Thursday, February 5, 2015

On events, room blocks and why promoters shouldnt pay for you to make money.

Dear Readers, Authors and industry,

A lot of stuff has been recently thrown around about events, staying at event hotels, pricing of events, etc… Well I figured it was about time for some real talk on hotels, and events, and how things all add up.

Basically, I wanna talk about staying at the hotel vs. staying somewhere else.

Now, most events have the same problems I do, with filling the room blocks, and this is not a cool situation. See room blocks ensure the events are CHEAPER on the whole for the event people to put on, and you as well. Let me break some stuff down for you, and let’s use TNEE for an example.

As authors, TNEE charges 200$ in registration. That price includes 2 people, the table and food. Rooms are 149-169 a night respectively right? Ok so let’s do some math.
200+510 (respective, at the high end of the event pricing for the room for three nights)= 710$. + Hotel taxes and fees, let’s call it 750$

750 is not a bad price right? We didn’t think so. Considering the rooms at the hotel are normally 219-290 a night.

Ok so that’s three nights towards the room block total. Which is good, as the room block is what is actually keeping the price DOWN.

With the room block, and us filling it to 80%, we get our meeting space free. Which is a godsend. Because if we didn’t, that price would be higher than 750$.

How much higher? Ok let’s see…

Our space for the event this year was: A full ballroom, a mezzanine area, three meeting rooms and a registration area. The DAILY price for these function space total was 30,000$. A DAY. 30k a day for all this space.  Three days of that is 90k. Just for meeting space. So to ensure we could do this event, we would have to figure that number into registration, on TOP of the 200 (which pays for food and booze for 2 people, and table usage.) at 200 authors (which is the minimum) each author would then be charged an extra 450$. AND THEN THEY WOULD HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF THEIR ROOM.

And since there’s no room block, prices would be normal hotel prices, 219-290 a night. So let’s go the MID LEVEL for this ok?
3 rooms at the mid price of about 245$ a night =735$. That doesn’t count Fees and taxes, so let’s call it a total of 770$

770$ for three days for a room.

Add the 650$ for the Registration and meeting space fee PER AUTHOR

Authors would be paying $1420 EACH.

While it’s cheaper for readers, it would still end up around 770$ for readers, because we don’t charge for anything  but the room.

Ok… So let’s talk about AAD 2015…

We have ALL the space in the hotel for this event. This is a huge deal, and the full price tag on ALL the space PER DAY is 50k. We have the space for 4 days. That’s 200k in SPACE alone.

Let’s first talk Authors. Ok? And let’s talk single occupancy, to keep the numbers true.

Authors 300$ Registration. Rooms are 149 a night, and most authors are there a minimum of 4 nights.
So 4 nights with taxes and fees is looking like 615$ for a single. + 300$ for registration, and the 250$ table sponsorship for the ball. Grand total for just being there, no travel, or promo: $1165.

READERS, 275$ registration, and a 615 single occupancy room Grand total: $890

This is with the room block.

Now, without the room block, we would have to pay the 50k a day space fee, and rooms on the average for the time are 198-250 a night.


50k at 4 days is 200k.
At 600 attendees that is an extra 334$ PER PERSON for the event.

Add in the lets say 220 a night room for 4 nights, again keeping it mid-priced: $880 in rooms plus taxes and fees, say 920$

So authors would be up to: $ 1804 Just to attend the event , not including travel, extras and promo
 And readers would be at: $1529, Just to attend, not including travel.  

Numbers are insane right? And my events are on the LOW END of the large event spectrum prices.

This is why room blocks need to be filled. Without the attendees staying at the host hotel, the event itself has to pay the difference. And for an event like ours, which is NON PROFIT we don’t have the revenue to do that.

Charlotte AAD cost me $8000 outta pocket, including every $ I made at the signing, and that doesn’t count the over 200k starwoods points I cashed in to make it that low.

Hyatt TNEE I still owe $66,320.45. AFTER I spent 1500$ of my own money to make up the food and beverage difference. Because of this I’m being forced to do a secondary event that the hotel is demanding a minimum of 2x’s the amount owes for “loss of future revenue”.

So we come to a cross roads. Do promoters let people stay at different hotels and add the regular fees or do we make staying at event hotels mandatory? At this point, I’m of the mind to make it completely mandatory, or charge the full amount for anyone that doesn’t want to stay, because I’m personally the one getting stuck with the fees and the charges when all I’m trying to do is make it a cheaper event for YOU. It isn’t fair that all the work is done for the event, and we aren’t paid for it, and we still have to pay outta pocket for people to be able to have a good time and successful event. Right?

Staying at the hotel is the cheaper option. And I understand that people are under money constraints. Hell I am. But why should *I* have to pay your way for you to attend an event because you don’t or can’t stay at the hotel? How is it fair to the promoter, who is largely working for peanuts, and most of us working for nothing at all, except the grief we get, to pay extra for you so you can enjoy and benefit from an event?

