So lately some hassle happened with an artist alley registration that led to a lot of heat over whether or not the convention should do a ‘first-come-first-served’ registration system over a judge panel. Not to get into detail, but I decided to write this list to describe other kinds of registration.
Note: this is bias from both ANIME and COMIC conventions, so opinions and experience may vary. There’s a ton of conventions that can combine one or more of these together, and different methods are used, but they usually fall in these categories.
Types of registration:
Process: Simple enough–the convention declares a date and time, and during that time you will refresh your computer screen like a mad bastard until the website updates with registration and then you let auto-fill do the rest of the magic and type the rest of the info in there. Then, depending on the registration, you’ll be informed either immediately or in a week or two.
Tip: If the convention has a group for their artist alley on facebook, keep this window open, and while you’re refreshing the page, refresh this page occasionally too. Tons of people are anxious to get the table, but sometimes the table signup times aren’t precise, and people will post ‘did you get the table yet?’ and stuff like that. It’s a good cue to calm you down. I was once fortunate enough to get a table at Sac Anime due to a link error, where someone noticed the link that was given wasn’t working and posted the correct link to the signups on the facebook. whew!
Pros: Anyone can get in, as long as they have a good internet connection. Signups are usually much easier, and information is processed faster to the convention. If someone didn’t get in, you have the valid excuse of going ‘well you weren’t fast enough when you registered’
Cons: When the site doesn’t upload on time, people get anxious, VERY anxious. And when these are conventions where hundreds of people are trying to log in at the same time, the website often crashes. Since anyone can get in, artists can range from very professional to very amateur, and sometimes the art looks like it doesn’t belong anywhere in the convention. It gets harder to register year after year when conventions increase reputation more and more.
Tip: Get your credit card ready and your Seller’s Permit ID number right in front of you.
Fun fact: PMX 2014’s Artist Alley tables were sold out in exactly THIRTY THREE SECONDS.
Process: There is an open submission time period where you send samples of your work, and sometimes they ask you if you’ve been published in other things and such before. To keep it simple, you’re trying to dazzle the judge panel.
Pros: When you get to the con, there’s some amount of quality check (either by the skill level of the artist, the topic/theme of their work, or something else). More committed artists (weak hearted ones won’t register at all and so you weed out some of these people). Sometimes themed conventions strictly require themed artwork and nothing out of that norm, so you have more uniform work. You will find these often in very professional conventions, or themed conventions such as furry cons, brony cons, steampunk cons, etc.
Cons: People who were rejected may find it ‘unfair’ and become very angry. Especially artists who enjoy having their ego stroked (most people who don’t work in a professional environment tend to be like this). Rejected angry artists also don’t understand that conventions who have a judging system also have a LIMITED amount of tables and may feel like some of the artists who got accepted shouldn’t belong there. Judging panels may also be very selective, and you may notice a trend with what artists gets selected. Also, after the selection, sometimes you may get artists that try and harass other ones who got in whom they think didn’t deserve the table.
Tip: prepare all your portfolio stuff AHEAD of time. Like WAY before it’s announced. Hell, I shouldn’t even be telling you to do this. If you’re an artist, you should always keep your portfolio up to date! Also, if you get rejected, do NOT get discouraged. That just means the judge’s decision, so try harder next time. Pouting won’t get you anywhere.
Another Tip: Think of it this way: just because they didn’t want your work in the show doesn’t mean every convention or every person doesn’t want your work in ANY show. Still, don’t hate the convention or staff purely because of a single decision; they’re still human, after all.
Process: Having had a table at the convention, the convention will give you priority on ordering a table. Sometimes next year’s registration begins in the same day as the convention itself!
Pros: As long as you have tabled at that convention, you’re pretty much safe to table there, forever, and ever, as long as you table there every single time. Pioneer registration sometimes has a cheaper registration as well.
Cons: You miss one convention and you no longer have pioneer registration. Usually after pioneer registration, when normal registration begins, only a very small select tables are left. The conventions may have the same ‘regulars’ attending.
Tip: Table once, and you’re all set! First time usually is most expensive though :(
Process: You sign up, and then you cross your fingers. The names are then randomized and the random lot will be selected to table.
