Selling Worldcon to Publishers

Well, that title should cement my infamy as the #1 Menace to Fandom for a few years to come. But of course I don’t mean actually selling the convention, I mean selling publishers on the idea of coming back to it. This will be rather long, so I have put it behind a cut.

Internet memories can be rather short, so I should start by reminding you of this post, in which I expressed alarm that publishers were advising their authors not to attend Worldcon because ComicCon and Dragon*Con were better use of their time. I’d also like to thank Steve Davidson for keeping the conversation going here. In this post I’d like to set out how I think Worldcon might go about regaining favor with publishers.

I’d like to start by ruling out a couple of things. In this post I set out what I believe to be the core values of Worldcon, and because of these core values certain things that publishers would like WSFS to do are simply not possible. Firstly we can’t go for massive growth. If you want to compete on size with the likes of ComicCon and Dragon*Con then you have to have a fixed location and a professional staff. Worldcon has neither, so that business plan is a non-starter.

Also, no matter how convenient it would be for folks in New York, Worldcon will not be in the USA every year. If that means that US publishers are going to ignore the convention, I think that’s rather sad. Publishing is, after all, an international business, and seeing how the rest of the world does things might be quite useful. Ultimately, however, if WSFS wants to keep to its ideals of being a genuine world organization, and not just “world” in the sense of “World Series”, then it has to make the convention sufficiently attractive that publishers in all countries will want to attend when it is their country (and hopefully when it is not too).

(I should also add that while some US publishers are occasionally rather insular, they don’t hold a candle to the PR people at the big UK publishers in 2005, who were pretty much united in their distaste for both fans and what they regarded as an “American convention”.)

However, if publishers can’t get everything that they want out of Worldcon, equally Worldcon cannot remain as it is and survive. If it continues to take the attitude of “we are the most important convention around, people should come to us” then it will die. It has to market itself. And some of the attitudes of the people who run it have to change. I’d like to highlight two specific areas.

Firstly we have to understand that some of the people who attend Worldcon do so because it is their livelihood, and they may not be earning very much. The core Worldcon audience – that group of around 1000 people who try to attend every year – is by definition fairly well off. They have to be, because attending Worldcon every year means being able to fly anywhere in the world, and probably stay in a good hotel for a week. Some of us make a point of attending despite financial problems, but I don’t expect everyone to be as mad and Kevin and I. Many authors simply can’t afford to go; ditto artists, and agents. Dealers will only attend if they think they will make a profit. Publishers have a limited budget (apparently around $20k/year for all conventions in the US). So assuming that everyone who comes to the convention is prepared to pay whatever it takes is going to lose us a lot of potentially interesting attendees. If people are going to add value to the convention, we have to recognize that, and make it easier for them to attend.

The other attitude that has to change is the division of people into “good fans” who want to participate in the community, and “bad fans” who just want a gate show and should be discouraged from attending. Perhaps some people do believe that fans (or rather fen) are simply born fully-formed, like Athena from the brow of Zeus, but actually that’s nonsense. People come into fandom in all sorts of different ways, and one of those ways is by graduating from gate show attendee to participant. We don’t want to shut out potential recruits. And in any case, the gate show folks want to give us money and are really easy to cater for. Turning our noses up and saying that we don’t want “that sort of people” in our exclusive and particular event is not the right way to ensure that our convention survives.

Now, given that we do change our attitudes, what can be done to actually make Worldcon more attractive to publishers? Well, you market to them, of course. And what that means is identifying publishers as a specific market segment amongst our core audience that we want to sell to, and offering them things that would be attractive to them.

What would a Publisher Package look like? Well, it would probably be a bundle that includes dealer/exhibitor space and a number of memberships at the initial rate. For major publishers it would also include the offer of a prime time (Saturday or Sunday) program slot for a “What’s new from X” panel. Those things are apparently very popular. I’d also give them the opportunity to ask for a small number of people to be put on program. Obviously no one gets a lot of panel places at Worldcon, but equally Worldcon programming teams are not always very up to date on who is currently hot, and asking publishers to recommend their best new talent seems like a good idea.

As far as signings go, I’d try to arrange things so that a given publisher could have a specific time slot where they could have their people at the signings table, and put up their PR material. I’d like them to be able to sell books to the line during that time too. I know some book dealers will whine about the competition, but when it comes down to it I’d rather have a whole bunch of publishers at the con than one or two people selling new books. I’d much rather see the book dealers selling books by small presses, or books that are otherwise hard to come by.

