biz chat: how to deal with holiday show rejection

Holiday show rejection is the worst, it’s the busiest shopping season of the year, and we all want to be out there as much as possible. As most of the show letters have gone out now, and you may have been rejected from some, here are some tips on what to and what not to do now.
*will denote personal experience notes

how to deal with holiday art and craft show rejection

First, and most importantly, DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY.
I know it stings, you may want to cry, and you may see someone get in that you think you’re better than, and that’s okay. We can all feel those things, just don’t stay in that negative space for long, and only share those feelings with your friends and family, not in an public forum. You don’t want negative posts to get back to show organizers. Don’t email show organizers in a defensive manner, either. Stay professional, review your applications, and work on improving it. You don’t want to hurt your chances of being accepted in the future, or getting a bad reputation.

*I know I said “don’t take it personally”, but sometimes you could not get in because a show organizer is close friends with someone, and they don’t want them to have any competition. This happened to a friend of mine. The show did tell her that she could bring everything else she sold, just not one particular item that competed with their friend. Is that fair? No, but if you run a show, you might do the same thing for your friend. I would continue to apply for that show, because you never know if that person is going to apply.

Hit them with your best shot.
The number one thing that keeps people from getting into a show is bad photos. I’ve seen people using bad photos in their shop, social media, and of course their applications, and I cannot understand how they don’t know they have bad photos. If you were rejected, this is the first thing you need to review. Some juries only look at photos and know nothing about you, so if your photos are bad, or there is a lot in the photo causing distraction from the piece you want reviewed, you might not make the cut. This is the most frustrating reason to see people get cut over. It wasn’t that your work or quality was poor, it was that your photos didn’t do your work justice. If you invest in nothing else, invest in good photos.

*When I was on the ACR jury I scored someone low because the products didn’t look great. Thankfully, aside from scoring we would discuss. Two people on the jury owned work from that person, and they said the photos were terrible, but the products were solid. If we only went by scores, that person would not have made the cut.

Never expect it.
When you’ve been accepted to a show many times, you may expect you’ll always be in. When I give talks on shows, this is something I always stress. You need to give every application your all, treat each one like it’s the first time you’re applying to the show. Give them the respect of showing your best work. Just because the jury loved you one year, that doesn’t mean the jury will love you the next.

*Often this is a numbers game. You could have had a great score overall, but your category may have been super competitive. Imagine your category had many people scoring 100’s, and you scored an 85. An 85 is a respectable grade, but if your category is packed (jewelry makers know this all too well), you might not pass. Meanwhile, if you had that same score in a less competitive category, you could have been at the top.

Show growth.
Show organizers want to keep their show fresh and exciting, giving shoppers something new to look forward to. If you keep applying with the same photos, and show no growth, it will lessen your chances of getting in. If you make candles, you can simply add a new scent. Make sure you change your booth set up every year, too. Remember there are new people coming on the scene all the time, and if they make something similar to you, but also have a little extra, they can edge you out.

*Shows can get three times the applicants of spaces available. Some shows have a percentage of new artists they want to accept each year.

Find your place.
Once the show roster is up, look at who got in, does your work fit? Sometimes you could be applying to a show that is targeting a market you’re not right for. That doesn’t mean your work isn’t “good enough”, it just means it’s not the place for you. Maybe the demographics of the audience cannot afford your work, these are things some shows consider.

*When I was on the ACR jury we turned someone down because they were too fine art for the show, not because the work wasn’t amazing, but we knew they wouldn’t get the sales they would expect. We did let them know the reason, but other shows might not take the time to let someone know that.

Don’t ignore being wait listed.
I’ve seen people get called from the wait list the day of the show! You never know what could happen. You may have missed the cut by 1 point, you don’t know how the decision was made, treat being on the wait list in a positive light.

*People can drop from a show because they applied to two shows the same weekend, and prefer another one. They can drop because they didn’t get the space they wanted. I dropped a show I love one week before because I had pneumonia and was way too sick to drive to LA.

Face the situation.
If you’re getting rejected more than normal, look at any changes you’ve made to you offerings. If you’ve never been accepted to a particular show, try emailing them in the off season (generally January) to see if they can offer you some feedback. Depending on how the decisions are made they might not be able to, but it doesn’t hurt to graciously ask for more information. Walk the show, look at any competitors of yours that made it in. Are their price points lower or higher? Do they have a wider or more targeted range of offerings? Do your sleuthing!

Don’t give up.
Keep in mind that juries can change from year to year, maybe a strong competitor of yours won’t apply the next year. As long as you keep improving your work, have bright, clean photos, and are applying to a show that your work fits within, there’s always a shot.

Now that you’ve gone through the 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance)…

Let’s talk about how to make up that show income:

Have your online shop full and optimized (SEO and tag wise).
Pitch to blogs.
Advertise on sites/blogs (check out Passionfruit for some leads).
Get your line sheets in order to send out.
Pitch to stores (keep your pitches extremely short).
It’s pretty late, but see if you can get in any gift guides.
Try to get in show swag bags.
Work on your social media game.
Join an Etsy group or a Treasury group, any kind of group that does a great job of promoting one another.
Suck up your pride, and apply/sign up for those smaller shows you weren’t even thinking about before. This is the time of year we need to be out in full force to get those sales. Every show is a learning opportunity, and a chance to reach more people.
I’m one of those people that believes everything happens for a reason. Maybe the show wouldn’t have been the place for you (wasting your time), maybe you needed a reality check to humble you, maybe you’re going to have such a busy season, you’ll need the break. Rejection hurts (we’ve all been there), but it’s up to you to move past it, take it as a learning experience, and keep pushing forward.

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