Yesterday, the official rulings on Bronycon Vending for 2015 took place, and if you didn't notice, there were many shocked artists who didn't make the cut. Perennial standbys, former staff members, and even former artist guests of the convention itself were turned away, leaving many to ask "what's the deal!?".
Horse News has of course acquired the big explanation email that was sent to the Vendors ans Vendor Applicants, to give better insight into the decisions that were made. You can find the entire text below.
From: Branden Hess <email@example.com>
Date: Sat, Mar 21, 2015 at 3:23 AM
Subject: Notice to All Vendors and Vendor Applicants
To: BronyCon Vendors <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I want to first start off by apologizing. The wording of some things weren't as perfect as I'd like and I'm paying for it quite liberally. Also, I'm sorry for the wonky formatting on the selection emails. I'm working on figuring out why Mail Merge keeps doing that (seemingly at random) to my personalized mass emails.
This email will be serving several purposes this evening, but it was written mostly in the hopes that some of you will better understand the vendor selection process and to clear up some of the confusion. Please, please, PLEASE, read through the Vendor Packet before asking us any more questions. It's 16 pages of answers to questions we receive hundreds of times every year. Well, 7 pages of answers, plus front page, table of contents, vendor hall map, and exhibitor's affidavit. But who's counting, eh?
Let's start off with the most obvious and pressing question: "Why didn't I/my friend/this artist get in? They've vended at BronyCon <#> times before/been with you since the beginning! Why is your process an industry secret? What are you hiding?" This is a complex series of questions. This is also more of the process than I am usually ever willing to share, so please bare with me.
Simply put, almost all of our applications this year were the best of the best of the fandom, from comic artists to traditional artists to comic book stores to clothing/accessory makers to plush creators to figure makers. I say almost because we still received a few fake/spam applications, as usual.
The question of what criteria is used is certainly a hot topic today. I've seen a few posts on Tumblr and Twitter, plus over a hundred emails and counting in regards to this. So here is what the selection committee and I look at and for.
Are they contractually guaranteed booths? This one is important. Some of our vendors are our staff (Design Team, you put in so much free work! You are absolute inspirations!). Others receive a booth for what they do for us at con (for example, our Comic Book Team VIPs).
Are they applying appropriately? This one is tricky and doesn't often come into play. However, when we see a professional company applying for an Artist Alley booth, or someone with only three items applying for an Industry Island, we have to question what's going on.
What materials are they showing in their links? This is where a large percentage of a decision comes from. If they have a variety of different styles/products, plus have pictures of their layout/setup at other conventions, it makes it a lot easier to determine if what they are selling will match BronyCon's demographic. Having nothing or almost nothing, or not making it easy to find any of your work is a pretty surefire way for us to look at the next person. We simply don't have the time to spend a few hours on your application. We have HUNDREDS of apps to go through. Also, if they are extremely talented furry artists or cosplay piece makers, what evidence are they showing for how they are going to tailor their products to BronyCon? They'd make a killing at a furry convention or a steampunk convention, but will they go bust at BronyCon?
Have they any vending experience? This one can be a bit weird for us. We like to have a good mix of experienced vendors - ones that have draw - and inexperienced vendors. We are the largest brony convention in the world. We have an obligation to cater to the entire fandom. This means being fair to those newcomers with the raw talent AND the established fan favorites; to those Tumblr artists that really crafted the fandom AND the plushie makers that help bring the love for the community into our attendees' home; to those companies that have been supportive of us AND the multi-genre professional convention dealers that have the luxury to support yet another of their passions. This unfortunately means that you are never guaranteed a booth just because you've vended before. If it worked like that, we'd be in trouble and have accepted about 270+ vendors, and everyone remembers how poorly sales/profits were last year...
Are they going to be a problem? This one really shouldn't be a thing, but it does occasionally come up. Above all else, BronyCon is for the attendees. It is my job to ensure that they are safe, healthy, and happy, as they pay BronyCon's - and your - bills. If a vendor is known to bend or break the rules, it is less likely that we will ask them back. Selling R34 under the table, presenting fire code hazards - these are things we HAVE to consider. Also, we can assure you all that none of you reading this email are on the blacklist.