In addition I’d offer publishers space on the con’s web site to advertise their presence at the convention and any new books and authors they are planning to push there. One of the things that Worldcon is most lacking in is ways of getting the message across to non-regulars about what a great event it is. Anything on the web site that causes people to stop and think, “wow, I’d like to see that” has to be a good thing.

Of course none of this will convince publishers to come back unless they believe that the convention will help them to sell more books. They want to see lots of people coming through the door. We’ve already decided that we can’t aim at having tends of thousands of attendees, but we could certainly have more. If Worldcon were to attract 8,000 people instead of 5,000 then not only would it not be much more difficult to run, it would also be much cheaper for everyone. This is because the rental fees for convention centers are a fixed cost, not a variable one. The more people you have, the less each one has to pay towards the rental.

How do we get more people easily? One simple way would be to cater a bit to the gate show crowd. That is, we should open up the exhibits area (including the dealers and art show) to the general public at a much lower attendance fee. These people are generally only interested in things to look at and things to buy. They probably don’t need to attend for more than one day, but they don’t want to spend a lot of money to get in. A special membership class for them makes a lot of sense. And this isn’t unusual. Lots of other conventions have split membership classes where you can get a cheap ticket to the trade show portion, but have to pay a lot more to get to any of the panel sessions.

Having a lot more people should also make the dealers happy, and improve the quality of the dealers who want to come. After all, they are there to sell stuff. They want to see lots of people going past their stalls.

Obviously a certain amount of effort has to be put into selling different classes of membership and badge checking, although the latter is one of those things we are often forced to hire convention center staff for. But aside from that, this all makes use of parts of the convention that we run anyway – it doesn’t involve doing anything new, so it won’t add significantly to the work load or costs.

There will, of course, be people who complain that we can’t do this because it would be too difficult to prevent people on “exhibits only” membership from getting into panel sessions. I’m not impressed by such arguments. Firstly conventions get ghosted now. We can’t prevent it. If we held existing conventions up to the same standards of perfection that people demand of new developments then we’d never run any convention at all. Secondly, most of these people are not interested in the majority of panels. They might want to attend the masquerade, or the Hugo ceremony, or other major items, but those are much easier to badge check for than a bunch of small program rooms. There’s no need to protect something that people don’t want to steal. And finally, this argument is very much like the one against DRM-free ebooks. Sure, some people will share them. Some people share paper books too. But if you sell more books and have happier customers as a result then the small amount of pilferage is acceptable. Those of you who are still unconvinced about this are welcome to spend a day or two locked in a small closet with Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi, after which time I guarantee you’ll see things my way.

Of course some people won’t attend the convention at all, so I firmly believe that every Worldcon ought to have an Outreach department. What’s that for? Well, it works with publishers and authors to find local bookstores, libraries and other venues that are interested in holding events featuring visiting authors while they are in town. Ideally these should happen in the days leading up to the convention, or at least on the first couple of days, so as not to drag authors away from the con during the peak days. Also it will be valuable marketing for the convention and should sell some locals on attending. Some people will complain that this really doesn’t do a lot for the con, and superficially that’s true, but if it gives publishers and authors an extra reason to attend then it is a Good Thing to be doing. Besides, our remit should be to promote science fiction, not just run a party for ourselves.

Talking of the early days of the con, I’ve been convinced for some time that the Thursday and Friday (assuming traditional timing) should have more of a pro-con feel to them. That is, the programming should cater more to the industry on those days, leaving the more fan-oriented programming for Saturday and Sunday (and Monday if it is a holiday). Worldcon is, after all, a gathering of the entire community, not just fans, so there needs to be industry-oriented program. It makes sense to put most of that on during the working week when many fans cannot attend, but professionals can. Concentrating fan-oriented program on the weekend also helps impecunious local fans who may only want to attend for a couple of days but don’t want to miss anything high profile.

An important part of the pro-con program should be the industry GoH. I’d like to see every Worldcon have a GoH who is a publisher, editor or agent, and whose job it is to give a keynote “state of the industry” speech on Friday. This should be followed by a panel discussing the issues raised. I want this to be an event that publishers want to attend – something that they look forward to and talk about in the weeks afterwards.

While I’m here, I should also add that I think we should offer dealer packages that include both table space and a number of memberships at the initial rate. Also those memberships should be transferable, so that local businesses that want to buy space don’t have to use the same staff on each day of the convention.

I have a lot more that I want to say about how convention web sites, and other online tools, can be used to add value to the convention, and to the businesses involved with it. However, I have gone on at some length already and therefore should stop for now and give you folks a chance to respond. There will be more later.

