Wednesday, April 8, 2015

My TNEE Experience.... the good, the bad, & the UGLY!

Hello my lovelies... 

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.


17 comments:

  1. Our experience is similar to yours, but like you, we didn't heed the early warning signs and we had Sara helping us navigate through these unknown changes once we got to the event. So big lessons learned there. From this point forward, we will most definitely research event coordinators before we commit to such a costly trip.

    The only problem that we can't make excuses for is how our colleagues, Lance and Laura were treated. If it weren't for Sara, we would have been treated that exact same way. It clearly states the rules on the website. There is no excuse for not updating this information. And for an EC that stated rules are rules and must be followed, she should have personally made sure every one of us knew of the changes she'd made outside of the website. She might not care about us, but you don't have an author signing without the author. Boy that was wrong how Lance and Laura were treated.

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    1. Thank you for having this open for anyone to comment. I understand the other blogs about this topic are requiring comment approval. It makes it all fair and open. Good job Brenda. I'm glad to know you.

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    2. Very sorry this happened to you guys as I know how helpful you are

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  2. Thanks for leaving your comments Kindle. It was a pleasure seeing you again!

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    1. Txs for this blog post Brenda
      See you in Tampa 😘

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  3. Who is the promoter/organizer? These people should be blacklisted.

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  4. Romance Ink.... They do TNEE and Authors After Dark.
    http://novelexperienceevent.org/

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  5. The reader that was turned away for not having a VIP ticket was there talking to me and about to purchase my books. I was horrified how she was treated. No matter what, the organizer should have introduced herself to us and made herself known. As of now, she should be apologizing (whether or not she feels it is her fault) for the way things went down. That's called being a professional.

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  6. I am totally disgusted with what I am hearing the crude U professionalism and harrassment you authors and readers were subjected to is despicable
    I know quite a few of you authors even spent Five days with them they were so generous and appreciative
    As a blogger /reader I take pride in promoting these authors I'm so sorry you all had to endure this disgusting behavior
    I will definitely not supper these people nor signing being held by them
    Let's face facts here:
    Without you Authors there would be NO BOOKS Written and NO SIGNINGS to be had
    Shame on them

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  7. This is the reply I sent to the co-ordinators blog.(which has yet to be posted since it was being "approved" first)

    As someone who had witnessed and heard a few things from what happened at this event, I am just going to give you my side.
    First let me start off by saying, I've attended quite a few signings, some cons (not author related) and COUNTLESS events that support thousands of people and have been run smoothly and without nearly a quarter of the negative events of these past days.
    Let me address the "ticket" issues I first encountered. My blog partner and I were going to attend and get a table, but that changed so I was going to attend as a single VIP. I missed the ticket sale date but I attempted to contact whomever was running the event to see if tickets could be purchased closer to the event itself. None of this info was on the main site, NOR was the info that I could attend for free on the day of the signing event. I know it was listed that I could do so during the ticket sales, but once that ended... that info was NO WHERE to be found. I never received a reply from any of your event staff. Want to know how I even found out? An author reached out and obtained that information for me. Not from the organizer, from an author. So, how was anyone else to get the same info that I did? Good question. One I asked myself a few times when I heard of the low number of attendees from a few sources. Later I saw the info posted a few days before the event (on FB) but probably a bit too late to get that info out to the public, don't you think?
    On your post you stated a few of the rules. One stated, "3. Signing table setup is Friday, from 9 am to 5 pm. Authors MUST be set up and ready for Saturday's signing on Friday by 5pm."
    Um, I was with a group of authors (just hanging out with them and helping them in any way I could) and nobody was given their table assignment until after ONE p.m!!! What happened to YOU following the rules? Why were the authors not allowed to set up that morning? Should they not have been able to start by 9 am? Guess not. Also, all those authors who set up by Friday, had to TEAR EVERYTHING DOWN AND RESET UP ON SAT MORNING!!! Excuse me, how is that their fault, when you once again... did not follow your own "clearly stated rules" and made them do something else that was 'stated to them in advance'? It's not, it is yours. YOU did not follow your own rules that you are now throwing in the face of others.
    At the end of setting up, I was approached by you and one of your staff and asked to leave. Rudely, I might add. During which that time I was texting friends to ask if they wanted to come back to the event with me in the morning. Once again, I was not informed that I could come back and attend for free, but instead, as a reader... asked to leave the event. (it was only a few minutes past the scheduled start time and I was already on my way out. I was following the rules. However, on my way out I gave a small wave to your staff and was rewarded with a sarcastic smirk. (the one who rudely asked me to leave) It was probably a good thing I had met several authors and bloggers already, or that interaction would have made me have even more bad things to say about the event.
    Now, let me ask you something. While you stand so firmly behind those rules that you did not follow yourself, what is to happen about the day that YOU cancelled on these authors with no notice? The dates of the event run through the 5th. What happened to Sunday? Do the authors or bloggers who paid for the tables get a partial refund? You were the one who cancelled on them, so what happens in that event?
    You seem to have all the answers and are on the defense in your blog post. What about the answers to some of these questions? Where is the part where YOU are at fault in not following your own rules? I would like to see those questions addressed, and maybe a few sorries for the way things were handled with several people. I guess the final question is, will you ever do that?

