Saturday, April 25, 2015

Evillecon 2015: Artist Alley Review

 Sorry about the delay. I wanted to give myself plenty of time before writing this review, because my weekend was very disappointing for my sales and some other small problems.

This was my third year attending Evillecon, my first year without my BFF. The first two years I attended I had a blast. Sales were great, people were great. Due to some complications, Evillecon’s original venue closed and they scrambled to find a new place. We got emails notifying us of the change. Also it was a coooold weekend. It started snowing after I arrived in Friday.

Evillecon is in Evansville, IN, a stone’s throw away from St. Louis. The drive is straight through on a single highway for me. The venue was in the city grid, downtown Evansville. It wasn’t hard to find, and definitely not hard to circle around when I missed the loading docks (twice). However, there’s not much nearby. It’s all downtown businesses and industrial office buildings.

I also noticed a buttload of law enforcement in the area. A sheriff’s deputy was stationed inside the convention area all weekend but you could turn a corner outside without a city cop cruising past. 

Not related to the convnention, Evansville had a famous potato place called Spuds and Stuff. After a little tricky driving through downtown, we found this little corner diner with a little light glowing against the dark street. Most amazing find ever. This place served baked potatoes in the most heavenly combinations with magical things on top, like buffalo chicken, gyro styled, steak and cheese, ugh. So. Delicious. We went back twice and I wish I had gone back for one to go on Sunday. -_-

Life gave me lemons. Literally.
The Old National Events Plaza is a two (three?) block long convention center. The convention was held on the far end away from the parking lot, which meant a small hike back and forth to the car. While this normally wouldn’t be an issue, I ended up having to run back and forth twice to grab things I missed with just minutes before they opened the doors. Thank goodness I’m in decent shape.

The loading dock reserved for us was tucked away in the back corner, and was so small I missed it twice because you can’t see it driving East-West.

Once inside the dock, I had another ten minutes of confusion because our load-in info stated we needed to use a service elevator to go up the second floor. The elevator was supposed to be immediately on the right. So my luck, I look right and I only see a hallway. I walked up and down for ten minutes before realizing that both the front and rear doors to the elevator were open, and I was walking right through it over and over. Doh! After I figured it out, the AA was easy to find.

Artist Space
Plenty of space between our tables.
This year, artists and vendors were combined in a locked room together. Years past, artists were in the lobby and dealers were in a small, suffocating room. I remember dealers never did well because of it. We arrived and the room was set up so that dealers lined the walls and artists were set up as islands in the middle. We were given 8’ tables that had tablecloths with the consistency of trash bags so a tablecloth was definitely a must.
There was also a PA system in the room to announce open and close times, and updated information about the convention.

There were more dealers with ginormo displays than before, but fewer artists. I was pretty neat to see all the swords, plushies, posters, and typical anime gear. I knew a lot of the artists from prior years, although there were plenty of new faces. Evillecon is great because it’s a smaller show but the sales always did well well artists, new and old.

Sales & Attendees
So here’s the meat of the article. I’ve always done astounding at this convention but this year that was not the case. In fact, I made less than half this year what I’ve done previous years.

When the doors opened on Friday, a flood of people poured into the room. Almost all of them went straight to the dealers while most artists were ignored. We, collectively, got a trickle of traffic and some slow sales. Most of the day was very slow for artists with the same few people walking around to just kill time. I went hours without a sale and only one or two people that even stopped to look. As the evening rolled on, it didn’t improve. I mostly made small sales, $1-2 at a time. A lot of people were already talking about not having enough money by Friday night. I looked around at the other artists and I’m going to say everyone looked bored, and a few tables were still empty.

Boooooored :)
Saturday morning, the doors opened 30 minutes earlier for VIP badge holders. I believe this was their first year doing VIP status. Either way, it didn’t do much. That first thirty minutes was mostly staff and other vendors walking around chatting. The rest of the crowd that came in went straight to the dealers again. I did have a problem with a lot of people taking photos of my art. They’d tell me they didn’t have any money and then just photograph my entire display until I asked them to stop. All Saturday was slow for artists while dealers were crowded. The room was also unbelievably cold. As the afternoon continued, the room emptied out a lot and the traffic died down. By late afternoon, I had considered just packing up and leaving for the weekend. My sales were nonexistent and I listened to many artists around me say it was much worse than last year for them as well. By closing time on Saturday, dealers had bare tables, sold out of certain items, and one or two even packed up and left because they were out of merchandise. I will note that about half my Saturday sales were to staff/volunteers.