43 thoughts on “Selling Worldcon to Publishers

  1. I like your suggestions, and more importantly, I think they can make a great deal of difference.

    And yes, conventions get ghosted. I’m guilty of doing it myself at Lunacon last year, although in my defense, my husband and I arrived late for the registration due to horrendous traffic and truly attempted to pay. Which led to me literally waving a $20 bill at the registration guy, trying to get them to take it, and they kept saying, “We are closed to registration now. You missed up by 10 minutes.”

    Their loss, my $20 still. I had a very enjoyable evening at the convention. =)

  2. Sharing the gibbet with Cheryl…


    one thing you didn’t mention was the possibility of “cross-promotion” with the publishing companies.

    It’s all well and good to sell them a package (booth space, x memberships, scheduled events, ad on the website) but I think that one of the points of obtaining the publisher’s participation is to use that relationship to grow both attendance and appeal of worldcon.

    If publishers are going to get ‘breaks’, that rules out using them to raise cash for marketing efforts, so the quid pro quo has got to be utilizing their resources (which are better developed and more far-reaching than Worldcons) to support those efforts.

    You mentioned local bookstores in the run-up: yes – and the publisher’s sales staff should be hawking convention posters/flyers at all of those bookstores.

    The store gets a special event, the store/publisher jointly promote the worldcon; worldcon gives something to the store (a few discounted tickets?)

    You mentioned giveaways (in re closet, scalzi & doctorow): yes – publishers ought to provide the con with X number of promotional giveaways. The con can use them as incentives to spur early sign-ups

    you mentioned the con’s web site; the publishers website should also be lavishly announcing their participation and offering a gateway link for signups

    something should also be worked out with publishers who will also be attending the pro cons; perhaps, if they are lucky enough to have an author who has been nominated for a hugo, they can offer a special edition of the work at the pro cons that includes worldcon promotional materials

    keynote state of the industry is an excellent idea.

    – and I think that from now on any con that has scalzi and doctorow in attendance that doesn’t offer five minutes in a dark closet with them for twenty bucks (split with the authors) is really missing a trick

  3. What would a Publisher Package look like? Well, it would probably be a bundle that includes dealer/exhibitor space and a number of memberships at the initial rate. For major publishers it would also include the offer of a prime time (Saturday or Sunday) program slot for a “What’s new from X” panel.

    In other words, a model a bit like tech fandomy events, e.g.


    Not going tradeshow, but realizing that Worldcon is a hybrid . . . ?

  4. Steve:

    I’m sure cross-promotion will happen. And remember, if the publishers come, they will be competing with each other for attention.

    As to their own web sites, I am very much aware that the bigger publishers are part of large, multi-national organizations for who SF&F is only a very small part of the business. Back when I was doing Emerald City most of them told me that they could not get anything on their web sites. With things like and Suvudu that’s changing, but slowly.

  5. I think there will be considerable support for nearly all of these ideas among all the people who organize Worldcons except for a few who, inconveniently, have the most political clout. But to paraphrase a line from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, if they want to think they are the head, the rest of us can pretend to be the neck — and the neck can turn the head any way it wants…

  6. Mike:

    Thanks very much. Both support and opposition will happen. But as for political clout, people can only have it if they have support, and if they do the work. As I have been saying to other people today, Worldcon will only change if a) people want it to and b) those people are prepared to help run the convention. Because if the people running it are only people who want it to shrink and become more exclusive they will get their wish.

  7. OK, but how does the Worldocn go froward with any of these ideas? As each year the publishers would have to form new contacts with each convention – or at least that is how I see it.

    There was someone on Kevin’s LJ that wanted to start being a liason (don’t remember if it was for publishers or not), but she had no idea how to go forward.

    My point is I think you do need to have one or a small number of people that the publishers deal with – and those people are the same people from year to year.

    How do you get the “local” group running the Worldocn to use this outsider without it seeming like a WSFS, Inc?

    I almost hate to say this, but I wounder if we do need a not so powerfull WSFS inc?

    ANother sugegst/comment that I had made to Kevin some time ago was why is the SMOFs list an e-mail only thing? Considering how powerful the net is, with blogs, facebook, twitter, and forums, would it not be time to get the SMOFs a bit more public – and new blood into the system??

    I also noticed that on the Amazon Kindle page, they had a selection of Hugo award winning books that you could download and read to your Kindle. Don’t recal if there was a copyright disclaimer about the Hugo on the Amazon page, but right there is another missed opprotunity I think.

    Also, how about when the Hugo nominees are know, make it a policy that press release is given to blog sites, and maybe even some other places? I’m thinking of and G4TV to start with.

    But, as I said – how do we go forward with these ideas?

    As it stands, the Worldocns net attendence figures for this year and the next two arn’t looking like much growth – something even you yourself Cheryl had pointed out.