Why are they applying? To make money should be one of the main reasons for everyone. This is one hobby that is WAY too expensive. Sometimes however, it becomes apparent that an applicant is not interested in selling at BronyCon, but rather that they just wish to cash in. We try to avoid these people, as they are a disservice to our other vendors and most importantly, to our attendees.
If they are returning, what was their performance like? When possible, we try to take a look back at your performance. We understand that everyone has a bad year now and then, but when you lose big and don't sell well at BronyCon, we have to look at why. This is a much more personal one so I'm not going to go into it.
ARE THEY FRENDS WIT BORNYCON STAFF?!1! This, in case it wasn't obvious, is not one of the qualifications. Please stop insulting the talented vendors that were selected by suggesting that the only way that they were selected was their connections. You just make yourself sound loud and silly every time you repeat this.
When did they apply? Believe it or not, this qualification comes up every now and then. Usually in tie breakers or in deciding who next to pull from the waitlist (more on that later). This however is not a major factor.
Are they PixelKitties? If no, then they don't get in. Simple as that. =) I'm kidding of course, and only because I know that Monica will giggle a little when she hears about this bit later.
So why is the stuff above and the how/when/where/why/who kept secret? Simply put, it is considered an industry secret. In order for me to do my job (or any of my managers for that matter), we are required to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. This doesn't just protect our methods and information, but also your information. We handle your tax information later on. This is not something that just anyone can do. We see some of your real names, and I know that is a big deal for some of you, as it is for some of our staff. We have a right by United States law to protect that information, our information, and our methods. It keeps us competitive, which is absolutely important for any and every company.
I think the next most important topic to address is definitions. Some of you seem to be very confused about what being on the waitlist or being "rejected" means.
For BronyCon, being placed on the waitlist means that you were part of our pool for placement, but we simply didn't have any more slots open. BronyCon's waitlist, due to the international nature of the convention, has to be long because so many people get pulled from it and placed in the hall in the first month. Last year, 95% of our waitlist ended up in the hall anyway, due to sharing with other selected vendors (which is perfectly allowed so long as you let us know and keep up on your taxes) or actually being pulled and placed late. Already it's been less than 24 hours and we've had two vendors cancel. Maybe more as I type this email. Waitlisted for BronyCon isn't the death sentence that it is for other cons.
For BronyCon, not being selected or waitlisted doesn't mean what I think most of you think it means. It just usually means that our waitlist was too big or that you simply didn't have the right sort of content for BronyCon. We definitely want you to apply again.
This year was a nightmare for the selection committee, because we had over 300 vendors that we wanted to place into the hall, with only 150-ish slots available. We couldn't have kept all of you from last year if we had wanted to, and we didn't. That would have been unfair from the newer vendors, and would have removed the necessary staff booths, too.
I've seen a lot of comments in various places, where applicants were lamenting applying for bigger booths. I can assure each and every one of you that we did not penalize you for doing so. If you did not get selected for an Endcap or Corner, we waitlisted you. Then, when we came back to select/place the singles and doubles, we considered you all once again. Some of you were placed as such. This is something that we had done last year and advertised that we were doing last year as well. We did not advertise that we were doing that this year because, quite frankly, we forgot. We had a lot of other things that we were covering in the Vendor Packet, so hopefully you can forgive us for overlooking a detail here and there, even one so big.
I want you all to know that we are listening. We are spending the weekend exploring possibilities to increase the amount of vendors in the hall for this year. We're also working on next year's hall already, and I can guarantee that there will be more vendors in it, but still less than 2014's vendor hall. We're trying to get that sweet spot dialed in as best we can.
We are not perfect. No one is. We are always willing to admit this. But we will always work towards getting things perfect. My job is protecting and supporting you all, second only to the safety, security, and happiness of our attendees.
For now, I will leave you with this thought: No matter what we are doing or are appearing to do, we do so for your benefit and for the benefit of our attendees, not for our own personal gain.
Thank you so much to those of you who have been supportive of us through the years!