On Sunday, traffic was mostly other vendors and people who had come through multiple times already. I went out in the hall to take a peak and it was really empty, with a few dozen people in line for autographs and another dozen or so hanging out in the hall. At noon, the artist/dealer room just because a hangout space, with people sitting and standing in groups in the aisles.

I asked around to see how other artists fared. Most people told me they didn’t do as well as they’d expected or hoped, one or two did ok. When pressed for a more honest answer for me review, three artists told me they barely broke even despite prior successful years.
I was next to MUSETAP and across from a dealer again like at KawaKon, which also surprisingly tanked for me. I think that particular setup is just poor placement. They were busy as heck and definitely drowned out the rest of the print artists. I also had a problem with a line of people waiting to buy/look that blocked half my table most of the weekend. Funny enough, my first ten minutes on Saturday I sold 8 prints without breaking a sweat, then MUSETAP finally showed up and I maybe sold another 4 the rest of the day. I made sure to give Wil plenty of crap about being next to him killing my sales the next time I saw him.

Staff & Volunteers
I love the Evillecon staff. They are amazing people, thoughtful, professional, and they care about the artists. They would make rounds every few hours to check on us and I know a lot of them from previous years. All good folks.

Final Verdict
Whatever changes the convention made to their vendors situation, it had been extremely positive for the dealers. I’ve always heard them complain about poors sales, but this year they were booming. Unfortunately, this came at the cost of the artist alley. I’ve always considered Evillecon one of my “staple” shows because it was so much fun and it was one of my highest profit conventions despite having less than 1k attendance. After this year, I’m afraid I won’t be making that trip again, at least not for a while. I didn’t make enough to justify going again, whether it was because of the changes or just some fluke. I do know that many artists are iffy about coming again because of this year. Maybe when my life doesn’t depend on the money I make from this, I’ll go back for fun.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Naka-Kon 2015: Artist Alley Review (+Planet Comicon)

This was my second year attending Naka-Kon and I again have nothing but fantastic things to say, so get ready for a couple pages of exuberant, bubbly praise.

Naka-Kon is a long running anime convention out of Overland Park, KS (Kansas City) that draws just under 10k in attendance. Their artist alley and dealer slots are highly sought after and the price for a table is really reasonable ($100), especially considering the size and how great it is every year. The vendors situation has been successfully fine tuned to an art.

So this weekend, I was attending Naka-Kon and my husband was scheduled to sell at Planet Comicon just across the city. I was excited to be doing my first dual con and prepped like crazy. Unfortunately, things went hinky and we had to pull out of Planet Comicon, literally last second. I’m going to cover my limited experience at Planet Comicon at the bottom of this review.

So back to Naka-Kon!

The convention hotel is the beautiful Sheraton, but I opted for the Holiday Inn Express two blocks down since I wasn’t splitting room with anyone this year. The HIE is walking distance to the OPCC and the staff are wonderful. There was a problem finding parking on Saturday night. The lot and underground garage were full, so we ended up parking at the convention center lot and walking over. Again, two blocks, not gonna complain. The staff here were super friendly and professional, although I’m guessing that’s completely normal since they cater to a lot of people visiting the hospitals.

Location & Venue
Naka-Kon is held at the Overland Park Convention Center in Overland Park. The location is pretty prime. Easy access off a highway and really straightforward to get to. It is surrounded by hotels and hospitals, with tons of food options about a mile and a half down the road. My favorite part is the parking lot; it’s gigantic and free. There’s no worry about not finding parking (although I got there early every morning so maybe it was tougher later in the day).

The OPCC is also spacious, accommodating venue. It’s a two story building with a grand foyer/lobby and big panel rooms. Their staff are polite and on top of their game. Is it weird that I mostly judge this by the fact that trash cans were never overflowing?

Artist Space
Artists are given a 6’x5’ (?) booth, one uncovered, unskirted 5’ table, 2 chairs, and pipe and drape to separate you from other artists. It was the exact same design as last year, if you read that review, and I got the same booth space :D Not sure if that’s on purpose or not but I thought it was pretty awesome. You have artists to either side, but not to your back. Each “row” of artists is not an island, it really is just a row that faces one direction. Although this means fewer artists can be accommodated, I think it is fantastic. It was funny because the artists around me started the weekend with only forward facing displays, but started to pick up on what I was doing and by Sunday, they had taped up new displays on the back.

With your front and back exposed to the walking crowds, it brings in a new list of pros and cons.
Pros: You essentially have a 360 display. I made my print display 2 sided so people walking behind my row could still see my art, and there’s no neighbor back there to disturb! Last year and this year, I actually made a couple sales to the back of my booth because people couldn’t get around to the front.
Cons: If you have things that are normally stored behind your table, you gotta keep a better eye on them. I’ve never had anyone reach over the drapes and try to grab anything, but you never know. This applies to anything normally hidden beneath or behind your table: cash boxes, your purse, cameras. People behind you can see exactly where it all is.

