That's a wrap!

Thank you to everyone who attended TAGS Fest 2023!We're so glad to have hosted so many local artists, writers, publishers and roleplaying game creators, and players across the whole day.Special thanks to: Iain Morrison from Fruitmarket Gallery for facilitating our access to this venue; Spire for our lovely logo; and VER for being our feature artist for 2023! Also thank you to our fantastic volunteers Atlanta, Gary, Ed and Will for helping to steward throughout the day.We'll be taking a short break before we plann our next event, TAGS Fest 2024. Keep an eye on this space!

Get some rest and we'll see you in the new year,Brian & Eve


TAGS Fest 2024

If you'd like to hear about when table applications open for next year, be sure to sign up to our exhibitor list newsletter (this will only sign you up for TAGS exhibitor-related emails).

Floorplan for TAGS Fest 2023.
Footer illustration of seagulls in flight.

TAGS Fest 2023 Report

Tabletop and Graphic Storytelling Fest took place on the 2nd of December 2023, inside of the Fruitmarket’s warehouse and workshop venues, running from 10am to 5pm.A marketplace ran in the warehouse, featuring 40+ different exhibitors. Exhibitors could arrive for set up from 9am to 10am.A board game zone was run by Ancient Robot Game in the workshop, which featured volunteer run TTRPG games running from 10.30am to 1.30pm, and 2pm to 5pm.

About the show

TAGS Fest 23 was organised with the combined voluntary efforts of Eve Greenwood (Quindrie Press) and Brian Tyrrell (Stout Stoat Press).We dreamt up TAGS as a response to Scotland’s diminishing convention scene, where self publishing and small press businesses are increasingly being priced out of the events that they depend on for their livelihood.We’ve been developing TAGS since April 2022. It took longer to organise than anticipated; we repeatedly struggled to find and confirm a venue that was within a reasonable price range. It was through an existing relationship with Fruitmarket that we were able to rent their venues, and we’re incredibly grateful to them for taking a chance on us.Our aim for TAGS was to curate a show where small press was elevated. All of our exhibitors had at least one self-published project to debut, and the focus of all table displays was on published projects.

Declaring our interests

When organising TAGS, we wanted to create an event that we ourselves would be excited to table at. We did not pay ourselves for organising TAGS, but we did table at the event. Eve’s income on the day was £549, and Brian’s was £670.As you’ll see in our income and expenditure, we’ve actually paid significantly out of pocket to organise TAGS, and invested a significant amount of our personal time.

Income and Expenditure

Tables at TAGS were 2ft by 6ft. We charged £35 for a half table, and £50 for a full table. Our floorplan fit 29 full tables into the warehouse venue. We reserved a table each for Eve, Brian, our guest Artist, and the Welcome Table, leaving us with 25 tables to fill.We expected to receive between 30 and 40 applications; in reality we received close to 100! We wanted to fit as many exhibitors as we comfortably could, offering half tables to solo applicants and full tables to joint applicants.Ancient Robot Games received use of the workshop venue for free, in exchange for organising all of the free TTRPG sessions run on the day.

Total Income

We raised a total of £1,610 in tabling fees. We raised an additional £200 in raffle contributions from online sales and visitors on the day of the event.

Total Expenditure

We spent £1988 to run TAGS, leaving us -£178. Our costs break down as follows:

  • PayPal Fees: £54.00 (3%)

  • Venue and Furniture hire: £842 (43%)

  • Artwork + Graphics: £220 (11%)

  • Advertising (The Skinny): £640 (31%)

  • Advertising (Posters & Signage): £115 (6%)

  • Event Facilitation (T-shirts for volunteers, free masks, etc): £117.40 (6%)

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Unpaid Volunteer Labour

TAGS would not have been possible without a lot of free labour.Both Eve and Brian put in about 150 hours of work overlapping with admin, graphic design, negotiation and liaison. If we paid ourselves the national living wage of £12/hour we would be owed £1,800 each.We also benefited from the help of four friends on the day, who acted as our Stewards. They each worked a 9 hour shift (9am - 6pm). If they were paid the living wage, they would be owed £108 each.


How the event went

Footfall

TAGS saw about 600-700 unique visitors throughout the day. Of those, about 150 visited the Board Game Zone. This data was collected by two stewards whose role was exclusively to monitor visitors and direct traffic.

Footer illustration of seagulls in flight.

