel (2 nights)||£285|
|Total cost of expenses||£680|
These are the costs solely attributed to Thought Bubble 2023 and don’t include things like the new business cards and stickers I bought or meals and petrol. This year we stayed at a closer and more convenient hotel, which helped with keeping things running smoothly.
|Runecairn: Advanced Rules||0|
|Runecairn: Beneath the Broken Sword||0|
|Runecairn: Core Rules||5|
|The Howling Caverns||4|
|Watch & Warrant (Cassette)||2|
|We Deal in Lead||5|
|We Deal in Lead: Omega City (Ashcan)||8|
Total amount of revenue: £1158
Some interesting things to note:
- This was the first time I had copies of Runecairn: Wardensaga to sell, as these were printed in the US by the co-publisher Exalted Funeral.
- Wardensaga collects all three of the slimmer Runecairn zines (Core Rules, Beneath the Broken Sword, and Advanced Rules).
- I was selling both Runecairn hardcovers (Wardensaga and Bestiary) in a bundle for £50.
- We Deal in Lead proved to be popular still, though not as popular as last year when it was brand new.
- I doubled down on dice this year and it paid off. They’re a clear draw for the table and help me stand out as a TTRPG seller.
Wardensaga was the clear choice among people interested in Runecairn and the CROM cover is a major reason for that. (CROM was actually at Though Bubble this year, signing at the Travelling Man booth.) If given the choice between 3 smaller stapled books and one hardcover with the same content, most people went for the hardcover.
I didn’t sell as many copies of the Omega City ashcan as I expected (this is a signed and numbered limited edition zine), but I have a feeling this will sell better at Dragonmeet.
I lowered the price of my prints this year and saw a sales increase, but still not amazing numbers.
Stickers were a disaster (sales-wise). People assumed they were free because they didn’t look very premium and we ended up giving them away instead. I think I priced these too high and they weren’t good enough to sell, but good enough to give away.
The charge for a full table increased by £25 since last year and I added some website advertising.
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.
£478 profit / 36 hours = £13.28/hour
UK minimum wage is £10.42/hour so we did pretty well.
We drove down from North Yorkshire after work on Friday night. We picked up a delivery pass from a local carpark/staging area and drove to the Harrogate Convention Centre. Setup was a bit more complicated than last year, as we were in a different hall and needed to use the front entrance. We unloaded at 17.00 on a Friday night, so traffic was busy and it was a bit manic. We also didn’t have a spare trolley to use, so we had to make a few trips to the table.
I didn’t bring nearly as much stock as last year, which made things easier. Learning every day!
As last year, we had plenty of time to setup on Friday night and even with the added complexity it was pretty painless.
Breakdown on Sunday was also painless, especially considering everyone else was loading up at the same time.
- Being in the first hall saw a massive increase in foot traffic past the booth; Saturday was extremely busy and accounted for the majority of our sales.
- I can’t overstate how important dice were to drawing people to the table. Especially for Thought Bubble, get the flashiest, most colourful, sparkliest dice you can find.
- We’d run out of business cards by noon on Sunday; we had to write social media details on the back of stickers with a Sharpie. Take as many cards as you have—they don’t take up much space and it’s awkward when you run out.
- Plan some time for yourself to have a wander and explore the rest of the convention. As with last year, I only saw a fraction of the whole thing. Have someone who can look after the table for you, or leave a sign saying you’ll be back soon. Take time for yourself and don’t worry about potential lost sales.
- This year felt like an improvement from last year, both in my confidence and my development in the TTRPG industry. I made more contacts and spoke to more people who’d been specifically looking to stop by my table.
- On Saturday we sold a copy of The Howling Caverns to a family who were interested in starting D&D. They returned on Sunday to say they’d been playing through the adventure; one of the sons DM’d and their mother joined to play D&D for the first time. I absolutely loved hearing this and it was a real highlight of the convention for me, as well as one of my proudest moments as a TTRPG designer.
- I was amazed by the number of kids interested in playing tabletop RPGs. Seeing this makes me hopeful and optimistic for the future.
- I saw The Welsh Viking wandering around but he didn’t stop at my table and I was too introverted to shout him over to look at Runecairn. Next time!
Improvements for next time
Buy better stickers, ones that people will actually want to buy.
Investigate patches and enamel pins.
Take loads of business cards.
Plan more time to explore the convention.