  8. Your outreach department sounds like something that is part of what the publicity staff should be doing. And already are, at a few cons, but it would certainly help for that sort of thing to be thought of as a standard part of publicity.

    If you want to encourage locals to turn out for the weekend, I think you need a Saturday-Sunday membership which can be purchased in advance. If you have an “exhibits only” membership, I think it should come with a clear statement of how to upgrade to a full membership and how much it would cost.

    The only thing I really take issue with here is this: “I’d like them to be able to sell books to the line during that time too. I know some book dealers will whine about the competition, […] I’d much rather see the book dealers selling books by small presses, or books that are otherwise hard to come by.”

    I understand where you’re coming from here, but if the popular books are what support the book dealers and allow them to also bring along the harder-to-find books, I feel it’s unfair to dismiss real financial concerns as “whining”. I also think it could be problematic for outreach if the publishers are seen as competing against the local bookstores.

  9. Tom:

    Lots of good points, which I shall try to address.

    Many departments at Worldcon have a core group of staff that, while not the same every year, has a lot of overlap. Having permanent staff would be easier, but we can’t do it, so people who care about this have to volunteer, and be prepared to work on multiple Worldcons.

    The SMOFs list is email only because they want to control who is on it and who sees what they say. They get very angry if anyone on the list quotes part of a discussion elsewhere.

    Don’t complain about Amazon not acknowledging copyright. The fact that they have a Hugo-winners list is wonderful. It means that the Hugo is still important.

    Press releases about Hugo winners (and nominees) do go out. We can’t force people to run the story. The Hugo Marketing committee tries to make sure it happens. Some Worldcons are more co-operative that others. Montreal are being very helpful.

    The next two years will be small because the conventions are outside of the US. It is Reno that worries me. If that ends up a 3,000 person event we’ll be in deep trouble.

  10. Petrea:

    Selling weekend memberships in advance is a good idea, I think, though I’m sure some people will predict doom and massive loss of revenue if we do. And of course we should always try to up-sell.

    As to book dealers, I really don’t know how their profits are generated. But relying on the latest releases from big publishers seems like a poor business plan to me. I don’t go to Worldcon to buy books I could get from Barnes & Noble or Borders – I go there to buy books that even Borderlands doesn’t have.

  11. Many good points, and I will go you one further – the dealer’s room should be free to the public, and locally advertised. Requiring someone to buy a membership of any kind for the honour of buying something he/she could buy elsewhere is ridiculous, and bad marketing. Nobody buys a Worldcon membership solely for the dealer’s room entré, but I’ll bet many people will buy a day pass after having a free run through the dealer’s room. So put a memberhip table in there too.

    I’m all for publishers being brought into the con, but I doubt if the numbers justify it. My impression is fans think by the book, by the author and by the series, not by the publisher. I usually buy three or five books as a result of going to a con, but looking at the last batch, it was 5 books by 4 publishers. YMMV. I don’t blame publishers for focusing on the professional cons, and I think the effort Worldcon needs to make is not to get them to come to the con, but to get them to encourage their authors to do so.

  12. Howeird:

    If publishers don’t think it is worth their time to go to Worldcon then they certainly won’t encourage their authors to go. They will want their authors at the events they attend.

  13. I would gladly buy an ‘exhibits only’ badge for a Worldcon. I’m rarely interested in the programming and spend most of my time in the dealer’s room. I’d also love to see a $25 voting only Hugo membership for the conventions, but that’s out side the purveyance of your post.


  14. If anyone is looking for Amazon Kindle’s display of Hugo Award winning novels, they can find it here, about halfway down the page.

  15. Also, note that the selection displayed on the page rotates, so the featured winners that you see when you click on the Kindle page may not be the same ones that someone else sees when they click on the page.

  16. Several thoughts:
    #8 Tom: that was me – and I’ve no problem working on several cons – and this discussion is beginning to give me some ideas about how/who to contact.

    #13 Cheryl: We’re already seeing that – I’ve talked to several authors who are being encouraged by their pubs to go to the BIG cons and they don’t have the $$ to hit WorldCon if their Pub isn’t involved.

    re: gateshow fans – this one is perhaps the most challenging, but I think you’ve hit on a model that might just work (better than many others I’ve seen anyway) – and there are big regional cons that do the dealers/art show for free (or separate class of badge) – so it’s hardly new ground…

  17. Those are great ideas, Cheryl. If a Worldcon was done like that where I could come in Friday and come home on Monday, I would attend that
    even if it was in Chicago or some other part of the country. Worldcon should also promote their program participants earlier. Maybe, Worldcon can bring more a trade show feel by having someone like Reed Exhibitions handle the selling of Dealers Room and trade days programming.