Anecdotally, our window display drew in a fair few visitors in the mid afternoon who otherwise would have returned home via Waverley Station. Casual attendance was an unexpected boost, so we aim to improve our displays and signposting for our next event.

Total Reported Spend

Based on self declarations from the 29 out 43 exhibitors who responded to our post-event survey, we estimate that about £10,200 was spent across all of the tables at TAGS Fest.

Average Visitor’s spend

Assuming about 100-200 visitors just browsed and bought nothing, the average exhibitor spent about £25 each. This could have been spread out across multiple tables, or spent at a single table.Anecdotally, exhibitors have overwhelmingly reported that books, comics and zines made up the majority of their sales, even when other merchandise was on display. This was a surprise for most exhibitors, as books and comics usually go unnoticed at other events in Scotland. We’re very pleased to hear this, as this was our intended focus of the event.

Advertising

We launched tagsfest.co.uk in April 2023, and began tracking its visitors in August 2023.Eve, Brian and our other friends gave out TAGS fest flyers from our own convention tables at events in Scotland and England from May 2023 through to November 2023.In October 2023 we sent out A2 posters to independent bookstores, libraries, and hobbyist shops that were within a 2 hour journey of Edinburgh Waverley Station. We also took out a ¼ page advert in the Skinny’s October edition, and we took out a ½ page advert in the November edition.Both the posters and the Skinny adverts contained unique UTM QR codes. We saw a decent uptick (30 visits) from posters, but unfortunately received no visits from our Skinny adverts.Anecdotally, we heard TAGS being mentioned by people we had never met, or had the event recommended to us by acquaintances who didn’t realise it was us who was organising it.Overall, our digital analytics showed our website saw a peak of around 50 users before TAGS, and around 100 people on the day. Otherwise the website received a few unique visitors each day.

Unexpected Difficulties

In the week running up to the event, we had several exhibitors cancel their tables, due to personal crises or illness. Where possible we were able to contact replacements from our waiting list, and refund exhibitor’s table fees. However, this was an extra load of admin on top of pre-event tasks. We aim to have a clear policy for cancellations for our next event.We also had a few no-shows on the day, and some exhibitors arriving to set up after the fest had opened to the public. We had to react to this on a case by case basis on the day. We’re hoping to contact other festivals to ask how they handle this sort of thing, and compare notes!


Exhibitor’s Experiences at TAGS

We sent out a post-event survey to all of our exhibitors on Sunday 3rd of December, and received responses from 29 out of 40 exhibitors.

Pre Event

Overall, exhibitors were very happy with how we ran table applications, our level of communication, and the TAGS Fest website.Feedback mentioned how we could improve the flow of the exhibitor section on mobile, which is something we’ll try to address for our next event.

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Table Prices

Most exhibitors were happy with our table pricing for the event. While close to all exhibitors said table prices were “just right”, we did receive a range of custom feedback:

"Happy to pay a higher table fee if it allows the entry to the festival to remain free""[...] it was relatively easy to hit as a target so I could focus more on pitching and selling than worrying about making the table fee back.""[...] it was more than we pay for other events of similar size we attend"

Venue and Comfort

Most exhibitors felt safe at TAGS, and enjoyed exhibiting at Fruitmarket. The most common feedback about the venue was about the low temperature in the warehouse. While there’s no central heating for the warehouse, we are considering other methods for helping exhibitors stay warm during the festival.

Footer illustration of seagulls in flight.

Additionally, we acknowledge that table placement along the back wall of the Warehouse was quite tight, making it harder for those exhibitors to get out and about. This was an oversight on our part!We did receive two reports of problems faced at TAGS, but unfortunately they were both made post-event. Our stewards want to help however they can, but they can only do so if they know there’s a problem. We’re considering how we can make reporting problems easier for our next event.

Exhibitor Income

Based on self declarations, the average exhibitor made about £300 in sales. This an amalgamation of two averages:

  • £273.28 - an average of self declared income bands, such as £1-100, £101-250, and so on.

  • £354.71 - an average of self declared exact values, e.g. £235.85, £495, etc.

Excluding outliers, the average range for exhibitor income was £100 to £400.

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Regardless of income, the majority of exhibitors said their income was similar to or greater than what they would expect at other events that were similar in size to TAGS.

Exhibitor Costs

19 of our 29 respondents declared to have travelled from outside of Edinburgh to attend TAGS. Travel fees obviously varied on where exhibitors came from:

Footer illustration of seagulls in flight.

