As many of you know, I booked TNEE as one of my conventions this year (my 5th con of the year actually) and I will admit, a major selling point for me was that it was in Las Vegas and we have a timeshare there. If you were at the convention or likely not, I am sure you have heard of all the 'drama' that is currently flying around. I say 'drama' in quotes because I believe when people are attacked for their opinion - especially by other people they have never met - the situation then falls into the drama category in my book. I don't have time for drama... hell, I barely have time to post this blog since I have another convention this coming weekend.
That said, this post is going to be very, very, long with a lot of documentation screenshots to support my opinions. I know that I am not alone in my opinions and I also know there are others who's opinions fall at the other end of the spectrum. I invite EVERYONE to reply to this blog and share your experience, thoughts, or comments about what happened this past weekend at TNEE. I want all fans, readers, and especially other authors to get both sides of this coin so they can make up their own minds about whether to attend future TNEE events. Read on for both this good, the bad, and the ugly.
I will start off saying that is it my own fault for allowing my excitement to see my colleagues and hang out with them in Las Vegas while meeting new fans & bloggers that blinded me to the first warning sign that something was not right with this convention. What was this red flag that should have been blatantly obvious to me? There was no contract between the producer (TNEE) and the vendors/artists (authors). I do 9-15 conventions a year and even the small weekend kink events at campgrounds ensure there is a contract between the venue and the businesses that will be selling anything at the event. So, shame on me for letting my excitement allow me to ignore this major red flag. It is a mistake, an expensive mistake, that I won't make again.
My biggest issue with TNEE is that the convention dates were advertised as April 3-5 and Sunday was canceled.
Now, I don't know if this was purposefully misleading on the producers' part or if Sunday was canceled out of the blue because it was Easter but regardless, I paid for three (3) days and was denied the third. Not only denied, but not even informed by the producer or staff that there would be no convention on Sunday. If I had not overheard someone mention on Friday that we wouldn't be setting up on Sunday, I would have had no clue that I wasn't supposed to be there. I posted my anger about this on FB:
This is a reply I received:
If there were never any Sunday events, why was this convention advertised as such? Also, in regards to the FB reply I received, I will share the schedule with you as well:
Notice that set up, registration, & panels are the only thing on this schedule. So, if an author isn't one of the lucky few to be selected for a panel, this day is not an actual convention day. Even worse, if you are a fan/reader, you would not even know the convention has started since the dates are listed as April 3-5. I have more to say about this particular scheduled day but will come back to it later.
While we are still near the author badge picture I shared, let me ask.... do you see anything missing from it? Like the author's name perhaps? Never, and I mean never have I ever paid for a convention and received a generic 'name' badge. This is pure laziness on the producers' part in my opinion. However, we were given the reason behind this decision: (paraphrasing here.) "It will force readers to approach you and ask your name which will give you the opportunity to talk to them." I have never heard such a thing in my life. Not all readers are comfortable approaching authors and if a fan is looking for a specific author, this 'system' only causes frustration.
Speaking of frustration.... Let me share some of the other 'last minute' changes that were dropped on the authors (posted on 3/23). Of course for most of us, it was too late to cancel attending the convention when these changes were announced because flights and rooms were booked and books had already been shipped.
According to TNEE, as of 3/23 (and still posted today 4/8), there was supposed to be security provided. I quote: "We have security for the area we are in. They will be watching everything for us while we aren't open. ALL BOOKS that you don't want to LUG can be put in our secure storage room behind registration. We will have a key and it will be the ONLY ONE for that room."
Let me address this... a room is not 'security' that will be watching everything while we aren't open. A room is a room. While this was a viable option for many authors, for some of us it was not. It was suggested in the FB group (which I have either been removed from as of today (4/8) or has been closed) that we bring 30-50 books. Now, I took that to mean for each title and since I usually bring 10-15 books of each title to a convention anyway, I didn't think 30-50 was a lot. I brought 20 of each of my titles which came to roughly 350 books.
Let me address the above....
A. The Ballroom.... We were not in the ballroom. Apparently the hotel moved us to the Mezzanine and nothing could be done about it. Really? Nothing? Did TNEE not have a contract with Planet Hollywood? If not, why not? This is why the storage room above was needed. As I said, I brought 350 books with me, every one of my titles, because I was led to believe that the convention space would be locked up for the evening without me having to break down my set up and relocate my inventory.
B. The Friday VIP Preview.... Many of you have heard of the author who was not allowed to set up on Sat. because she was not there on Fri. night for the VIP Preview. Let me actually quote part of this section for you. "You are not required in the ballroom for the two hour preview." This one sentence is what opens up TNEE to be sued by this author should said author decide to do so. The author has requested a refund and been denied. In my opinion, TNEE is lucky that the author is only asking for her $200 table fee to be returned and not asking for full reimbursement plus damages.
Speaking of this author being refused entry.... another author offered to give away the denied author's books (since the denied author was planning to do so anyway) and not only caught flack for it but is now blacklisted from Romance Inc. events. The worst part of this helpful author being blacklisted is that the producer of TNEE did not inform her themselves but informed the author seated next to her so that the helpful author's table neighbor could do the dirty work of informing her. Where is the professionalism here? Of course, the refusal to allow the denied author entry to set up her table that she paid for and the attack on the author who was kind enough to stand up for her and pass out her books, pissed many of us off and was actually the final factor on why I decided to post a blog about my experience.
