At time of writing there are about
50 49 registrations remaining for GenreCon 2017 before we hit the venue capacity. Basically, the conference is three-quarters full and there are still four months (and one ticket price discount) to go. Obviously, this is incredibly good news, but it’s also incredibly weird. In years gone by GenreCon’s have followed a very specific sales pattern. It may accelerate a little in years like 2013, when a perfect storm of guests and events sent sales into overdrive, but the basic pattern remained the same: sell out 50 Early Bird tickets fast; sales slow to a halt; sales pick up towards the end of the second discount period; then again as we approach the conference.
We’ve changed the business model a little this year. Rather than limiting the early bird tickets to 50 sales, we ran them for a limited time instead. That limited time was about half the usual period it took to sell out the Early Birds at two of the three cons we’ve run so far, and I actually fretted about whether we’d get enough sales to hit budget targets. Instead, we sold as many registrations in our first six weeks as we’d usually have sold in the first five months. Whelp, I thought, time to go into the post-Early Bird slump. I’ll fret about that instead.
People kept registering. There are now more people registered for GenreCon 2017 than we had at GenreCon 2012, and I’ve allowed myself to entertain the possibility that we may be capable of selling the venue out.
And let me be clear: I dearly, dearly want to sell out this conference.
Two years ago, as we headed into GenreCon, I posted about the Magic Number every event organiser has in the back of their head. What I posted back then can be repeated, verbatim, and applied to this year’s conference:
I’ll be blunt: GenreCon is not a sure thing. It’s a cool thing – a very, very cool thing indeed – and the feedback from writers across the board seems to suggest that it’s also a very useful things, but neither of these things ensures there will be another one. This is the nature of being run by a non-profit.
The thing that ensures that there will be another GenreCon is the magic number – the point where we have enough attendees generating enough income to not only offset the cost of running the conference, but to justify GenreCon’s existence to QWC’s board of directors who are in the tricky position of being, essentially, the folks who volunteer their time and the folks who are ultimately responsible for the organisations finances in the eyes of the law.
Generally speaking, about half of these folks change every year. To keep a thing like GenreCon running, you need to be able to point out the merits of running it to a new crew of people – some of whom may not care for genre at all – every 24 to 36 months.
That’s what the Magic Number represents: the point where I can give the registration details, budget, and other elements to my boss, and she can go to the board and say look, for real, supporting this is a no-brainer. We absolutely have to do it again.
We inched up on that magic number back in 2015, but we didn’t quite hit it. Two years later the future of GenreCon is just as dependant on a magic number, and we’re probably hovering just shy of that point, but selling out the venue will be a lot more convincing. It puts the conference into the kind of terrain where the risk-to-benefit ratio of running it is worthwhile in an increasingly uncertain funding environment.
And so we come to:
THE FAVOUR I ASK OF YOU
If you’ve been to a GenreCon, and you’ve enjoyed it, write a blog post about why you’re coming back for this year’s conference (or wishing you could come back), and direct people to the GenreCon website.Tell folks who might be interested what they’re missing out on.
I say this fully cognisant of the fact that we’ve been blessed with extraordinary word-of-mouth leading in to this years conference, and that even with the $35 discount between now and August 31, the registration fee is a fair chunk of money.
But, as always with writing events, it needs to be other people saying, this thing, this is worth it, ’cause I’m the guy who puts it all together. My authority on this matter comes tainted by the knowledge that there is a self-interested aspect to my speaking about the con.
You, on the other hand, the people who have gone to the conference before and laid down cash, you are dripping with the authority to recommend it as a worthwhile expenditure for up-and-coming writers.
I asked this very late in the day, two years back, and the extra registrations we picked up were largely the deciding factor about running GenreCon 2017. This year, things aren’t quite so dire, but I’m aiming considerably higher.
Because the reality is simple: Running something like GenreCon is a lot of effort, a lot of resources, and a lot of up-front cost, and the situations for arts non-profits means everything’s a little tighter than it was two years ago. With that in mind I want the case for GenreCon 2019 to be as goddamn convincing as possible, and that means knocking this year out of the park on every level.