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How Do I Make Commercial Cons “Worth It”? – How Wizard World STL Went

All these opinions are my own. I am not affiliated in any way with Wizard World. This post contains external links and may have some affiliate links. 

“It is too expensive.” “There isn’t that big of a cosplay scene there anymore.” “It’s all too commercial.” “It’s not worth it.” “They are all about the money.” “They gouge you for everything.” “It’s not WORTH it.” “There isn’t anything to do besides autographs.” “You get more for your money at other cons.” “IT’S NOT WORTH IT.”

These were the sorts of things I heard in my local con circles as I tried to hype myself up for this year’s Wizard World event. These voices echoed my own thoughts and doubts I’d had when I purchased tickets on Black Friday.

To be completely honest, Wizard World hit at the end of two very long weeks for me. I jumped into the weekend completely physically and emotionally taxed. All I wanted to do was curl up in my pajamas and sleep for a month.

But that is when the magic happened. The magic that is Wizard World. The magic that is all the conventions I’ve attended, big or small, free or expensive, fan or business run. The magic of people who love geekdom and creating coming together to create a magical weekend.

In the (badly paraphrased) words of Victor Dandridge (The Hardest Working Man in Comics Facebook Instagram Twitter) who presented a panel on Vips Of Self Publishing (specifically comic books) “If you are worried about recouping costs on a weekend like this, you are in the wrong mindset. It is about meeting people and making those connections.” He couldn’t be more right.


I started Friday by meeting The Traveling Totoros (Instagram). The artist had some adorable Niffler drawings, Niffler bait, and captured Nifflers! I loved all the adorable Harry Potter stuff.

I wandered around and saw a bunch of stuff. I reconnected with some authors from last year and some cosplayers from other conventions. It was a blast.

I got to meet a lot of new cosplayers as well.

Then I hit up my first two panels, A Writer’s Journey by Ray Wenck (Twitter) and VIPs Of Self Publishing by Victor Dandridge.

Even though I saw Ray speak last year, I still learned a ton! In addition to a lot of things to look up and study more, I also got two main themes from Ray’s panel. Write, write, write! And quality. My favorite quote from his panel was “How you should write is your best way.” He also inspired me to recommit to a regular writing schedule. I left wanting to just sit and write.

But of course, I wanted to hit up Victor’s panel.

And I am so glad I did. A dynamic speaker, Victor focused this panel on comic books, but he also spoke directly to writers. I loved the unique perspective he had on collaboration with other artists and making your company yours and marketing it that way. Again, I came away from a panel inspired to get to work.

After this panel, I enjoyed seeing Lucas (Instagram), a cosplay friend from other cons, again. I got to admire a fraction of his Assassin’s Creed weapon collection and admire his cosplay. (I will have an Assassin coming soon, which will hopefully be made a lot cooler with a few loaned weapon additions.)

After we hung out and talked for a bit I headed to the Science Center First Friday. (Read about it here soon)


Saturday started bright and early getting Steampunk River Song together. I was beyond excited with how many people recognized my twist on this character.

I wandered around and checked out more amazing vendors. Saturday is my shopping day. I had decided not to buy anything until later in the day so I didn’t have to carry it around.

Less than five minutes after I walked into the room I walked past Arleana Holtzmann‘s booth (Facebook Instagram) and then immediately stopped and walked back. I stood and stared at the coolest picture of then T.A.R.D.I.S. flying past the St. Louis Arch. I chatted with the artist and her helper and was drawn into other paintings as well.  I especially liked a beautiful picture of the Hufflepuff badger. I absolutely had to have a copy of the TARDIS picture, and when I discovered there was a deal if you bought two,  I bought copies of both of them.

I rounded a corner and saw the most adorable Baymax cookies ever! I stopped and investigated and discovered the cute cookies were a creation of Crumby Art (Facebook Twitter Instagram), a business run by two women who love sweets and geekdom. I tried one of the sugar cookies (sorry Baymax) and it was absolutely delicious.

I ran into a couple of online cosplay friends and got selfies and also got a picture with David Gordon. We chatted for a bit and I had to tell him all about the adorable cookies I had just discovered down the row from him. Though if my booth were that close to that deliciousness, I probably wouldn’t have appreciated the tip…at least…my corsets wouldn’t have.