C. Saturday Morning.... Again, we were supposed to be in the Ballroom. We weren't. In fact, I met two readers who thought the event was canceled because they went to the Ballroom and there was nothing there.... not even a sign stating that the event had been relocated to the Mezzanine. As for the "reader's lining up on time," what readers? The attendance for this convention was horrid and in hindsight, I am sure it had to do with the lack of advertising. Several readers posted to FB that they were in or near Las Vegas and had no idea the convention was even happening. It shouldn't only be the responsibility of the authors to promote the convention they are attending. The convention should be promoting their event as well.
D. Author Green Room... This is the sole thing (again, my opinion) that TNEE did right for the authors on Saturday. The food provided by Planet Hollywood was excellent.
Bloggers and reviewers, along with readers, are the lifeblood for authors. I can't stress how important and how much I appreciate and love these people who volunteer their time to promote our work.... 9 times out of 10, for FREE. So, I was excited that TNEE was asking for blogger swag packs. I created 8 that were valued at $50 each (4 audio books, keychains, handmade paracord bracelets, bookmarks, etc,). I was delighted to meet 5 bloggers on Saturday but extremely upset (and later pissed off) when they told me they had not received ANY author blogger swag bags. I could understand if 1 blogger didn't get one of my bags, but all 5? What the hell? I very much would like to know what happen to the swag bags I created for these bloggers but I doubt I will receive an answer, even if I asked.
Let me comment on a few things that hurt the authors and put readers off...
At the VIP Preview (which cost the reader $125 for the preview signing (2 hours only) and VIP party), a reader was talking to an author a few tables down from me. The reader was holding two books and it appeared the reader was about to purchase the books when a TNEE volunteer approached the reader and author. I over heard the volunteer tell the reader that they couldn't be here without a VIP badge and would have to leave unless they wanted to purchase one for $125. The reader looked shocked and the author was horrified that a volunteer was running off a reader. The reader politely declined to purchase a VIP badge and placed the books back down on the authors table then left.
Again, What the hell? This con is 'supposed' to be about the readers....How embarrassing for this author to have a potential new fan run off. I have no idea if that reader returned on Sat. but if that had happened to me as a reader, I wouldn't have because the volunteer didn't even mention that Sat. was free to the public. I witnessed at least 3 other readers told to leave after being 'pitched' to buy a VIP badge.
At least three (3) times on Sat. the event producer could be seen, and defiantly heard, screaming at authors over one thing or another. Her angry tantrums made her look very unprofessional and sent readers scurrying in the opposite direction. I was fortunate that I was not one of the authors, or at a table next to one of these authors, she decided to disrespect in this manner. Every convention has hiccups or issues but addressing them in public, around other authors and readers, is unprofessional. Screaming at people is not only unprofessional but extremely rude. Calling authors names, such as "bitch" and "cunt" (yep, she went there) when the authors are the only reason readers come to the event is intolerable. If an event producer can't handle the stress that comes with organizing the event without screaming at the people who PAID to be there when an issue arises, or at least do so in private where the event attendees are not witness to such behavior, than maybe the producer shouldn't be organizing the event to begin with... just saying.
A reader confronted the TNEE producer about several of these issues and recorded the conversation. I am posting this recording (even though I was asked to wait because of potential legalities) because this conversation was recorded in a public venue and there are no privacy violation issues (according to my attorney). The producer's attitude toward this reader and her opinion about the authors who make her event possible is deplorable.
I will take full responsibility for making this audio public.
On a personal note... there were several authors in attendance that will be at RainbowCon 2015 in Tampa Florida in July. Since I live in Tampa (and found out on Sat. that there were a few other Tampa Bay authors at TNEE) I decided that I would share the RainbowCon cards with the attending authors. I was not giving out the cards to promote the con but to let other authors know about the con in case their convention schedule is not booked for the year and they might have been interested in attending. I was approached by a TNEE volunteer and told, "You can't hand those out. If Stella sees you promoting another convention, she will freak. You can leave them on your table but not hand them out."
Okay... I said that there was nothing stated anywhere that said I couldn't hand out the cards but that I would stop. I have never encountered this before unless there was a 'no-compete' clause in the contract. Oh but wait... there was no contract! So, I told the other authors who would be at RainbowCon and they offered to put cards on their tables. About an hour later, a different volunteer walked by my table with a stack of the RainbowCon cards in her hand. I specifically asked if she picked them up off another author's table and she said, "no, I was just told to collect them from the authors."
REALLY? Again, I have never heard of such a thing. This is the first convention where I have encountered this and to say I am shocked at this level of pettiness is putting it mildly.
Now, I did enjoy my time in Vegas even though TNEE was a disaster. I had a blast with many of my friends and colleagues and met tons of new authors and fans who were awesome. I made 4 (yep, I said 4!) trips to the local gay nightclub Piranha and took more authors and readers with me each time! I saw Thunder from Down Under and Zumanity (which was totally awesome and surprisingly better than Thunder!). I gambled at Fremont Street for only 8 hours, easily drank over a case of free beer, hit my 'dead on 8' system 9 times (payout $72 a pop) and only lost $40.
I don't think I dolphined (stealing this verbiage which means laughed) so much in years. If it wasn't for all of this, hanging out and enjoying the incredible company of fellow authors and readers, I would have been totally pissed for making the 2 day drive from Tampa for only 9 hours of work at the convention.
I don't regret my trip to Vegas at all.... what I do regret is taking a chance on TNEE to become one of my annual conventions.
If you were at TNEE.... as an author or a reader.... PLEASE share your experience. I want every side of this coin for other authors, bloggers, and readers so they can make up their own minds about this convention in the future.