  18. “I’d also love to see a $25 voting only Hugo membership for the conventions, but that’s out side the purveyance of your post.”

    Indeed. However …

    But I will just mention that we already have 5000 or so folks who have Hugo nominating & voting rights. Only a few hundred exercise those rights.

    So a challenge: How to get folks who are already members to vote?

  19. Tom S:

    Involving professional convention runners like Reed would, I suspect, be an utter disaster. In any case, I doubt they’d get out of bed for a convention that was less than 50,000.


    Maybe the universe of people who attend Worldcon and the universe of people who want to vote in the Hugos doesn’t overlap very much. If we offered a voting membership we could be fairly sure that those who bought it would vote. It would be pretty much free money for Worldcon too.

  20. Cheryl:

    Who is good in fandom in selling to publishers and Dealers? Those are the people who should sell our Dealer rooms and Exhibit Halls. I think (I haven’t been there) that Worldcon has a reputation for being the smartest fans out there.

  21. Tom S:

    I haven’t worked much in those areas so I can’t really say who is good and who isn’t. I did a fair amount publisher liaison in 2005, and I did raise quite a bit of money, but it was also a very painful learning experience.

  22. Cheryl:

    I did not mean to “complain” that Amazon was using the Hugo name. If it sounded that way, I am sorry – not my intention.

    It is Reno that worries me. If that ends up a 3,000 person event we’ll be in deep trouble.

    I think I agree with you on that. Guess once Reno wins, we might want to help the bid with some of these ideas.

    The one problem with “dealers room” pass or other type of names that one might give to such “one item” type pass – that it puts I think to much pressure (for lack of a better term) to provide security at entrance to said items to make sure only people with the right badge gain entrance to what they are allowed to go into.

    With that said, I do like the idea of the “taster” badge that LA Con did, and would like to see other Worldcons try it – but they would really need to locally advertise this type of admission – as those are the only people that would do a “taster” admission.

    I do agree about not getting enough people to vote or nominate for the Hugo.

    I guess one way to maybe increase this would be to give special ribbons to those who vote/nominate, maybe special seating access at the Hugo’s for those people. Yes, I know – this does increase some work and creates some problems, but it is just a thought.

  23. Hi Cheryl

    Speaking as a regular attendee of the anime cons ACEN/Anime Central and Otakon, I endorse day passes. In past years a day pass for any individual Friday or Saturday was 30, Sunday was 20, and a membership was 40. Membership badges were unambiguously different than day passes, which had different colors or something by the day.

    Two points:
    People were okay with paying for access to the dealer’s room precisely because it’s an anime con. Can’t get some of that stuff without ordering from overseas.

    One badge per day is much more manageable than trying to figure out which badge allows which person to attend which activity.

    Also, there’s some interesting commenting over here on Making Light about Worldcon

  24. Quick thought. A voting only membership is a great idea. But it should be an online thing where you pay five or ten dollars via Paypal. You get to nominate and vote, and maybe get a copy of the Hugo handout. I’d sign up every year to nominate/vote if that was available.

  25. @18. Tom S.

    I also think offering weekend only memberships would encourage more people to come. But the committee must look at the attrition rate for full memberships (ie, the number of people who will downgrade from 5 days to only 3) and factor that into their budget.

    @24. don delny

    FYI, Worldcons have had Day memberships for decades

    @25. Jonathan.

    While at first glance your idea _seems_ good, I don’t think it’s workable.

    At 10$ each for a Hugo voting membership, if 75 people sign up, that’s 750$ — about 1 % of the Worldcon budget. Not insignificant, but many committees will question if it’s worth the effort — some may think yes, others no.

    But the real problem is that at current supporting member prices (about 50$), one can “buy” a Hugo nomination for less than 1000$ and get a win for about 9000$ ( — it’s enough to discourage quite a few people from arranging their win. Cutting the price of nominating and voting by 80% also cuts these numbers by the same amount. be able to say you are a Hugo nominee may just be worth 200$ for a new writer, if they’re a real go-getter, investing 1000$ to be able to say they are a Hugo winner may be worth it.

    All I’m saying is that any new idea must be looked at carefully for consequences both good and bad it may have — I’m highlighting the bad ones here because the good ones (more people nominating and voting) have already been covered by your post.

  26. Tom S:

    You are right that people need to look at budgets. Unfortunately Worldcon regulars tend to assume that everyone who would ever want to attend Worldcon already does, and consequently that the only effect of offering cheaper memberships will be to lower income, not to raise the number of people attending. I remember when LA decided to use the trial membership scheme one person predicted that their losses would run into six figures. Sadly they didn’t keep good data on who bought trial memberships, and how many converted them, so we have little information to learn from.

