Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I'm Going To BEA 2012 and The Book Bloggers Conference! Wait, No I'm Not. I Didn't Get Approved!...Wait a sec, maybe I am? Oh, I Don't Fucking Know...

UPDATE:  Well, looks like everything has worked out.  After some back and forth, my registration and press pass has been approved and I am all set for BEA and the Book Bloggers Conference.  I still haven't decided yet what I'll do in regards to the Book Blog UNCON.  I would like to attend both events but  I'm going to wait until they get a little closer before I decide. Right now, I am still leaning towards splitting the day between the two.  But I am happy that I have the choice...    

So, back in early February the Book Bloggers Convention was bought by Reed Exhibitions, the organizers of BEA.  Around that time, I came up for air from rehearsal hell and decided I'd better get registered so I could take advantage of the early bird pricing.  (Which was $15 more than last years regular price, go figure.)

Registering was an ordeal, convoluted and difficult to understand.  Despite a posting on The Bean (the official blog of BEA), stating that bloggers could register for $135 (see this post: Book Bloggers Convention at BEA and this one:Clearing up the BEA Bloggers Conference Issues (I hope)), the only way to register and get that price was to do so as editorial media.  Which meant I would have to register as a member of the press.  The other option would be to register as non-editorial media but then the price went up to $231.  A steep hike from last year as well as different from what Steve Rosato had previously stated:
Bloggers pay a flat early bird rate of $135.00 that includes their pass for BEA - end of story for our blogging friends (stop reading now if you are blogger).    
I don't consider myself press but bloggers are supposed to pay a flat rate of $135 and I could not figure out how to register and get that price.  Utterly confused, I decided to give a call to customer service.  I called twice and spoke with two different people.  Not only were both unaware of the $135 rate for bloggers but when I mentioned that it had been posted on The Bean, both customer reps asked, "What's that?"  
This did not inspire confidence.

So, on February 7, I registered as editorial media and then kept my fingers crossed that I would get approved.  It had been stated that if not approved for the press pass, I would be notified within two weeks.  Considering how unorganized I had found the process to be, I figured it might take 3 to 4 weeks to know for sure.  When I got my credit card bill and saw the BEA charge, I was giddy.  I was approved!  They wouldn't charge me if I hadn't been approved, right?  I paid the bill and began making plans to attend not only the blogger conference  but also some BEA publisher industry events that I began getting invited to.

Flash forward two months.  On April 5th, almost two months to the day I registered, I received an email from Roger Bilheimer, the BEA Public Relations Director, letting me know that I do not meet the standards required to qualify for a press pass.  Nothing was said at all about my registration for the bloggers conference, only that I did not qualify for a BEA press pass.  So, what did this mean?  Was I still able to attend the blogger conference?  Would I have to re-register?  Was I going to have to fork over more money to attend?  What happened to the two week notification?  What the hell was going on?

So.  I called again and spoke with yet another customer rep.  Who told me that yes, I would have to pay an additional $96 if I still wanted to attend the conference since I did not qualify for the press pass.   There is no way I was about to do that.  $231 for a conference that last year only cost $120?  Are you kidding me?!  I've seen the proposed schedule for this years conference (you can see it here).  There is no way I am going to pay that much money for something that so far is so very underwhelming.  There is no way I am going to pay that much money to an organization that I have serious doubts about considering what a clusterfuck this whole process has been.    According to the customer service rep, I could either pay the additional fee or they would de-register me and refund my money.  So I told him to cancel my registration; I would not be attending this year.

Then I sent a reply to Roger Bilheimer's email.  Here's the body of it.  

While I understood from your email that I have been denied a press pass to BEA, I did not understand what that meant in regards to my registration for the BEA Bloggers Conference.   It would have been helpful to have had this information included in your email.   

I also do not understand why my credit card was charged $135 on February 8, 2012, only to receive an email two months later saying that my registration had not been approved.  According to my credit card company, I have not been issued a refund and, quite frankly, I am shocked that I was charged in the first place when my approval was in doubt.  In my experience, reputable businesses do not charge a credit card account unless the requested service has been agreed upon.

