So, how was my first convention as an artist in artist alley? I sold absolutely nothing… hahahahaha.
Though, I can’t say I’m surprised. I’m already used to it by this point. But from what I heard from other artists, it seems as though I wasn’t the only one. Don’t know if they also didn’t sell or just had poor sales, but it seems I wasn’t the only one struggling. It’s a shame because there was a lot of talent there.
In fact you can check some of their work out here. This link will take you to the Animeland Wasabi page that has all the artist that attended this years convention. They have some info on the artist and some of their art displayed there so you can get a feel for what they have to offer. On top of that they also have links to them in case you wish to contact them or buy from them.
Surprisingly I wasn’t too nervous in the time before or during the convention. Surprising to me since I am rather shy and don’t do that well dealing with large amounts of people. But I’d say I did well. Though I was still quiet, but that is normal of me. If I seemed to quiet, I’m sorry.
I guess I wan’t to talk about a couple of things, so I will break them down into these sections:
– Things I didn’t enjoy
– Why I feel I didn’t sell my art
– Improvements I plan to make
– Positives about the convention
– Any other thoughts (mainly to do with attendees)
So let’s start with the negative because I want to get rid of the worst parts first and have a good feeling afterwords.
Things I didn’t enjoy –
I don’t know if you have heard, but Animeland Wasabi is currently plagued by a bad reputation dealing with some events that happened a while back. Some people I knew even refused to go because of it. So I’d say that had a lot to do with the very low attendance. Though there were people, it was relatively empty. Heck I even have a reference point. I went on 2014 and the convention was a lot fuller and the convention as a whole was a lot more livelier. From what I hear, there has been some changes done to the management to remedy the past though some don’t believe so, thus the low attendance.
Having said that, what do I think? The whole experience with the event organizers was good. As soon as I got there, I was greeted and taken to my table. I was also offered help at any point if I needed it. I really have no complaints. It really is a shame that the event suffered to this extent.
Having that explanation out of the way, I can clearly see why my customer pool was so low. Resulting in no sales.
But the low attendance was not really a problem, I’d say it was more the attitude some people had. And even then it was only four attendees that gave me the stink eye and or made comments about how sneaky I was at pricing my items the way I did.
The main problem I had was the attitude of feeling as though I was taking advantage of them through my prices. My prints were $20 for one or $30 for two. The piñatas were $45 each and the bracelets had different prices ranging from $5 to $15. The prints were priced according to what I had seen in previous conventions. The piñatas were priced accordingly to time spent and detail. Heck if you add them up all together I would only make $360 for a full months work nonstop every day. That’s what people make in a week. The problem here is that art is not really appreciated and taken as seriously as any other job.
When people think of art, they think of the price of the materials and then maybe add 5 or 10 dollars after that for labor. That’s not how it works. There is one, the amount of time that each piece takes to make. Then you have to take into account the quality of the artwork. Art isn’t something that can just be produced like a machine. It takes time, planning, executing and perfecting. If there is one thing I don’t want to do is undersell my work because then other artist have no choice but to do the same and be complacent about being paid next to nothing for the amount of work they put into their craft. I really hope people keep this in mind when buying from an artist.
The only thing I did have that could just be reproduced without much effort were the prints. Once the artwork is finished, which does take time and a lot of work, can be printed into as many prints as one can afford to make. Take note of that. Unless you are ordering crazy amounts of prints of your work, each one can be quite expensive (and that is not taking into account shipping costs). And even then you have to have a good amount of money beforehand to invest in printing that large an amount. Despite that, I decided to price them at the same amount I had seen and have been paying every year I’ve gone to NanDesuKan, $20 dollars. Yet even that seemed to be too pricey for most people. What I quickly noticed was that people were selling their prints at ridiculous prices like 4 prints for $20. I have never seen prints sold that cheaply before. And it wasn’t just one person. Many people were selling them at really low prices. I’m talking about 11×17 inch posters or bigger here. With those prices, it was no wonder I had no chance of competing.
I could have changed my prices on the posters, but decided against it, this is the reason why. One, most people only really cared about my piñatas and two, I decided to just save them for the next convention in March if they didn’t sell (which of course they didn’t).
Now, to make this clear. I don’t blame anyone for not buying at all. I understand, I was a customer before this so I understand the reasoning. Plus, if you don’t have the money, you don’t have the money even if you like the work. Also, if you buy from sellers that have lower prices, one can buy more items and support more artists that way. All I really want people to know is why I priced my items the way I did. I’d rather not sell then undermine the work we as artists make. All I ask is that we are paid fairly. There were ways to remedy this, but more on that later.
Why I feel I didn’t sell my art –
There was really only one person that was constantly selling at all times everyday, and that was the artist that was right in front of me. He also had lower prices, I don’t remember by how much, but I believe at $15… maybe lower? But it wasn’t crazy low, just lower than normal. On top of that, he had a massive amount of prints to choose from. One of the things I noticed was that the booths with large amounts of work to offer attracted more people. Plus his work had artwork of current fanbases like Overwatch and whatnot. He also had a service where he drew any character you asked for in under ten minutes. I’d say he was the most popular by far.
I on the other hand only had 6 different prints to choose from and they are, well pretty obscure to the majority of anime fans. Specially newer fans. So of course my art prints would not really attract much attention. I’d say the most cosplayed characters by girls were from Love Live and other mainstream anime like SAO and the likes. Shows I really can’t get into or haven’t gotten into because I have already seen other series like them. But that’s the thing. What I like doesn’t really matter, it’s what the customer wants. What’s a rehash or cliche is new to someone else. I remember growing up with anime and then watching the first anime’s to inspire certain ideas (that later became cliche’s in my time growing up). So I have to keep that in mind and be more open minded about new series so that I can cater to the new generation of anime fans, because they will become my customer base.