I found a friend from First Friday, Hand Painted Nerd Instagram Etsy Facebook, and got a picture with her River Song mug. She has dozens of other designs of Doctor Who mugs, not to mention all the other awesome fandoms she draws inspiration from. You wouldn’t think it to look at it, Her work is also very lightweight.  If you ask me, this would be perfect for a giant cup of cocoa.

The next booth that pulled me in and wouldn’t let me go was Tribble Totes (Facebook). I got caught looking at the gorgeously quilted Doctor Who themed totes. Caught along with me was a cute couple dressed as the 9th and 13th Doctors.

Once I got a selfie with them, I had a lengthy and extremely enjoyable discussion with the owner. We talked a lot about all the different cool fandoms she makes bags based on, how she makes them, and about deaf culture. Come to find out, she is a deaf business owner! In addition to being one of the coolest people. Not only does she have Doctor Who themed totes, she also has Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Deaf Pride, and many many other fandoms.

Once I decided to let Tribble Totes get back to helping customers, I saw some of the most delicate wood earrings I’ve ever seen. Cate’s Concepts (Etsy Facebook Instagram Twitter) handed me the heaviest pair they had and I could barely feel them in my hand. I asked if they had anything Doctor Who and a well meaning patron handed me a carved weeping angel keychain. Once I calmed down (those things freak me out) I took some goofy selfies, grabbed a card so I could find them later and moved on and found…

Knitted versions of the 10th and 11th Doctors! Panda Squid (Facebook Instagram Tumblr) has the cutest little Doctors I’ve seen in a long time. I had to get a couple of pictures with the different versions of my husbands. I absolutely love the detail on these little guys! The suspenders and the hair is the best!

A few minutes later I found myself looking at a couple of comic books. I met the writer, Greg Wright, who told me all about his original comedy/horror comic.

Interesting fact, the ones I got are actually based on a TV show. I honestly never realized the variety in comics.

He then directed me next door to Timothy Bach (Twitter), writer of The Family Graves, a comic book about a family of superhero-like characters…only they are monsters. Who save the world. It was complete with a Jack-Jack style monster baby. It was so unique I ended up with a copy in my bag.

The bag was starting to get quite heavy already, so I headed to my first panel of the day, Everything Doctor Who. I was super excited to attend this panel because it was being presented by the Doctor Who’s St. Louis Celestial Intervention Agency (Facebook). I walked in and sat down…and whom do I see on the panel but Mama D! A Doctor Who fan I talked with about all things Whovian for over an hour at Archon in October. The panel was fabulous (if you are a Who fan you really should check out this group) and I even won a prize! I got all of the Matt Smith episodes on DVD for knowing how to kill a Slitheen (dump vinegar on them, of course).

I popped over to A Writer’s Journey 2 by Ray Wenck (Twitter) and it was as awesome as the first. He again emphasized carving out a few minutes a week to consistently work on it. This time he went into a lot more detail on the publishing side of things, ISBN numbers and the importance and how-tos of marketing. Again I left Ray’s panel with a strong desire to get to work, but this time it was about marketing instead of writing.

I zipped over to catch a few minutes of Sean Astin’s (Facebook Twitter) Q&A and just the little time I had there was inspiring. He talked about knowing who you are and what you are about and letting that be enough. He said you have to “try and cultivate that sense of confidence. That you have decades of time. Be the best that you can be in that moment.” These statements really resonated with me and have been echoing in my mind ever since.

I took some time after the Sean Astin panel to process everything. I stopped by the R2D2 booth and talked to the builders. It is amazing how many ways you can build one of those little robots. The little BB8 droid was 3D printed! I know it sounds silly but I just wanted to hug them. Once I found out how much it cost to build one I resisted the urge and just activated them with my sonic instead.

I got pictures with a TARDIS girl.  I was super jealous of her outfit. She was TARDIS down to her tiny bows.

I’m going to take a second here to shout out to all the cosplayers I got pictures with! If you are not tagged in this article and want to be, please message or comment and I will update the article for you!

My last panel of the evening was Words Create Worlds with James Morris (Twitter Facebook Instagram YouTube). He had some really great actionable advice on organization while writing. A lot of “writing organization” tips seem extraneous to me, but every single suggestion he had was not only simple, I could understand a very clear reason how it would save time and brain processing space. He also referred to Pantsers as “Discovery Writers” which (as a Discovery Writer myself) I find much more dignified. I had never heard them referred to that way before.

My last stop of the day was by a table with two authors I met last year, S.A. McClure (Instagram Twitter Facebook) and J.W. Troemner (Facebook Twitter). We sat and talked about everything until I got kicked off the vendor floor. We probably could have talked another few hours.


