So you just applied to a show or fair, and got a “Dear Designer” letter from the organizers. Most often you just get a form letter that doesn’t let you know why you didn’t make the cut. Sometimes they’ll let you know if you ask them politely, but most often you’re left wondering. Here’s a few reasons why you might not have been selected.
1) Do your research before applying
What kind of fair or show is this? Does your merchandise fit if there is a theme or special occasion for the event? Seems simple, but lots of folks don’t take this into consideration. If you have one type of wares that would be appropriate, do you have enough of that type to fill a table or booth with merchandise? And can you show this to the organizers? If the answer is no to any of these questions, you probably shouldn’t be applying to that particular show. If it’s yes, make sure you demonstrate this when applying.
2) Your application
Did you fill out the application correctly, and legibly? Seems simple enough, but sometimes if you missed filling out a field, or didn’t provide all the information they requested, they won’t actually bother to look at your wares, and your application will go straight to the circular file.
Seems harsh, but if you’re talking about a large, well established, and/or juried event where competition is fierce and they get three or four times the numbers of applications for the spaces available, something this little can make a huge difference. If possible, try to type in your information on the form, but if not, then treat it like an official document – use blue or black ink, print legibly, and stay on topic. Do not alter the format! If they're looking at a large quantity of applications, this will probably get you rejected out of hand, as it makes reviewing yours more difficult.
And also, even if you’ve been in conversation with the organizers, they’ve told you how they love your stuff and really want you to vend, if you don’t turn in an application, or wait weeks or months to finally send it in, you may not get a space after all, because those organizations have an obligation to make selections and notify prospective vendors in a timely fashion so they have time to prepare, advertise, make travel arrangements, and all those other behind the scenes things that go on in planning an event.
3) Your goods
There’s always that section of the application that says something along the lines of “Describe your wares.” If you’re lucky, you get 5-6 blank lines in which you have to describe what you’ll be selling. I’ve had applications that gave me one line, and it’s impossible to cram in anything that will accurately describe what I sell. That’s where “see attached” or “see enclosed photos” is good. Remember the old adage – a picture is worth 1000 words.
I have a simple word document into which I’ve inserted pictures, with titles describing what line or style the pictures represent for my wares, that I include if I’ve never applied to an event before. If I’m reapplying, I’ll include a sheet that shows new styles I’ve started doing since the last time I showed at the event. This is especially important if your website (like mine!) isn’t very detailed. If all the information I included on my application was a link to my site , I probably wouldn’t get into many events.
While you’re at it, including pictures of your booth or table from a previous event is a good idea too. Showing them pictures of your setup gives you credibility, lets them know you do have the stock to fill a table for a day or a booth for a weekend, and puts you in a more professional light. If this is your first event, doing a test run setup on your dining room table or setting up your canopy and tables in the back yard is a good idea, just so you can figure out what works and what doesn’t. And while you’re at it, grab the camera and snap a few shots! As a jewelry seller, I’m in an extremely saturated field, but I’ve been told by organizers that I was selected over similar applicants on the strength of my display setup.
4) Your professionalism
If you are rejected, for whatever reason, badmouthing the event and the organizers will make it likely that you may not be accepted if you do apply for their future events.
photo by Emma Jones - check out her wonderful blog here.
It may have been something as simple as their having had too many applicants that did the same types of wares. They picked the first 10 they received and you were #11 to get your application in. Maybe you found out about the event too late and they’d already filled all their spaces. Or it could be that if you’d included a little more information or improved your photos or tweaked your display, they would have picked you, and if you improved your application you’d get accepted the next year. But if you publicly disparage them for not picking you, you stand a good chance of blacklisting yourself there, and maybe even for other events in your area.
It should also be noted that publicly announcing "I've applied to such-and-such show. Cross your fingers for me that I get in!" is good, but saying "I'm vending at such-and-such show" before you've been notified that you have been accepted? Not so good.
Now go forth and apply, and good luck to you!