TCAF was the last stop on my 2015 “spring tour,” otherwise known the overly ambitious and poorly planned festival application bender that left me committed to back-to-back weekend events for a month and a half. So by the time TCAF rolled around I was sick of comics events, and maybe even sick of comics. I didn’t even want to go. But I had sunk $450 into the plane ticket, the table fee, and the hostel, so there was no going back.
Long story short, I departed Toronto encouraged, confident, and in love with comics again. So it was a pretty great show.
TCAF is a big and complicated show, and it would be impossible for me to give an exhaustive overview. But I will try to offer some thoughts on my experience at the show, in handy set of pros and cons, tailored specifically with the small publisher in mind.
Drawn and Quarterly 25th Anniversary
The guest list was absolutely stellar this year, partly due to D & Q’s 25th anniversary celebration. Many out-of-town Drawn and Quarterly authors made the trip, including Lynda Barry, Jason Lutes, and Adrian Tomine. I was practically tripping over my comics heroes.
TCAF American Dropship Location
New for this year, TCAF invested in an dropship location near the Canadian border, but on the American side. American exhibitors could ship their boxes there, and TCAF would have them transported over the border and to Toronto. This meant that American exhibitors could ship their books without paying exorbitant international shipping fees. Heck, you could even ship book rate if you planned ahead! This is a real game changer.
The Toronto Reference Library
I love this library. If books were given the reverence they deserve, this is what every library would look like. Even though it’s a challenge to fit a festival into this living space, it’s worth it.
This should be the norm, folks.
Tables are Pretty Cheap
$175 Canadian for a half table is hard to beat.
This is probably my best selling show. I actually sold out of several books, which rarely happens for me.
Extensive Programming and Events
From Thursday to Sunday, there’s a lot to see and do. If you came for nothing but the programming, you’d leave pretty educated by day four. Also, there were lots of parties.
Because this is a free event, and because it’s in a popular public space in the heart of the city, all sorts of people come to TCAF. This show attracts book lovers, and not necessarily the ones steeped in comics fandom. It’s really refreshing to show my work to new eyes, not just the same people I’ve being seeing at conventions for the last fifteen years.
Day one started at 9am (!) which would be hard to take without the Friday night set-up. I wish all festivals did early set-up. I generally haul all my gear by myself, and having this extra time really helps.
I made some new friends got to know some old ones better. After day one we went to a nearby park to nap and read comics. This is the way it should be done.
L to R: Bjorn Miner, Christopher Green, Josh Rosen, and Marta Chudolinska
Programming and Events Could be Better Promoted to Exhibitors
Maybe I missed the emails (totally possible) but I don’t think TCAF sent me information about programming, parties, or events. I found out by arriving in Toronto and reading the local newspaper. Sometimes the event information TCAF provided was scant or incomplete (the programming seemed to run more smoothly).
9am is Pretty Early for a Comics Festival
But what can you do, right?
Don’t Kick ‘Em Out Early
This might seem like a small complaint, but it’s my biggest beef with the show. On both days, starting at an hour before the show was scheduled to close and on until closing, announcements were made over the PA. Attendees were told when the show was ending, which was acceptable, but they were also asked to make their way for the door, which was NOT acceptable. Exhibitors travel thousands of miles and spend thousands of dollars to be at TCAF. Every minute counts. You cannot ask our customers to leave an hour early.
That being said, I love TCAF. As a small publisher, it’s up there with CAB and SPX. I’ll come back every year if they’ll have me.
Here are some of the micro-publishers I chatted with at TCAF. I was able to collect several more entries for my micro-press list!
Leon Avelino of Secret Acres, with aythor Robert Sergel in the background.
Avi Ehrlich of Silver Sprocket, a punk label and micro-press. Avi was my table mate, and I could learn a lot form his salesmanship. He’s been running Silver Sprocket for over a decade, it’s his day job now.