When I woke up at home first thing this morning, fully on East coast time, I whipped up a spreadsheet to figure out how much money we made at PLA. We brought in quite a lot of income, but I wanted to understand how much profit we actually made.
Not that much. The booth was pricey. We had to ship goods there and pay to get them to the booth. We spent a lot on airfare and local expenses. The books and merchandise we sold cost money, and thanks to our special conference pricing our margin was much lower than normal. And when we started running out of goods we gave people free shipping if they paid us there. That was good for making sales, but all that postage will add up fast.
In the end we definitely made some money, but when I worked the numbers something jumped out: we will make more money at most of our speaking engagements this year than at this, our most successful conference appearance ever.
That's okay. We don't go to conferences to get rich. We know they are very expensive. We go because we know it's a great way to acquire more readers, make contact with our fans, and get our merchandise out there. We are in a growth phase, and we care more about our audience than we do about making cash money. But it takes a lot out of us to sell for eight hours a day, several days straight, and to be away from our families for so long. So while I'm sure we'll keep exhibiting at conferences for now (I signed up for PLA 2008), I can see where we might start being more conservative in the future.