Sunday morning started before I even got into the convention. A kid was taking the coolest Graduation pictures ever! His mom was stopping people as they were walking to the convention center and asking us if we would mind handing him his diploma. I would love to do something like this for graduates in the future.

It is wonderful he is graduating, too bad he ran into Tauriel.

I spent the first bit of the convention taking pictures with people I didn’t  have time or forgot to take pictures with yesterday. I also got pictures taken by Ashley Kendrick Photography (Facebook) we had a great conversation and I got a selfie with her as well.

I had two more panels in the conference, Star Trek: Build A Crew and an Indie Author Primer.

REALBREAKINGNATE (Facebook Instagram Twitter) co-led the Star Trek panel. I am proud to say he and I both agreed that Captain Janeway should lead the crew…unfortunately no one else in the room agreed with us. It was a super fun panel with a lot of crowd panel back and forth. There were a lot of opinions on all sides, but everyone I saw was having fun.

The very last panel of the convention was presented by Jason Nugent (Twitter). His presentation went into the most detail about the step by step process of producing a book. He gave a ton of free or low cost resources for editing, marketing, cover design and more. He spoke about his personal experience and was super relatable.

As we were walking back to the his booth, I was asking a few more detailed questions. In the middle of  an answer Jason pointed past me to the left and said, “Oh look, there is Sean Astin.”

I scoured the crowed about ten feet away from us only to realize the crowed was pushing me quite close to the nice smelling gentleman in a grey sweater on my direct left. I look at him directly so I can gage the distance between us…and there is Sean Astin!

Did I say something intelligent like “Potatoes”, “Bob deserved better.”, or even “Hi.”? No, of course not. I stood there, gaped at him, and started shaking like a leaf. Then when we got back to the booth I gushed like an idiot for nearly twenty minutes. I’m sure Ray and Jason appreciated it, and I know the comic artist at the next booth was laughing at me.

Once I calmed down and bid my farewells to my author friends I headed on a few last missions. En route, a little girl stopped me and asked if I was Zelda. She was so adorable I asked if I could get a picture with her. It turns out her mom is the owner of GeekeryGal (Facebook Twitter), a booth with awesome geeky jewelry.

On the way back to her booth we were joined by a friend of mine I hadn’t seen since the cosplay competition at Wizard World last year! We chatted for a long time about elven wigs, scales, cheap cosplay, Lord of the Rings, and probably a million other topics. It was awesome.

I also had to stop by the Crumby Art booth again. I had a great conversation with the owners. They very sweet, possibly as sweet as their cookies. I grabbed a sprinkle and buttercream cookie sandwich, another sugar cookie, a cake pop, and three “chip” cookies: chocolate chip, peanut butter chip, and bacon; chocolate chip and waffle cone chunks; sprinkles, white chocolate chip, lemon flavored.

UPDATE: I have since tried them all and they are amazing.

On Friday, Lucas had shown me an amazing artist who printed his work on metal. Now the metal part isn’t really what is unique about PescEffects (Facebook Instagram Twitter). A lot of artists choose that medium.  But this artist was also a lighting guy for many years. His artwork shines under lights in a way very few do. I snagged TARDIS and R2-D2 bookmarks before I left. They were both super thin metal and I really can’t decide which one I like best.

As I was making my way to the exit of the con, I passed Nate Jones Design (Etsy Facebook Instagram Twitter). He had some really cool art that incorporated portrait work and words. You can see that instead of an acutal face, he takes words that are from the character or describe the character and fill in the iconic outline. He had an awesome Donna Noble one I would have loved to get.

My last stop was to Arleana Holtzmann again, this time to pick up a very special piece of art she so graciously was willing to create for me on a moment’s notice. (I will probably be posting it later.) I also had the pleasure of meeting Putrid_Penguins at her booth. She makes the coolest dragon eggs!

Worth every cent and second

I ended with a cookie from Crumby Art. There is nothing better than peeling off the wig and scales at the end of a long weekend, except relaxing with an amazing treat.

Believe it or not, I have missed a ton of excitement in this article. I know it was super long, but for those of you who made it this far, I hope you enjoyed it even a fraction as much as I actually enjoyed the weekend.

I came away from this convention with tools, techniques, ideas, inspiration, books, comics, art, and cookies. It has inspired me to be a better artist and better person.

You can’t put a price tag on that.

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