    You are a little bit guilty of that yourself in assuming that a $10 Hugo voting membership would only attract 75 extra voters. Given how high profile the Hugos are, I’m pretty sure that the number would be closer to 750, maybe a lot more. It the number of voters increases significantly then buying a Hugo goes back to being hard again.

    As to the weekend membership, remember that Worldcons do offer day memberships already. Anyone who wants to just fly in for the weekend can do so. So I suspect that many of the people who would downgrade from 5 days to 2 are already doing so.

  27. I used the 75 Hugo voters number at 10$ each because it made a convenient percentage of an average Worldcon budget (1%) and no other reason. (coincidentally, it also happens to be somewhere around 10% of the current number of people who nominate and vote for the Hugos (that percentage may be a bit low) which makes it a fair initial assumption. That said, with no hard data, everything is speculation and I won’t pretend the number I put forth is better or worse than anyone else’s.

    About the weekend membership, I do have access to data from a similar event (not SF, but runs five days,Wed-Sun, offers a membership for Fri evening to Sunday (as well as access to single events “à la carte” — unlike Worldcons they can actually do that)) and they have found it was worth it to offer the weekend membership. One of their concerns was people downgrading, but that has been more than made up for with folks coming form out of town who had never considered it before since “I can make it for all five days” and “it would be silly to travel for a single screening” (it’s a film fest) translated to “I won’t go” for a lot of people.

    I think weekend memberships can be a good idea for Worldcons, but they need to be carefully considered.

  28. Great suggestions!

    Although I doubt that publishers would be actively selling their books if they did have tables in the dealers’ room. I know at ComicCon, they tend to hand out free books that are the first book in a series. Del Rey also does signings at their booth and at a booth of a local independent bookstore that also gets a booth at ComicCon.

    Give fans the first taste for free, if they like it, they’ll pay for more. I know it’s worked with me, and I know Baen uses that philosophy with their Free Library. And some of the authors who have books posted there will tell you that sales for their *entire* backlist went up after they posted one or two books.

  29. just some followups:

    the idea of a a ‘voting rights only’ membership was floated by yours truly on the SMOFs email list several months back and drew a lot of negative criticism.

    Salient points were: either it would draw no interest/not generate enough revenue to be worth the effort OR it would draw in too many votes from people who are not ‘really’ fans and thus would water-down the meaning of the awards.

    Minor critiques: special interests would use it to fix the vote, it would actually reduce attendance at worldcon (why go if you can vote online) and a lot of words devoted to the fact that this is not the way we do things, period.

    There are three issues here that are separable: 1 – increasing attendance at worldcon 2 – increasing participation in Hugo awards voting 3 – increasing revenue for worldcon.

    I do believe that online voting-for-a-fee will raise significant revenue; different models should be floated and I think the fee should be relatively low – no more than $5 – or perhaps $1 per category you wish to vote in (the results of that will tell us which categories are really popular).

    As a transitional method, discounting on-line votes is possible (each one only counts for a half or less of a “real” vote) but, like most half-measures designed to encourage acceptance, I think it does more harm than good.

    I also believe that such a system will serve to increase attendance – if from curiosity alone (what is this thing that gives out the awards I paid to vote for?)

    It is also possible to separate the on-line vote from the “real” Hugos by offering a different award. This falls under the heading of on-line voting really only being for revenue generation.

    In re “publishers want to work with the same folks year after year”; it would be possible for the right people to set up a ‘consultancy’, separate from WSFS and from each convention, that nevertheless becomes the defacto organization that a con utilizes for assistance with bringing publishers on board. It would necessarily have to be folks who most in con-running fandom are familiar with, but fortunately there are many who possess the requisite skill set. This would be a volunteer thing I suspect – good people making their good offices available for the betterment of worldcons – and such would sidestep organizational issues. Of course it would let different cons work with others if they so chose, but the right people with the right connections would get asked most of the time.

  30. Steve:

    I think that raising new ideas on SMOFs is pretty much doomed to failure. They always take the attitude that if anyone can imagine some way in which your idea could lead to disaster then that disaster is bound to happen unless you are stopped.

    On the other hand, I can’t think of anything more awful than the idea that there should be some Hugos that are voted on by “real” fans and some that are voted on by the general scum. It would make a mockery of the idea of the Hugos being a fan award.

    Lots of aspects of Worldcon running are already done by informal groups of people who carry knowledge forward from one year to the next.