Pros: ANYONE can get in, as long as they’re lucky enough. People complain less when they get rejected because it was randomized.
Cons: ANYONE can get in…which means it does not discern skill level or background/reputation or personality of people. There are some people whose work stick out like a sore thumb (imagine a horror science fiction book company surrounded by anime fanartists), and sometimes you get random insane talented people you have never met before or wondered where the hell they came from, etc. After artists are announced, rejected artists will find their desperate methods to try and share tables with other artists or buy dealer’s tables and squish in.
Tip: And I know this is kind of like cheating. I swear I’ve only done this twice, ever, and I was the one who got the table, not the other person. You basically get your friends who want to table, or even THINKING about tabling to just sign up. The more people you know who sign up, the higher the chance that at least one of you gets in. Now if you BOTH got a table, don’t be a dingus and both keep it. Because random lots often have a LOT of people signing up, you should be courteous enough to SHARE tables with your friends if you can, so more people can get in. I recall my table partner and I both getting in a table in one random lot, but we decided to drop one table and share to make room for another artist that would want a table.
Fun fact: Some people have suspected that the random system may be rigged, so some are more ‘guaranteed’ a spot at the convention, after seeing the same artists have a table year after year. Conspiracy theory?
“BUT IT’S NOT FAIR!”
If you think a registration for artist alley isn’t fair, maybe it’s not the right place for you. The world can’t revolve around you, and sometimes you can’t get what you want. But don’t let that ever stop you. Try again next time, because a rejection the first time doesn’t guarantee a rejection the next time :)
Also, nowadays there are so many conventions happening that some overlap each other. You can always try and go for the other, if you don’t get into one; it’s not the end of the world ^_^’
Helping a con MIGHT help you
There’s one way I’d like to mention. This is absolutely no guarantee, as it’s only happened a very small handful of times. You can volunteer as an artist for a convention to do the art or contribute an incredible amount of art. It’s up to the convention’s generosity to give you the table. From my experience, it usually equates to a convention ticket, not an artist alley table (although it has happened on rare occasion).
Win their art contests
If a convention has an art contest, you might as well try your luck on it. Very straightforward. If you win, you get a table. Sometimes winning half a table can make a huge difference. And I mean, who wouldn’t want to flaunt the fact that you just designed some convention merch, eh?
This isn’t for getting a table at artist alley, but if you’re an established or published artist, some conventions allow you to sign up for a ‘pro badge’, which is basically like a free ticket to the convention. This is intended for artists who are trying to get a career and network. If you can’t get a table but you want to attend a convention, you can always try this. I would also like to note that you should take advantage by bringing your portfolio anyways and showing to any top tier artists or publishers, in case they may be interested (that’s the intention of a pro badge).
Note: These badges usually only apply to large industry conventions, especially comic conventions. Regarding anime conventions, I’ve only heard of Anime Expo giving them out. But if you ever want that one-in-a-million chance to go to San Diego Comic Con, and you have proof of published work, it doesn’t hurt to try!
In the end, you shouldn’t HATE a convention because you couldn’t get in the artist alley. Nor should you ever harass anyone because THEY got in and you DID NOT. Sometimes your computer didn’t refresh fast enough, or you didn’t type in the information quickly enough. Maybe you just weren’t the lucky one at the table raffles.
If the judges didn’t like your work, it could also just mean that there were too many other artists. I know this sounds harsh, but yes, sometimes your work isn’t at the quality they want, so what do you do? Practice, practice, practice, and prove them wrong next time!
Although this article was pre-written about a month ago, there has been some recent news about Fanime artists overreacting. Without getting into detail, if you were ever rejected from AA at a convention because of a judging panel, do NOT harass people that actually did got in. That’s really immature >:0
(unfortunately, I did not take a good picture, and asked the artist to send me one instead. I’ll replace it the next time I see her at a con)
Fox’s work is unique, in that she does a lot of World of Warcraft OC commissions, which I find very fun to check out on my facebook feed (well, it’s way cooler than the political stuff that goes in my thing). I find it rad that she does OCs for commissions more than straight up fanart. For me, it’s one of my favorite commissions, albeit one of the rarest ones that ever actually approach me. So go Fox!