First off, let me say that the rule of thumb at Chez Aardvark is: no more Sci-Fi cons.
We started doing SF conventions in 1980, selling The Dread Dormomoo's custom airbrushed t-shirts ("Airbrush by Lanie"...remember?), and my fantasy leather belts and buckles, along with whatever other fannish doodads we happened across. We added screenprinted shirts of her fantasy designs in the late '80s. It was never terribly profitable, but was an additional income stream. A trickle here, a trickle there...
We began our own screenprinting operation in 1991, and much of our own work was SF oriented, especially Trekkish stuff. We kept doing SF cons, again, not terribly profitably, but hey, it's what we did; part of our paradigm, as 'twere.
Then we discovered anime (an-u-MAY, for the uninitiated...). Our household began to enjoy the Japanese cartoons that we came across (readers of the Plumbline have doubtless recognised my fondness for Miyazaki's work like "My Neighbor Totoro" and "Nausicaa") and ultimately decided to try out an anime convention. We developed some general-interest designs, and lo, our business changed overnight. (One medium sized anime con grossed $750 in the first hour of business. Sci Fi cons would often not exceed that for a weekend.) Happily business coincided with our personal interests, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Well, this weekend past, we did DragonCON, a media convention boasting 25,000+ attendees.
We were placed in the Exhibition Hall, in the OTHER con hotel, and were the best-kept secret in Atlanta. We consistently heard "We didn't know this was here!".
I made three attempts to get the Powers That Be to announce the Exhibitors' mere existence at panels and suchlike, to no avail. They were DragonCON, and in their mouth was all wisdom, all power...and no help. Thankfully we broke even...maybe...but we only did 15% of what we reasonably expected based upon per capita sales ratios from other conventions.
Sigh. I rolled a critical failure, this time.
NEXT- How I Met My Hero, And Thus Did Not Sink In The Slough Of Despond.