  31. There are a number of problems with widening the franchise for the Hugo Awards. The biggest one is how? If you wan’t thousands to take part in the ballot, making any charge for voting will mean you won’t get the thousands, you will get hundreds at best, and in return loose some of those who pay $40+ to support Worldcon. But before all of this there are some questions that have to be answered before you even consider it.

    Are the Hugos broken? Would widening the franchise encourage publishers to attend Worldcon? Would widening the franchise bring any other benefit to Worldcon?

    My answer to both of three would be NO.

    The Hugos are not broken, at least from looking at recent awards the quality of those awarded a Hugo does not seem to have been decreasing over the years and although a fan award the Hugos have never been a popularity award, of which there are many already in existance.

    As for the publishers why would increasing the franchise encourage them to attend Worldcon. Turning the Hugos into another mass popularity poll would if anything take away the limited pull the Hugos give Worldcon with the publishers at the moment. At the moment you think you have a Hugo winning book ot story, you go to Worldcon and promote the author and the title to the limited Hugo electorate. But widen the franchise, so that the vast majority are not at Worldcon and there is no point.

    As for other benfits. Turning the Hugo into a web award (which is what widening the franchise would do) would take away from its association with the Worldcon, rather than promote the Worldcon. I cannot see any benefit to Worldcon from widening the franchise.

    Don’t get me wrong the current supporting membership of $40-$50 plus is ridiculous for what you get, and it should be half this amount. But lowering the supporting rate has nothing to do with getting more people voting for the Hugos. What it is needed for is to build the Worldcon community so that once someone comes to Worldcon the costs of staying part of the community are reasonable,and this will eventually build the numbers who come to Worldcon so long as you excite them with your bid.

    As for the Hugos, yes Worldcon does not make the most of these awards. But we should be promoting the awards so that there value to publishers are increased. But increasing the franchise does not do that, not in a way that is beneficial to Worldcon anyway.

  32. Steve Cooper:

    Clearly you live in a different universe to me, and to all the industry professionals who congratulated me on this post. I don’t think that anything I say could change your mind, because your understanding of the issues and how PR and marketing work seem completely crazy to me.

  33. I presume this last comment was to in reply to my comment, and if not I’m sorry for assuming it was, but can I first say that it in no way disagrees with your original posting, much of which I would fully endorse.

    This was entirey in responce to Steve Davidsons suggestion of having Hugo Only membership for Worldcon, and increasing the franchise for the Hugo Vote artificially.

    Increasing the number of peple who vote in the Hugos is not an end in itself, unless you think that either doing so will improve the selection of the entries chosen to win the Hugo, will in some way help to promote or improve the awarding body (that years Worldcon), or will increase the involvement of the publishers Worldcon needs to attract. I don’t see Hugo Only memberships doing any of these, and specifically given the origin of this thread I don’t see it helping to sell Worldcon to the publishers, certainly not in the way many of your suggestions would.

  34. Steve C:

    publishers sell books.

    Awards help sell books.

    Awards that receive the attention of millions generate more potential sales than awards that receive the attention of hundreds.

    Cheryl, I agree that there are problems with a ‘split’ award – though I don’t think they are insurmountable. This is only a suggestion that was offered to counter the ‘internet fans aren’t really fans’/’internet voting dilutes importance’ objections.

  35. “publishers sell books.

    Awards help sell books.

    Awards that receive the attention of millions generate more potential sales than awards that receive the attention of hundreds.”

    I agree the more people that pay attention to an award, the more books getting the award will sell. But how many peple pay attention to an award has little to do with how many people decide who gets the award. The two key factors here are –

    1) Does the award produce results that people will trust to guide them in their purchase of books. Here the Hugos score reasonably well as I’ve not heard anyone say that even any of the nominees are bad books. People may think there are better books that should be on the ballot and quite frequently disagree as to the winner. But as a guide to good books of the year the Hugo nominees are a reasoable starting point.

    2) That the awards have a high profile, and this is an area where Hugos have been failing. There has been an inconsistancy in the quaulity of the marketing of the Hugos. Some years have done a good job, but for many others its just about sending out a few press releases to the usual suspects when the nominees and winners are announced., and these are usually just lists of awards and names.

    Now gettining “million” to vote in the award probably would raise its profile, but I don’t think we are talking about that, and several hundred or even a few thousand extra voters would not do this. Raising the profile is more about having consistent / good PR for the Hugos, which probably means having a consistent group dedicated to this. Then you might build the numbers who know about and pay attention to the awards.

    But if you want to raise then number of voters there is one easy way to do this, extend the voting period. I see people regularly bemoaning that only 800-1000 of the 5,000+ members of a Worldcon vote for the Hugos. But with people joining later and later the actual electorate for the Hugo vote is much lower than the quoted 5,000, which include a large number of people who turn up on the day, but Hugo voting end 3-4 weeks prior to the convention.

