Friday, October 29, 2010

Let's Talk About Rejection, Baby (updated)

Since Handmade Holiday notifications will be going out by Nov. 1st, I wanted to revisit an old post from April of this year on the subject of dealing with craft show rejection. I've updated it to deal specifically with this year's Handmade Holiday.

It's happened to all of us: you apply to a show absolutely sure you will get in and wait excitedly for your acceptance email and then, KAH-KLUNK, a wait-list or rejection email lands in your inbox! OMG WTF, right? Before you fire off a Nasty-gram to the show organizers, take a deep breath, possibly have a strong drink, and read on.

Let's look at all the reasons why this could have happened & then talk about how to deal with rejection constructively and to prevent it in the future!

Some Causes of Rejection:

1. Your application photos did not reflect your true awesome-ness.

This is the number one biggest reason why an applicant gets rejected. I am often shocked at how different some crafters' work is in person from the application photos they will send in. I was at a local store last spring and saw the work of someone who applied to one of our shows in the past and didn't make it in. I was wandering around wailing "this is SO adorable!!" If her pictures had conveyed this level of adorable-ness, I would have swooned right there in the jury meeting & she would probably would have been accepted after I had regained consciousness.

As an applicant you have to remember that all a show jury has to go on are the images you send them. You have to pimp your craft. You have to work it. You have to bring the awesome.

2. There were a lot of awesome applicants in your category.

Jewelry people, you know the pain of this more than anybody, but it applies to everybody. The fact is, we can't have a show that's too heavy on one category because it's a) boring for shoppers and b) not fair to the vendors in that category because they won't make money. So if we get a lot of applicants in in any one category we have to make really hard decisions. Even high-quality, regular vendors can fall victim to the dreaded category over-crowding.

This year, for every available spot there were 3 applicants. That means that for every "yes" there were 2 "no"s.

There's not a lot you can do about this one, other than make sure your application shows a jury why they should pick you instead of someone who makes similar work and is similarly awesome.

So if you were a yes for Handmade Holiday, you are a lucky, lucky dog. And if you are on the wait-list this year, you are also a pretty lucky dog, because there aren't a lot of you & we always end up pulling some vendors from our wait list when someone inevitably cancels or can't make it.

3. You've sent the same application photos you always do.

Even if you've done a show before, never ever assume that means you will always get in!

In fact, as you do a show over & over, it can sometimes become hard to keep the show jury excited about your work, unless you are constantly creating and evolving. Think of a show jury as a boyfriend with a wandering eye: you have to keep them interested.

I learned this the hard way last year when I got rejected from my most favorite show that I have done many, many times. Looking back, I realize that I totally phoned in my application. And looking at that show's vendor list, I also saw that some pretty cool artists had beat me out for that spot. I won't make that mistake again this year!

Always make your application sparkle, even if you are a returning vendor. Don't rest on your laurels: you still have to work it! You still have to bring the awesome, because you never know who else might have applied in your category who might really appeal to the show jury.

4. Your work hasn't changed since last year.

This is also a biggie. Show organizers want their shows to be fresh and exciting for shoppers and that means the vendors have to have fresh and exciting product! Now, obviously, I don't mean you should totally re-invent yourself every year just to get into shows, but you should always be evolving and offering new designs.

5. The scope of the show.

Because we've moved the show to Plant Zero, have a whole slew of spots, and aren't doing a Friday evening preview, we opened Handmade Holiday up to vendors from all over. While we still work to include a balanced mix of local and out-of-town vendors, it does mean a rough n' tough playing field. We have had applicants from as far away as Seattle, NYC, Detroit and Boston. (I know right? Wowsers!)

6. The aesthetic of the show.

We put on an indie show that attracts a younger, artsy (dare I say hipster?) audience. This means we are looking for high-quality but also out-of-the-ordinary, slightly wacky, even possibly weird items. A tall order, I know. Anyway, every year we get applications from crafters whose work is well-made and very lovely, but is definitely more suited to a different type of show. Although we recognize that their work is great, we usually don't put them in our show, because it's not the look we are going for.

Now, how do you deal with rejection?

Well, I personally was rejected from no less than 6 shows this past year (one of which I finally made it into this spring, yay!) and here are some things I did:

1. I ate of lot of chocolate and whined to my husband.

It's ok to feel bad! Rejection ain't fun. I know. Ice cream works for this too. And listening to whining should be added to marriage vows, for real. Whatta trooper.

2. I got back to work and designed some new stuff.

I took my sadly empty-of-craft-shows schedule as an opportunity to work on things I had been thinking about but never had the time to do. It was really rewarding & hopefully it will help me get into more shows in the future.

3. I totally redesigned my website to better reflect my work.

Nobody knows that you've made a bunch of new stuff unless you put it out there. Don't hide your awesome!

Here are some things I did NOT do:

1. Pester, harass or send a Nastygram to any of the show organizers.

Nastygram (nah ste grahm) noun: An email from a unhappy rejected applicant that usually goes along the lines of "I hope you know I have gotten into bigger/better/cooler shows than yours and my work sells like hotcakes there. You are an idiot, your dog is an idiot and you smell like feet."

This is the number one way to never ever get into that show again. Don't do it. It's reeeeaally tempting, I know, when you're feeling shafted, but seriously don't do it. Eat the chocolate. Whine to your Significant Other. Make some new stuff.

Also: we all really, really wanna know why we didn't get in. Oh, how I have obsessed about that! BUT. Please remember that show organizers are really busy and often, as in our case, volunteers. We do this for free in addition to our businesses, day jobs, and family obligations. This means, as much as we want everyone to be successful and have great show applications, we just don't have the resources to counsel 130 vendors about their applications. (That's why we write posts like this, and create Photo & Website guides for our applicants.)

2. Confuse "wait-list" with "rejected."

People, there is a big difference. Wait-List means the show organizers like, possibly love, your work, but other factors (like the number of spaces, who else applied in your category, etc) meant you just didn't make the first round draft pick. Often, it is only the lack of 1 or 2 votes that kicks someone out of "accepted" and into "wait-list." If you get wait-listed for a show, keep your fingers crossed 'cause you might get in after all. And if you don't, re-tool your application and apply the next year.

3. Take it personally.
I know it feels personal, but it really isn't. It's all about what items appealed to the show jury at the time they juried the show and how those items shook down against competing items in the same category. Remember that the members on a show jury can change from year to year, and the aesthetic of the show may shift accordingly.

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