Those Exhibitors that paid for accommodation paid an average of £100 for their stay, though we didn’t inquire if this was for 1 night or for 2 nights.


Final Thoughts

We’re both astounded by how successful TAGS was, for our first time running this event. Now that we have the momentum of one successful event behind us, we’re hoping that we can keep building TAGS to be something that our community can rely on in years to come.

Socialising and Networking

Several exhibitors self-reported earning £101-250, spending close to £200 in travel and accommodation, and yet they still rated TAGS extremely highly across the board and described it as one of their favourite events of the year.A phenomenon we’ve seen talked about in exhibitor forums is that a growing number of small press publishers see conventions as a chance to be social with their long distance peers, to network with other creators, and to connect with new audiences. They intend to (and spend most of their time) selling stock, but their overall goal is to break even, not make profit. This is because customers who enjoy one title will want to return and buy more, usually online and directly from a publisher.We’re curious to see how we might be able to facilitate this ‘long tail’ of returns after an event is done. We do wonder if exhibitors have seen an increase in sales post-event, as visitors return to purchase online what they browsed in person, or passed on to friends via word of mouth; it’s not something we asked about in our post-event survey.

Average Income

In terms of sales, most exhibitors reported that they made as much as they usually would at other similarly sized events.While we are proud of this as an achievement for our first event, we can’t help but feel a little disappointed, especially as some exhibitors said that making £100-200 was an average-to-good event for them.As creators who rely on conventions to bridge income gaps between big project debuts, we personally want TAGS to be an event that its exhibitors can rely on. We would be happier if our average exhibitor’s income was closer to £500, and the lower band of income was closer to £300. We want TAGS to give exhibitors a relatively sized nest egg for an end-of-year convention.

Balancing the Books

For our first year putting on the show, we had to make significant compromises from our full vision, and we still didn’t break even. We did expect this would be the case — very few things go perfectly the first time. However, with the cost of living crisis and uncertainty in our practise, we can’t afford to foot the bill for an event we’re also spending a lot of our personal time organising.The raffle was a bigger success than we expected, with many visitors buying multiple tickets to support the show. The income from the raffle definitely helped us cover the overspend in our budget. For next year, we hope to put together more books on offer (Quindrie and Stout Stoat bundles).Fellow exhibitors in the Scottish scene suggested they would love to contribute original pieces to some kind of ‘silent auction’, as a way of helping us keep the other costs of the show as low as possible. We definitely wouldn’t turn down their generous offer, but we’re aware that we don’t want to create a culture where exhibitors applying to TAGS feel pressured to help the show out by making art for it.Our goals for next year range from:

  • Small, such as buying in more masks for visitors, and renting an air purifier for the marketplace.

  • Moderate, such as buying visual merchandising, like banners.

  • Aspirational, such as inviting guests, hosting panels, etc.

We’re planning to apply to Creative Scotland for funding for our next event, and to reach out to companies for sponsorship (though frankly we don’t know where to start with that).We’ll also be evaluating what worked to support the show, and what didn’t. Perhaps new tactics next year can be used to more efficiently spend what we can bring in from tabling fees.

Tables and Space

We agree with feedback from exhibitors that table placement felt densely packed, and that some exhibitors couldn’t easily get out from behind their tables throughout the day.While the warehouse is large, the placement of its support pillars restricts how we can lay out tables. Providing more space for exhibitors would come at the cost of reducing the number of exhibitors we fit into the space. It would also mean that unless we get some form of subsidy, table fees would probably increase by £10-15.Moving forward with this, we’ll have to be extremely strict about our next event’s curation policy, and how we implement it. We hope that so long as we continue to curate a wide range of media/themes on offer, there will be an increase in the average income, as the total income for the festival is spread across a smaller pool of exhibitors.