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    1. The GOOD news was that Brenda was one of those authors I had the honor of meeting. For that I am honored and when I was asked to share my thoughts and what I had responded to the event "coordinator" I jumped at the opportunity!

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  8. OM freaking G that was a nightmare. I was fortunate enough to meet Kindle Alexander, Sandrine Gasq-Dion and Sara York, all I can say about those ladies are their a class act. I can honestly say I value their opinions and I know the type of ladies they are. I stand by my author and I will never support anything having to do with Stella Price or TNEE. I've decided that she is just rude and crude and I have no desire to be associated with her. Hats off to the author that helped her fellow author Kindle is amazing like that.

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  9. Leslie,
    It was a pleasure meeting you as well and I am grateful that I had the chance before you were so rudely asked to leave. For a con/signing that is *supposed* to be all about the readers, the readers were almost treated as badly, if not worse. I too responded to Stella's post but it seems she switched her replies after people refused to support her view on the issues that occurred. I highly doubt anything but the positive reviews from her friends and her clique will be posted. I am just surprised that she didn't delete the negative reviews that are already there. I won't be denying anyone's posts to this blog whether it is in support of what we went through or not. I WANT to hear EVERYONE's opinion because I believe EVERY voice should be heard. Thank you for coming to my blog to share your experience! xoxox

    Laurel,
    I am sorry that I missed you when you were coming down our isle. I was more then likely taking a smoke break to try and restrain myself from seeking out Stella to give her my opinion in person. Although, embarrassingly, I was very vocal with my complaining (i.e. bitching) about the issues. This is out of character for me at an event and just a sign of how frustrated I was with the issues. I am sure that many authors and readers will not be attending TNEE or Authors After Dark (her other event) because of her unacceptable behavior toward both parties. Her book sales are sure to take a hit as well. She likely won't care if she has a 'day job' but myself and I write novels full time for a living. She hurt everyone (readers and authors) by her behavior but those of us who have no other source of income were likely hit the hardest considering the expenses of attending the event in Vegas. Thanks for stopping by my blog and sharing your thoughts! xoxox

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  10. At the author's request, she wished to remain anonymous but still share her experience so I am posting for her.
    "Hiya! We didn’t get a chance to meet at TNEE but you did meet my assistant and I met your husband when he was wondering around. I read your blog post and was going to comment but wanted to remain anonymous so I figured I’d just send you my experience. This was my first con, first signing, first everything as an author. I have three novels and a novelette out right now. My assistant is also my editor and neither of us knew what exactly to expect. Going into this with an open mind was all we could do. There were no warning signs for me because I didn’t know any better. That being said, here is my experience…I’m going to skip over the hotel issues (aka prices) and just go to the event itself. I had not planned on any panels because I was overwhelmed as it was. So the plan was to get in Thursday night and register. On Friday we were going to set up in the morning so we could explore vegas in the afternoon and get my tattoo at 5pm. I was not going to attend the VIP event because I didn’t think I had to. They asked if I could move my tattoo, which I did to late morning. This turned out to be fine since we didn’t have tables yet. But did you know there was a free breakfast Friday morning? I sure didn’t. My tattoo artist told me about it. I sure was happy to hear about that after spending $30 down at planet dailes.
    So after my tattoo we went down to set up. They couldn’t find me on the list but knew my name so they just gave me the empty table on the side by the balcony. I thought this was going to be great since I was in the front row and next to all the big name authors. This however, was a disaster. No one visited our little arch of people. More on this later. We set up and talked with my neighbor who was under the impression we had to be there for the VIP preview. So instead of taking a nap (I was in desperate need of one after the tattoo) we stayed and sat in utter boredom for two hours. No one came to visit my table or the table beside me. Now I will put in here that I had run up to change before the preview and in the elevator I met some VIP readers. I had to tell them my name and when I did the one freaked out because she had hosted a bunch of my blog tours. I had my first fan girl and it was amazing.

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    1. Cont....
      "
      But back to the event. On Saturday I wasn’t feeling very confident since I had so little traffic the day before. I can tell you that I had 20 people stop by my table. I know because I was giving away a free ebook and only gave away 20 of the 250 cards I brought with me. I sold 2 books and gave 1 away to a very sweet blogger for her to use as a giveaway. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. I spent the majority of my day chatting it up with my neighbor who was equally as baffled at the lack of people and sales. She was a fount of knowledge so my assistant and I picked her brain all day long. Since I was so close to (Author name removed) I did get to see how she did and it was just a little better than I did. I think she might have signed 5 or 6 books. When the day was almost over and we were about to pack up, the producer came to my table to invite me to AAD. She said that she had her people scope out the authors and were to pick a few to invite. I happened to be one of them. I was shocked to say the least because I had barely seen any readers and only sold 2 books! As my assistant/editor pointed out…I’m marketable. My sales were a bitter disappointment and the communication sucked. I was in a constant state of refresh on my phone to check the facebook group out for information. I know that there were a lot of issues happening with the hotel and the con that resulted in some of the problems people were facing. So I was trying not to judge my experience too harshly. I am not sure if I will attend next year in Atlanta. Typically I like to give everything I do 2 chances before I give up and move on. I will say that I made some amazing connections. My tattoo guy is my new bestie and we got to hang out Sunday over at Excalibur. All in all I had a good experience but that was mainly because of all the non TNEE things I did."

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