    But the reason for that 3-4 weeks is a case of the tail wagging the dog. It does not take 3-4 weeks to tally the votes, what it does take is 3-4 weeks to produce the physical Hugo Awards in the right numbers for the winners and get them enscribed with the winners names. But go the way of many award ceremonies and on the night have a single physical award that is unenscribed for each award given out, and send the actual awards on to the winners later. Assuming a Hugo awards are on the Sunday night, you could continue voting up to the 6pm on the Saturday and tally the votes on the Sunday. Then you just have the questyon: Do you let day members vote?, as I think they would be barred under the current arrangements.

  36. Steve Cooper:

    I think they would be barred under the current arrangements.

    Without addressing whether your proposal to allow on-site voting for the Hugo Awards is a good thing, I will note that whether to give voting rights to single-day attendees is a decision made by the individual Worldcon committees. Some have done so; some have not. And some have said “no, they can’t vote,” and then the site selection administrator, who apparently didn’t get the memo, allowed the person to vote because s/he had a membership badge. And so on. There’s no consistency on the subject, so you can’t assume that “the current arrangements” would either prohibit or require day attendees have Hugo voting rights.

  37. I’m going to mention again my hobby horse that it would be a good idea to, a the very least, rename the “supporting membership” to “WSFS membership”.

    I agree with the chorus that the price of the membership (whatever it is named) needs to come down or what is received in return for it needs to go up, but I am one of the masses who cannot go to Worldcon given my employment situation unless it happens to be inside a 600 mile circle centered on Denver. Unless I win the lottery, in which case I’ll throw myself into the project of going to every business meeting until the change happens.

  38. Thanks for the update Kevin, the status of Day Members has always been a bit of a grey area. But I guess if a precident has been set with Site Selection it would hold for the Hugo Ballot, doee the same hold for the WSFS business meeting (I guess so as I’ve never seen anyone checking badges).

    As for it being a proposal I woudn’t call it that, and I guess with the precident set for Site Selection it would not need a change in the constitution just a decision taken by one years administering Worldcon to continue taking votes up to the last minute.. I cannot think of anything else that would prohibit it from a technical PoV, but the Hugo Administer would probably need a staff to help input the vote data when voting closes.

    But all I was pointing oit was that if you want to increase the number of people who vote in the Hugos this is probably a better initial route than just opening up to web voting to people with no connection to Worldcon, other than voting for the Hugo

    As for MIshlak I agree fully but I can’t think of any way to add value to the WSFS / supporting membership, so a reduction is probably the only way to go, and we won’t get that whilst the “multiplier” remains in the constitution. But whilst the majority of the business meeting believe it holds down the initial attending rate I don’t see this happening. Hopefully the recent Worldcon examples will pursuade them that all it does is force a higher & higher voting fee. I’ll certainly vote to remove it so long as its not replaced by some equally limiting control that will come bite us in the future in some other way.

  39. Steve:

    [Does] the same hold for the WSFS business meeting (I guess so as I’ve never seen anyone checking badges).

    Technically, the Business Meeting should be enforcing the same voting rights as Site Selection. That is, if day members get to vote on Site Selection, then they get to vote at the Business Meeting, and if not, then not. As you note, nobody has ever made an issue of it at a BM that I’m aware, probably because the number of day members who attend the BM is trivial. It does happen, however, and I seem to recall there being a warning at one BM that, as a courtesy, we allow anyone to attend the BM and observe it, that only full attending members should be voting.

    If this ever became an issue, I expect someone would raise a point of order and the Chair would have to officially recognize the situation and appoint Sergeants-at-Arms to clear ineligible members from the room.

    Believe it or not, it probably would require a constitutional change to permit a Worldcon to implement at-con Hugo voting. That’s because of:

    3.10.1: Final Award voting shall be by balloting in advance of the Worldcon. […]

    Which appears to require that voting only happen pre-con.

  40. Pity about 3.10.1 it would have been nice if it could have been tried out. But I agree with your assessment there is no way this wording would allow you to run voting at the con. Right up to it yes, but not at-con, and that’s what would probably have made the difference to raising the profile of the awards amongst those attending the convention.

    But I don’t think I’ll put in a motion to ammend the constitution as the practicalities need to well thought out first – the biggest one being stopping the same person voting more than once by buying day membership on two days. I know there is little chance of this and even at $45-$50 the supporting membership is a cheaper way to buy multiple votes, but I think you’d have to have an answer for this and all the other possible problems before attempting any change.

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