Of course I don’t have to leave my passion projects. I just need to mix it up a little with other fandoms. There is a reason I usually don’t draw from series I know nothing about but I will get into that at some later time. Just know that my work has to do with an idea and story, I’m not trying to just make a generic pose showcasing the character. This is what I see most artist do now. But seeing as it sells, I can now understand why they decided to go that route. I just refuse to do so.
So that and my prices were to blame for me not selling. It’s a shame, but I apologize to my potential customers for not offering something within your price range. I’ll have to remedy that when I get the chance.
Improvements I plan to make –
Well, I don’t have much money left. Specially since I wasn’t able to sell anything this time so I don’t have many options for the next convention that’s approaching. There are two more items I’m hoping of offering, but I really don’t know if I will be able to offer them or not. It all depends on if I can invest more money into it or not.
For now let’s focus on things I know I will have to offer when I get the chance. Different sizes of prints. Specifically smaller ones. I need to offer smaller items that are less expensive. One of my neighboring tables to the right was selling small prints and print cutouts and was selling quite well. I can’t make a living out of making piñatas, I knew this, and since people aren’t willing to pay $45 dollars for one I have no choice but to simplify them to a point that doesn’t require too much work and thus reduces time to make them. This way I can cut the price down.
One thing I noticed was that the piñata although popular was confusing people and made them apprehensive to buying one. The quality was there, but to buy one and then smash it for that price seemed ludicrous. Of course I knew that. I made them not as a smashing piñata but as a display piece that could also double as a storage device. As soon as I was making my table I knew it would become a problem so I made a sign explaining just that and put it in front of my table. Those who paid attention and actually read it had a chuckle, but most people didn’t bother to read it. Heck a guy was even explaining that to me but as he made one point noticed my sign then read one section, corrected himself then made another comment stopped read another section that answered his concern. He continued this same process for 2 more points he wanted to make and took it all back as he read the note I placed up front. He simply said, “Oh, I guess you put an explanation since you kept getting the same comments and questions”. That wasn’t exactly why I put it up. I already knew the concerns people would have and wanted to make it clear what my really detailed piñatas were made for. In the end, this can be attributed to bad marketing. I already have an idea on how to remedy this. Now it’s just a matter of it working.
Positives about the convention –
Let’s finally talk about the good things since that what we should really focus on. All in all this was a learning experience. I may not have been able to sell, but I did get to test out the waters. People really seemed to be intrigued and attracted to the piñatas as I had hoped. You see, my plan was to have the piñatas attract customers over to my table and then have them look at my other work like the bracelets. But my main focus was to have them look at my prints which is where my art is mainly focused at. And it worked attracting people, but as soon as they saw the prices, well it’s fare to say they were scared away. Many of them didn’t even look at my other offerings. The piñatas stole the show. They were good, too good.
Most of the art I took is already a couple of years old, so it’s not to the best of my abilities. Though I wonder if that is the only problem. I feel it has a lot to do with the fandoms. Most people could probably care less about the series I offered. The only compliments I got were for the piñatas. And seeing as they are secondary, it’s easy to see that it is a problem.
What’s cool about coming to conventions is that all the vendors are pretty friendly with each other. It’s obvious who are the veterans, they are the most open to helping out the newbies by giving them tips on anything from things one can improve to what conventions one can go to. A lot of them sometimes go from table to table to give encouragement. It’s quite a sight to behold. You could really see the comradery. And truthfully we all needed it.
I had a really nice lady that was selling for the vendors “OrnamentalGlass” which is made up of a duo husband and wife. I believe her name was Marie (at least that’s the way I think it’s spelled). She stopped by to give me some tips and encourage me. She said she saw great potential in my work and said I should keep going at it. 5 years. She said that if I went at it for 5 years I could have this business be completely viable. 5 years seems like lot though, I wonder if I can shorten the time. Sounds like a challenge to me!
No but really, I am really grateful for her advice. It’s an uphill battle, but it’s one worth doing. She told me of other ways to sell my work, and one of them is using reddit. Something I have to look into.
Any other thoughts (mainly to do with attendees) –
Although the attendance was low, the people who did attend were obviously very invested and have a great love for anime. Most of the attendees looked rather young. Probably in middle and high school. So although others might not attend Wasabi, these new anime fans might be able to bring it back.
Let’s talk about cosplayers.
I wanted to take pictures, but in the end as a vendor I didn’t want to leave my table for long. Though I learned after leaving it a couple of times that it would be ok to do so. Everyone seemed to be pretty cool and well behaved. So I should have been ok going around the convention hall and asking for pictures. Besides it’s not like I would have sold anything anyway. I really regret it now.
It’s an even bigger shame because most of the attendees brought their A game. Were at a point where the U.S. can finally compete with Japanese cosplayers. But I guess that is to be expected. It no longer is like before where one had to go at it blind and learn everything from scratch. Now that we all have free access to the internet, information is much easier to pass along and build upon. Ahhh… I remember when cosplay was in the middle stages of being passable to ok. Now it’s taken to such a high quality that it amazes me.
I guess there isn’t much else to say. The convention as a whole was a great experience, though not selling was a downer and the boredom of just sitting there non-stop for hours does take it’s toll. I’d say those were the worst experiences I had. Hopefully I can turn things around for the next one. And hopefully next time I will actually take some pictures.
Hasta la proxima.