Otakon 2014: Artist Alley Review

August 17, 2014 at 6:31 pm 1 comment

Kimchi Kawaii had the lottery gods smile on me this year and I was able to sell at the Otakon artist alley in  Baltimore, Maryland. I was super worried about making good sales as, holy expensive hotels, Batman! People really seemed to like my stuff though so I actually made a pretty good profit.

There were lots of complaints about registration and the infamous name ‘LineCon’ was batted around – that tag that no con wants to get cause it pretty much means you screwed something up badly. Some people on the artist side were complaining about poor sales on Friday due to everyone being stuck in line. I guess it didn’t phase me much after Anime Expo. You want a LineCon, look at AX’s 2014 mess. With the 8-10 hour waits in the upper 90’s heat – now THAT’S a LineCon!

This was my table on Day 2 when I had already sold a lot of the plush.

This was my table on Day 2 when I had already sold a lot of the plush.

I actually did my best sales on Friday as that’s when I sold nearly all my plushies. I had brought 6 of each Mochi Bun color (pink, white and green tea) and 11-12 Steamed Buns. I also had 5 Roary buns and 20 Fortune and Misfortune Cookies and one eggplant that someone had indicated they wanted prior to me going to con (I held it for them and sure enough, they came straight away and got it). The Steamed Buns and Cookies were a big hit. By the end of the day, I had three cookies and no Steamed Buns. The tigers were gone as well and I only had a few Mochi Buns left.

Clearly, I need to sew more plush for my next two cons!

On the way over to the convention center from the airport, I shared a shuttle van with two other artists. One of them said that day one sales at Otakon tend to be really strong, which is usually not the trend at cons. Usually, you mostly get people browsing and trying to decide what to buy. They start spending on the other two days. I have to agree with what she said. It definitely felt busier for me on Friday than is usual

Sales were strong throughout the weekend. Sunday I had a lot of the ‘It’s almost over and I may not ever see this person

Promoting the Kickstarter at my table.

Promoting the Kickstarter at my table.

again (or have to pay shipping)’ sales. I was actually able to come back with just two checked bags and my one personal item. I had ditched the carry on bag I had with me on the way there as the handle was broken and considering that thing had been with me on three international trips and numerous cons, it was on it’s last legs anyway.

I was also promoting my currently running Kickstarter (ends Sept. 9, 2014) for my Sweet Dreams plush. I handed out all my promo cards and buttons. People seemed really interested. I hope it translates into pledges. I know that people usually come home with a ton of information post con and it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. I’ll be promoting at SacAnime at the end of August.

For this con, I also tried an experiment. In the art group I belong to, there had been a discussion about the worth of selling buttons which for most of us are our ‘cheapy’ item to draw in any sale possible. One person brought up the argument that having buttons actually hurt sales rather than helped as people would see the cheap item and opt for that most of the time vs. getting something with the same design on it at a higher price.

Buttons are a pretty big thing at anime cons. Con goers like to wear their weight in buttons, especially on the West Coast. I’m not kidding. It’s like the otaku version of a knight’s armor, lol! I had offered buttons from the get go as it just seemed like the thing to do. I sold them for $2 each or 3 for $5. Most people would opt to go for the set which I think helped me to not fall into the super cheap sale pit, but still, I was curious.

Taking enough buttons, especially of my popular designs usually means a significant amount of weight. When I’m flying to a con with other inventory AND my display items and a 50 pound per checked bag limit, this can get tricky. I don’t even dare to try taking them through as a carry on cause I can just imagine that the thought of a passenger having like 200 little sharp objects in the cabin would give a TSA agent nightmares for years.

Buttons are also time and materials consuming. They keep eating up my ink cartridges and take a few hours to make a good batch. And as one of my fellow artists pointed out, ‘You sell acrylic pins AND buttons? Ditch the buttons for sure’!

So yeah, put aside that little part that was a bit timid in removing something that so many con goers liked and flew off to Baltimore sans buttons.

And you know what? Sales didn’t suffer. I didn’t have a mass revolt. And not one single person asked if I had buttons.

Otakon’s (and most cons’) tables are 6 ft long and about 2ft deep. I’m usually pushing my space to the limit since I have so much stuff. Since I didn’t have the button board, I was able to put other things in a more prominent location on the table. For the first time since introducing them, I sold a ton of magnets, actually running out of some designs. The pins went really well too.

TL;DR: the button experiment was a success, I’d say 🙂

Side note for those of you who are reading this with the intent of seeing if Otakon is a con you would like to try: there is hardly any food around the convention center.

Ok, I take that back, there is hardly any cheap to moderately priced food in the area. Lots of steak houses and fancy restaurants, but not much in the way of cheap eats. Also, artist alley hours run to 10pm. This means that when you get out of con, nearly everything is closed. I was kind of missing the Hynes Convention Center in Boston which has a Trader Joe’s right across the street and allowed me to get some fruit for snacks. I pretty much lived off Subway all weekend for breakfast and linner (that’s lunch and dinner combined since I had to make it stretch due to the long hours). I really don’t want to see another Subway sandwich again until I absolutely have to – i.e. the next anime con with no other options for food.

As for other stuff related to my first trip to Baltimore…

The convention center is right next to the Inner Harbor which is also home to the National Aquarium. Con wrapped up at 3 on Sunday and I was out by 4. I dropped off the stuff at the hotel and then headed to the aquarium. I really enjoyed looking at everything there. The jellyfish were especially fascinating to me and I think I got some pretty good photos. I also walked around a bit and tried out crab cakes which Maryland is known for. They were good, but I would have actually liked a bit more crab flavor.

I also walked up Federal Hill which south of my hotel. There were some historic houses there which I loved looking at. I found another area that I wish I could have explored a bit more beyond the houses, but alas, I was out of time. I had to get back to the hotel to catch my shuttle to the airport.

So all in all, I had a ton of fun and made some amazing sales. I’m hoping to come back again in 2015. Let’s hope the lottery is kind to me again!


Entry filed under: Artist Alley Reviews. Tags: , , , , , .

Artist Alley: Otakon 2014! Why Invest in a Kickstarter Project?

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