No, it’s not a popular way to see it, but it IS the truth. So many of us do this because we love it, but that doesn’t give others the right to essentially walk all over us because they found a cheaper rate. I’m going to be super unpopular in saying this but, if you can’t afford it, maybe you shouldn’t do it, because we can’t afford to keep paying for you.

So please think on this from now on when you are signing up for events. Money is a HUGE factor, not only for you, but for the people planning these events. There is no reason we should go into bankruptcy for trying to make events fair and cost effective for all. I would hate to stop doing something I love because people have become selfish and cannot see the forest for the trees.


Tracy Tappan said...

Wow, glad I'm not in charge. Sounds complicated, Stella. Frankly, I don't see why someone WOULDN'T want to stay in the block of rooms. Half the fun is being around other colleagues.

Stella Price said...

YOu would think right? I mean If I go to an event, I stay at the host hotel. but in the event that the block is sold out, then I stay another place. But knowing how shitty it is for event promoters, I do my part, even when a room rate is over 160. because its supporting the person that is putting everything on the line for you and the opportunities for your career.

Dolly said...

Thanks for cluing everyone in Stella. I had talked to another event
co-ordinator and when she told me exactly what you just said, I was dumbfounded. So many attendees don't know all the info on the prices and how the discounts work for everyone!!
It really is eye opening for the readers who more or less show up and have a great time!!
Thanks for all you do!!

Anonymous said...

That's very informative and thank you for sharing. Alas, however, when I attempted to be an author at an AAD convention, willing to pay whatever was asked, I was told I wasn't well-known enough or no one knew me and was dismissed rather rudely.

So, some of us are willing to pay, as I was, but were excluded. For that reason I won't ever attend one of your events regardless of how "well-known" I may become. Hence, not putting my name here--what would be the point?

Unknown said...

Thanx so much for the breakdown. I can't believe how incredibly expensive it is for you. It's amazing to see how it all really works behind the scenes with the money and blocks of rooms and stuff.
That said, I'm so sorry you have to deal with all that. I can't imagine all that goes into putting on an event like these!

Stella Price said...

Hi Anon,

Never ONCE have we EVER EVER turned someone away from AAD for not being well known enough. If you look at the roster for AAD, there are VERY FEW well known authors on the list, and many that are now became so in the years they attended, through their books and their reader-side manner. Hell I know Cat Johnson and Eliza Gayle and Jenny Trout have been coming since the beginning and they only recently got big through their publishing efforts.

AAD has a CAP for authors, and while you might think that "not being well known" is why you were turned away it isnt. In order for AAD to work, we have to maintain perimeters, so the end result is the same for the readers. that THEY outnumber the authors, and the focus is on them. this has never changed.

I'm sorry if you feel this way, and had you just came to me with your concerns and such, we could have discussed this as professionals, and I could have addressed your concerns and hopefully figured things out to ensure you not think badly of the event.

And that offer is still open now. Regardless of what you might think, I'm not an asshole trying to make an elitist event, as MANY small to mid-level authors will tell you. AAD has NEVER been about the big guy, but the authors the readers can connect to. Contact me, no issue, and we can address this.

I invite you to contact me. Not to be yelled at, because I rarely do that, but because i don't like hearing this, because its obviously a sore spot.

Terri said...

I enjoy staying at the hotel but it may not be an option for some. Maybe consider a different charge for local attendees? Not for people looking for cheaper rooms but for people who are local and may not be able to attend otherwise.

Aria Grace said...

I had no idea staying at the host hotel was such an important component of attending an event. I do it because it's usually the cheapest and always the most convenient option...but my guess is most people don't know "it matters" at all. If it truly does matter, it should be mandatory. That way no one 'accidentally' screws over the promoter when they just thought they were saving a few bucks. Also, I have friends in Vegas that I could stay with and if I was on a super tight budget, I probably would...but not if I knew it was going to cost the promoter in the end. Some simple education would probably go a long way to not getting stiffed at the end. ;-)

Stella Price said...

Exactly Aria, which is why I posted this. I mean on the majority people are decent and will stay at the hotel, and that is a great thing. It wasnt till 2014 that I had to even MENTION it. the years before doing aad and other events it wasnt even an issue. Now, people do need to know how it effects us, and Im glad that on the whole the post has been met with support.

Barbara Burdette said...

I would rather stay at the hotel where the event is taking place because if not you are going to pay more and you are not being fair to the one who is trying to help you. Stella I hope things get better and I know it is expensive when you put on a event. You do a great job I just wanted to let you know.

Michelle L said...

Thank you for explaining this, I can see where it will become perfectly reasonable to make the hotel part of the registration fee, just to hold down costs overall.

For those of us considering attending, part of the fun of staying on site would be inclusion or notification of the goings we aren't sitting around in our rooms wondering what is happening. This is especially important as there may be physical challenges to running here and there in the hotel. So, is there going to be some sort of detailed itinerary or way to keep everyone connected on site? This might be a dumb question, my apologies in advance if it is!