First of all, the Anatole wasn't even overcrowded in 2016. At least not the vendor floorspace. Traffic was good, but not overwhelming in the sense that it felt the place was too small. The layout was great, the venue was fantastic, business was consistent.
Secondly, not only is moving to a new venue risky, but it's also an hour away from where A-kon used to be. I can only imagine this discouraged a lot of A-kon regulars from even bothering.
And that brings us to the A-kon 2017 experience. Boy do I regret recommending this con to artists because the difference between this year and last is like night and day.
The layout went from one of the best to the worst i've ever seen. Giant, ugly black barriers separated the alleys and it was disorienting, confusing and isolated. AA staff was friendly and accommodating as always, and I don't believe this was their fault nor do they have any control over it, but whoever does should not be allowed to screw up again because I seriously doubt that artists who attended this year will even bother in 2018.
Sales were OK, but not in comparison to previous years. I made 2/3rds of what I normally do at A-Kon - not a good sign, especially when tables sell for $300 a pop. Long story short - the floorspace too big and the number of tables too high for the amount of people attending. Money was too spread out. People were too spread out. It was just bad.
I think this is just a classic case of a convention overcompensating for its growth. It should have stayed at the Anatole. Literally everything was better about A-kon in 2016, and I will truly miss that place. I won't come back to A-kon if nothing changes, and it makes me sad to say that.
The con moved from to Fort Worth this year, and I don’t think the change in venue helped at all. Probably hurt attendance overall, and the con being spread out across multiple hotels meant people were less likely to end up in the AA in the main convention center. If you wanted water, you had to leave the exhibit hall entirely to hunt down a fountain in the con center and then make your way back, and the single bathroom in the entire exhibit hall contained ONE stall, so any time I needed to use it I had to wait in line and be away from my table for 20+ minutes.
I encountered one really rude con staffer over the weekend, but everyone associated with the AA itself was extremely friendly and tried their best to be helpful. You could tell they really wanted to make it a good experience for artists, so it was a shame because everything else about the con was so awful.
Really, really terrible. The AA was set up behind the dealers hall area with no clear entrance/exits, so people would randomly trickle in from different spots, and a lot of congoers never even made it over to the AA after going through the dealers hall. There were signs above artist tables, but they were only printed on one side even though people walk through the aisles both ways, and the way the signs were printed made it confusing for artists to know which table was theirs when setting up. In addition, several rows were completely reversed from how they were supposed to be on the layout map, so some artists ended up setting up in the wrong spot due to the con’s fuckups. Aisles were cramped, traffic was really uneven throughout the AA, and the huge black walls behind the rows of tables made everything feel even more claustrophobic and made it impossible to see other rows or how traffic was flowing through. I think con attendees probably found it confusing and overwhelming to try to navigate through. Also, the layout of artists was based on the juried ranking, with all of the top artists in the very front of the rows and the bottom artists in the very back, so it felt both unbalanced and like a subtle "screw you" to anyone in the bottom half of the rankings.
The AA had 2 paces: glacial and overwhelmed, and not in a good way. There was either nobody coming in, or a rush of people who had no intention of actually stopping at most of the tables or taking time to browse. Even when it was crowded, it wasn’t crowded with active buyers/browsers. It was just a constant stream of people walking through the AA as quickly as they could like they couldn’t wait to get out. I have never seen such a disinterested group of congoers in all my time tabling, and it was extremely discouraging and demoralizing. Even at cons where sales are slow, I usually still have a good experience talking to congoers, getting feedback, and seeing people excited by/interested in my art, but there was none of that here. By the end of the con, I felt so terrible that I packed up and left early, which I have never done before at any con.
$300 for a table was really steep for something this bad, and it’s hard to guess how they think it was justified, especially with so many more artists and a juried selection.
To be blunt, this was the worst con I’ve ever done. Slowest, worst overall sales, worst experience, worst feeling about the whole thing. This was my first time not even breaking even at a con and the first time I’ve ever felt like con attendees couldn’t have cared less and were totally apathetic about my art. I don’t know if there’s any one factor to blame, but if things don’t change drastically for next year, I really wouldn’t recommend this con to anyone.
Next they went from FCFS to juries and increased the artists by double (150 to 300+). There were way too many artists that made it very hard to get sales and everyone I talked to reported that it was super slow. The layout was very weird and felt blocked out since we all had a black panel behind us with not much space. The staff was nice which I appreciated but the profit was terrible. Not even half of what I made last year which is just sad. Not to mention I had to fly in from Canada and stay at a hotel 15 min away which upped my expenses.
I won't be doing it again next year unless they make major changes and there are good reviews again.
Sorry if I sound salty but seriously it was the slowest con I've ever done since I started, and I was lucky to break even but it was not worth coming.
Its held in a gorgeous venue which I plan to stay in next time. For the AA, it felt a bit slow on the Friday but things picked up on Sat and I was very happy with the profit I made. The only complaints I have are that the AA room felt really really cold and on the day we were setting up, the ceiling was dripping since it just rained. Other than that, I would love to return to Texas and attend this con again! I'm still sad its over haha!
The only issue i had was the room was immensely humid and it made prints feel a little gummy at times even when i stowed them away. I dont think much could be done about that though. still. loved the attendees, loved the customers, and i always am super grateful coming to this show.
The staff at A-Kon is so wonderful and accommodating. They go out of their way to offer you cups of water, extra chairs, watch the booth for you during restroom breaks, etc.
The Hilton Anatole hotel is really expensive, but there are lots of other hotel options within walking distance. Just make sure you book early! The food is pricey and lines are REALLY long, but there are lots of yummy options at the food trucks.
Sign-Ups are FCFS and go FAST!!! AA sells out in less than a minute. If you can't attend A-Kon, AnimeFest (also in Dallas) in August is a good plan B. Lots of A-Kon attendees and artists frequent both cons. AnimeFest is at the Sheraton hotel, which is A-Kon's old location.