Exhibitors

Avatar for Quindrie Press

Quindrie Press

Selling: comics

Genres: fantasy, romance, sci-fi, thriller, supernatural

Tags: fresh, scottish talent, queer

Avatar for Stout Stoat Press

Stout Stoat Press

Selling: roleplaying games, board games

Genres: fantasy, sci-fi, historical, thriller

Tags: queer, award-winning, early career

Avatar for Ver

Ver

Selling: comics, zines

Genres: fantasy, horror

Tags: world-building, character-centric, monsters

Avatar for Julie Campbell Illustration

Julie Campbell
Illustration

Selling: comics, zines

Genres: adventure, mystery, educational, fantasy, historical

Tags: nature, reflective, details

Avatar for Gustaffo Vargas

Gustaffo Vargas

Selling: comics

Genres: adventure, mystery, sci-fi, thriller

Tags: peruvian, cyberpunk, drama

Avatar for Steven Fraser

Steven Fraser

Selling: comics, zines

Genres: autobiographical

Tags: queer

Avatar for Faye Stacey Illustration

Faye Stacey
Illustration

Selling: comics, game books, zines

Genres: comedy, fantasy, supernatural

Tags: fan-TASTY, thoughtful, fun

Avatar for Pigeon

Pigeon

Selling: comics

Genres: adventure, fantasy, folklore, supernatural

Tags: surreal, character-driven, poetry

Avatar for Claudia Matosa Comics

Claudia Matosa
Comics

Selling: comics, zines

Genres: comedy, romance, sci-fi

Tags: insightful, colourful, experimental

Avatar for Davidt Dunlop

Davidt Dunlop

Selling: comics, zines

Genres: autobiographical, fantasy, horror, objet d'art

Tags: novelty, weird, poetry

Avatar for Chris Manson

Chris Manson

Selling: comics

Genres: comedy, horror, sci-fi, supernatural

Tags: satire, varied, quirky

Avatar for Will Tempest

Will Tempest

Selling: comics, roleplaying games

Genres: fantasy, horror, sci-fi

Tags: dark, atmospheric, organic

Avatar for Door Ajar Comics

Door Ajar Comics

Selling: comics, roleplaying games, zines

Genres: fantasy, horror

Tags: trans, gothic, poetic

Avatar for Toadlett

Toadlett

Selling: comics, roleplaying games, zines

Genres: adventure, fantasy, horror

Tags: folklore, dark, creatures

Avatar for Leah Yeah

Leah Yeah

Selling: comics, zines

Genres: adventure, autobiographical, comedy, fantasy, romance

Tags: funny, cute, emotional

Avatar for Ell J Walker

Ell J Walker

Selling: comics, zines

Genres: comedy, fantasy, nonfiction, supernatural

Tags: folklore, nature, metal music

Avatar for Belle Rowan

Belle Rowan

Selling: comics, zines

Genres: adventure, autobiographical, comedy, coming of age, fantasy, horror, romance, sci-fi

Tags: queer, colourful, fantasy-realism

Avatar for Demon Logic Productions

Demon Logic
Productions

Selling: comics

Genres: adventure, fantasy

Tags: world-building, character-driven

Avatar for ThirdBear Press

ThirdBear Press

Selling: comics

Genres: coming of age, horror, supernatural, slice of life

Tags: anthology, indie comics, art comics

Avatar for Steven Ingram Art

Steven Ingram Art

Selling: comics

Genres: coming of age, horror, supernatural, slice of life

Tags: contemplative, folk horror, scottish

Avatar for Nytastic

Nytastic

Selling: comics, zines

Genres: adventure, autobiographical, comedy, fantasy, supernatural

Tags: comedic, relatable, cute

Avatar for hesitantdoodle

hesitantdoodle

Selling: comics, zines

Genres: adventure, fantasy, sci-fi, sports

Tags: kinetic, queer, colourful

Avatar for Beth Fuller

Beth Fuller
Illustration

Selling: comics

Genres: adventure, fantasy

Tags: bright, detailed, speculative

Avatar for Matt Cooper

Matt Cooper

Selling: comics

Genres: horror, sci-fi

Tags: psychological, gory, political

Avatar for Blue Bolt Comics

Blue Bolt Comics

Selling: comics

Genres: adventure, fantasy, horror

Tags: emotional, all-ages

Avatar for CHIP Collective

CHIP Collective

Selling: comics, zines

Genres: autobiographical, educational, nonfiction

Tags: supportive, informative, friendly

Avatar for The Legend of La Mariposa

The Legend
of La Mariposa

Selling: comics

Genres: adventure, comedy, fantasy, wrasslin'!