When I setup on Thursday and Friday morning, the room was dim. Only half the lights were on and it was casting shadows from displays all over the place. Fortunately, all the lights turned on right before opening and talk about a wonderfully lit space. Zero problems here.

The ballroom where we were all setup was really big. Most of the dealers were in the front and along the perimeter, while all the artists were in rows in the back. Usually the idea of placing artists behind the dealers is terrible because everyone blows their money before they make it to the back. Naka-Kon has somehow made it work out so that this is definitely not the case. Even though we’re all in the back (closer to the concessions!), the traffic was still very heavy.

The room locked up each night and security was present. There was also a PA system that made announcements about the times the room was opening and closing. Helpful.

Fun fact, GlitchGear was vending behind me. Ugh I wanted to get some of the Borderlands shirts so bad. But they played music all weekend. It was pretty loud but I’m not gonna lie, it was good music. Not KPop or anime soundtracks, but gamer music. It wasn’t loud enough to affect my communication and I certainly enjoyed it all weekend. ^_^

Naka-Kon is a juried show, although I’m not sure what they look for. Last year I speculated that they probably picked one or two of their favorite artists for each type of craft, and had about half print artists. This year, it feels like there was a dominance of print work. I’m not saying it like it was bad. The artists that were there this year made me feel like a total noob. It was like I got mixed in with all the artists I worship on the internet XD

I did get to walk around a few times, but I’m much more interested in crafts than prints so there wasn’t too much to see. A few people plush, some hair accessories. Granted, everyone was super talented, I didn’t find too much I was dying to grabby-hand. For the record, I also live in a one bedroom apartment with my husband and a dog, so anything not necessary or absolutely must-have doesn’t make the list. Sadly.

Awesome. The end.

Just kidding. So last year, I had my mind blown by how well sales went. This year was on par. Those with VIP passes got to come in a little earlier, and if you want to shop, you need a VIP pass to get in before things get sold out. After opening ceremonies on Friday, it was nonstop. I sold a ton of buttons on Friday, hundreds, and it got busier as the evening went on. We got a few breaks, but they never lasted more than five minutes.
Saturday started steady with lots of little sales, but it picked up really fast. In the first three hours of Saturday, I matched my Friday sales. The room was crowded even with giant aisles, and the table always had people at it. I will say that although it was constantly busy, no one seemed overwhelmed. Well, maybe except some of the dealers. A few booths were totally swamped. As Saturday continued, it only got more hectic. There was always heavy traffic, but insanity would come in waves between events and panels. It would go from three or four people in front of my table to ten in an instant. By the evening, a lot of vendors had big empty spaces where they had sold out of merch. Half, and even whole tables were bare. Good for them.

Sunday ended with a bang. I sold more large purchases Sunday morning than the rest of the weekend. The sales didn’t slow down until the late afternoon as the convention was winding down. This was the day when everyone was dropping the rest of the money they had saved throughout the weekend. I did have a neighbor who started calling customers away from the tables around him but nothing else that could’ve affected sales.

As an anime convention, a majority of the attendees were teenagers and young adults, although there were plenty of toddlers and families enjoying the weekend. Usually I break down demographic because it can correlate with spending patterns and what items do better. Naka-Kon does so well all around that this information is obsolete.

Staff & Volunteers
I love the staff. They send out frequent emails to keep us updated. This year, the artists and dealers were required to submit a tax clearance form before being allowed to sell. We got the applications emailed to us way back in the fall. I mailed mine in and sorta forgot about it. Well two weeks before Naka weekend, I got an email that said they hadn’t received mine! I panicked. I emailed them and was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I heard back. We were able to correspond efficiently and I got my form submitted two days later.

It’s such a small thing for them to email me back quickly, but it saved me a lot of worry, not to mention I had already paid for the table.

The convention staff working the event were very polite and helpful. I didn’t need too much from them throughout the weekend since it was smooth sailing. J

Final Verdict
So much yes. Yes I recommend Naka-Kon to artists and dealers. Yes, I would like to do it again. Yes I had a crazy good time. It’s a fantastic show that keeps you on your feet. It’s pretty tough to get into, but it’s worth applying for time and time again. It’s one of the biggest anime conventions in this region of the Midwest and it is organized and well run. I hope I can make the cut again next year so we shall see!


Planet Comicon Limited Review

*This is not going to be short.*