And, I am also confused as to why I have been receiving emails from publishers inviting me to special BEA promotional events.  I can only surmise that my contact information was passed along by BEA, which makes me ask why?  If I am not approved, why is BEA giving out my info?  

My primary reason for attending BEA was to go to the Bloggers Conference.  However, the process of registering has been convoluted, filled with unclear information, disorganized and has left me with little confidence in the management of BEA.  I spoke with a phone rep this morning to further clarify the situation and, subsequently, have cancelled my registration for the conference.  Please know that this is not because I am in a snit over being denied a press pass.  It is because, and I must be blunt here, I don't believe that Reed Exhibitions knows what they are doing when it comes to the Bloggers Conference.  I am underwhelmed by the schedule of events and $231 for non-editorial media is too high a price for me to pay on the chance that the conference may end up being of some value.  

I suggest that in the future, Reed Exhibitions gets all their ducks in a row instead of expecting the consumer to be the one to scramble around for information.  It is poor business to do otherwise and leaves little confidence in your organization.
I then received an email from Maggie Donovan, a Conference Coordinator with BEA, asking for further details. I replied and today received an email from her in which she quotes a response from the Event Director regarding the initial rejection email:
Thank you for being patient and understanding.  We are genuinely sorry for the message we sent, acknowledging it was executed poorly.  Attempting to address the mistakes we made in this situation would waste more of your precious time.   I do want to share our only intent was to qualify the working media represented at BEA in a uniform fashion.  Bloggers are working media but there are different criteria in evaluating bloggers just as there are between print media and television or radio.  It is a lesson well learned for the BEA team.  You will retain your status as a registered member of the press.  You do not have to do anything.  Your confirmation number remains valid.  We are tracking all the people that we had messaged to insure no one will encounter any problems at BEA.  I am not sure if you were impacted by the question surrounding the BEA Bloggers Conference and access to BEA.  Anyone participating in the BEA Bloggers Conference (BBC), what ever your status – that always included a full access pass to BEA.  For clarification purposes – anyone who is a book blogger can register for the $135.00 fee (which includes BEA access).  It is open to non-bloggers too as it has been the last 2 years, we had some booksellers, non-editorial media or industry people that wanted to attend.  Those people would pay their normal rate for attending BEA + fee of $72.00 to get into the BBC.  For full disclosure – I am using this same response to address the many people affected so we can reply as quickly as possible.  
Ms. Donovan also let me know that she would work with customer service to restore my registration at the original price if I would still like to attend.  Now, despite having cancelled my registration on Friday, according to my account page on the BEA website, I am still registered.  I also spoke with another customer rep this morning who also told me I am still registered.  And I have not received a refund according to me credit card company so, I guess my cancellation never went through.

I have asked Ms. Donovan to verify that my registration is still intact.  We'll see what happens.

So, I may be going to the Book Bloggers Conference.  I may not.  I'm not sure what is going on.  But after last week's craziness, I went ahead and registered for the Book Blog UNCON.  Which sounds like it could be something really special and of more use to me as a blogger.

I found BBC and BEA invaluable last year and I can't seem to let go of the hope that this year will also be of use to me as a blogger.  The bullshit I've encountered this year has set off numerous warning bells... but there is still that little pebble of hope that it will all be worthwhile.  If I do get in to BBC, I have a feeling I will end up splitting the day between it and BBU.

Or not.  Oh, I don't know.  This whole thing is just maddening.

I'll keep you posted.


  1. I decided not to go to the bloggers convention this year as the BEA pass was not included and it seemed a bit iffy all 'round.

  2. I hear ya.
    I really wanted to attend this year but the whole registration process has been filled with warning signs. Despite that, I registered anyway. However, I am skeptical that it will end up being worth it. I am more and more leaning towards just going to the Book Blog UNCON for the day and attending BEA (when work allows, that is.)