Tags: action-packed, colourful, slamtastic

Avatar for Will Humberstone

Will Humberstone

Selling: comics, roleplaying games

Genres: adventure, fantasy, horror

Tags: cute, monsters

Avatar for Furtive Shambles

Furtive Shambles

Selling: roleplaying games

Genres: fantasy, horror, supernatural

Tags: thematic, playful, atmospheric

Avatar for University of Dundee

University of
Dundee Students

Selling: comics

Genres: miscellaneous

Tags: scottish talent, education, mixed genre

Avatar for Biscuit Tin Comics Collective

Biscuit Tin
Comics Collective

Selling: comics, zines

Genres: adventure, comedy, coming of age, fantasy, horror, romance

Tags: queer, wacky, existentialist, mystery

Avatar for Hana Berggren Illustration

Hana Berggren
Illustration

Selling: comics, zines

Genres: comedy, educational, fantasy, historical

Tags: cosy, whimsical, silly

Avatar for MDPenman

MDPenman

Selling: comics

Genres: comedy, fantasy, horror

Tags: character-driven, worldbuilding

Avatar for Comics Youth CIC

Comics Youth CIC

Selling: comics

Genres: adventure, autobiographical, comedy, coming of age, fantasy, educational, nonfiction

Tags: eclectic, colourful, youth-led

Avatar for Caitlyn-Comics

Caitlyn-Comics

Selling: comics, zines

Genres: comedy, educational, fantasy, nonfiction, supernatural

Tags: fun, queer, mixed genre

Avatar for ARCTIC RING COMICS

ARCTIC RING
COMICS

Selling: comics

Genres: adventure, fantasy, romance, supernatural

Tags: siberian, shamanism, cosmic

Avatar for Edinburgh Indie Gamers

Edinburgh Indie
Gamers

Selling: roleplaying games

Tags: indie, small press, story games

Avatar for inkyginge

inkyginge

Selling: comics, zines

Genres: fantasy, horror, mystery, supernatural

Tags: spooky, wild, nature

Avatar for Tales from the Black Swan

Tales from the
Black Swan

Selling: comics

Genres: science fiction, mystery, supernatural, pub horror

Tags: dark, skin-crawling, creepy

Avatar for JustJulieJam

JustJulieJam

Selling: comics, zines

Genres: adventure, autobiographical, comedy, fantasy, romance

Tags: queer

Avatar for Fran Morton

Fran Morton

Selling: comics, zines

Genres: fantasy, historical, horror, supernatural

Tags: dark, folklore

Avatar for Tanya Roberts/Bluebottle inc

Tanya Roberts/
Bluebottle inc

Selling: comics

Genres: coming of age, mystery, horror, romance, supernatural

Tags: contemplative, exciting

along with Axe Marnie, Cara Gaffney, and Chronodex RPG Tools!

Market Curation

Applications for TAGS Fest 2023 are now closed and we are not accepting any more exhibitor applications. All applicants have now been emailed; please check your inbox and spam folder.If you're interested in our process for curating the marketplace, you can see our policy via the link below!

friendly spaces policy

We want TAGS to be a place where creators of all backgrounds can share their work, and all of their fans can show their appreciation.Anyone exhibiting at or visiting the festival agrees to follow the guidelines below.

Conduct

  • Respect the Stewards and Volunteers. You will be asked to leave the event if you ignore warnings to mind your conduct.

  • Respect other creators and attendees. Use correct names and pronouns; if you aren’t sure what name or pronouns to use, ask. If you make a mistake, apologise and move on.

  • Refrain from using language in a manner that is offensive, hostile or intimidating. This includes but is not limited to homophobic, transphobic, or racist language.

  • Be considerate and careful of your surroundings. Don't misuse or misappropriate exhibitors or visitors property.

  • No 'hard sales' or 'haggling' tactics are to be used.

  • Keep the event space clean and tidy. Don't drop litter, don't block walkways or fire exits with boxes or banners.

  • Be mindful of the space you occupy, and don't block other exhibitors tables. For example, by having your table display hang over another exhibitor's table, or blocking one exhibitor's table by queuing for another exhibitor you really want to see.

  • Be respectful of the venue. Do not create any lasting marks at the venue, and be polite and respectful to Fruitmarket staff.

Content

  • Works that promote hateful ideologies of any kind (including but not limited to homophobia, transphobia, or racism) are banned from this event.

  • NSFW or 18+ material cannot be on display. This material can be kept behind an exhibitor's table or out of reach of younger attendees with only non-explicit content on display.

  • Trigger warnings should be displayed by exhibitors when appropriate for their works.

This policy will be arbitrated on a common sense basis. Creators or attendees who do not follow these guidelines will be asked to leave the event immediately.  If you feel this policy has been broken by anyone, please inform a volunteer steward.