So I was there with a specific agenda, which was to see if it was a place that Pyr books needs to be in future.
So in that light: Forget the 30,000-40,000 plus attendees or whatever the head count ends up being. I was personally most impressed by the number of publishing professionals there. Authors like Kevin J Anderson, Michael Stackpole, Gene Wolfe, , Eric Flint, John Ringo, Alan Dean Foster, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Mike Resnick, Aleathea Kontis, , , Josepha Sherman, James Maxey, Catherine Asaro, Gail Z Martin, SM Stirling. And many more I didn't run into, such as Peter S Beagle, JF Lewis, Jody Lynn Nye, Christopher Golden, Diana Gabaldon, Charlaine Harris, Cherie Priest, , CL Wilson, Janny Wurts, Timothy Zahn, and Lois McMaster Bujold. (I'm leaving people out too, but the sheer number of famous/award-winning/best-selling authors in this list makes it comparable to a major literary con already.)
And then the publishers that were there - Editors like Ginger Buchanan (Ace/Roc), Pablo Defendini (Tor.com), Stacy Hague Hill (Tor), Paul Stevens (Tor), Jennifer Heddle (Pocket), (Baen), Steven H Segal (Weird Tales), Jason M Watlz (Rogue Blades), and of course Yours Truly representing Pyr books.
As to how all these publishing folk were being received, I myself spoke on three panels and did one live podcast (thanks, Mur!). The smallest panel had over 60 people in the audience, the largest around 120, and the podcast was standing room only with about 60 people. What's more, they weren't the same people all weekend. And lots of people came up to me and shook my hand and told me how they really appreciated what I said on my panels.
Personal highlights were hanging out with Mike & Carol Resnick, Jennifer Heddle, Mur Lafferty, Madelynn Martiniere, Pablo Defendini, Stacy Hague-Hill, James Maxey, Jason M Waltz, Rich Sternbach. Was great to meet Scott Sigler and the folks from steampunk costumers Brute Force Studios. Really loved the Baen books party Friday night (and Toni Weisskopf is rapidly becoming one of my favorite people.) Also loved meeting the folks from the Inner Worlds book discussion group too.My assessment: This feels very much like the place to be, and if it isn't yet, it's going to be soon. Probably very similar in vibe to the San Diego Comic Con when it was smaller, before Hollywood became the driving engine. The other thing I noticed at Dragon*Con verses is that, though it has that crucial young demographic, there seems more interaction between the age groups. You saw children, teens, 20/30 somethings, parents with small children, and old folks, all hanging out together, rather than all there and then peeling off to hang separately. I liked that a lot. For the writer looking to do business as well as meet with fans, it's probably not there yet in the former category, but will be as more publishing professionals choose to attend in future. And in terms of the attitude of the con to publishing, both the organizers and the audience certainly communicated that they were interested in books in general and Yours Truly in specific. I felt appreciated, welcome, and productive. I felt something slightly different when the near-naked, 300 pound guy with a mohawk and fangs grabbed my ass on the elevator.
But hey, it was Dragon*Con, after all! At least some of my first impressions weren't mistaken.