BayCon, my relationship over the years with you has been mostly, well...love. You were my first BIG con. You were the con that I loved going to, even when you were at the DoubleTree. The parties were always awesome. Your Dealer's Room had neat stuff. And, you were awesome to go to, with the ladies in their beautiful costumes...
But, now? Last year, it almost wasn't worth it except for "I've got friends there". In the middle of the 2012 movie season, where the biggest run of science fiction and comic book movies (The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus, etc, etc), there was NOTHING there advertising or showing off for it. Most of the panels were local fans doing...interesting things, yes, but still. And, let's not talk about the Dealer's Room. It was almost entirely costuming, with maybe a few other things in corners.
Mind you, it was useful for finding things like accessories for models when I shoot...but, still!
And, there is the fact that you're hemmoraging attendees, to FanimeCon especially. And, with Fanime starting their own steampunk con, there will be even fewer attendees.
So, what can you do about it? I'm not sure about this year-probably not enough time to get in on probably the biggest run of sci-fi movies in the last five years (let's see... Iron Man 3, Aftershock, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Pacific Rim, Man Of Steel, The Wolverine, Elysium...and I'm just skimming the surface here!). But, there's 2014...and my suggestions-
1)Bite the bullet. You can't survive as a "literary science fiction convention" in a time with so many choices. Accept that you have to expand and go "we're for science fiction and fantasy, any format". Get guests from things like the upcoming movies for the season (yea, you might not get the director of the new X-Men movie in 2014, but you could get the costumer....).
2)Better management of the dealer's room. I've heard from some people that MIGHT have been vendors that they can't get in because the dealer's room is already full. Of costumer stuff. Bigger dealer's room? A "wait list" that fills certain categories that if you get enough people you get a bigger dealer's room?
3)Better panels. Some were good, some were bad, some need MUCH better moderation. There's a lot of resources out there for panel moderation- a moderator boot camp, perhaps? Anybody that wants to be panel moderator has to attend?
4)Bury the hatchet with KublaCon and FanimeCon. And, work out this idea which I call a "Hopper Pass". The three cons move to a location that is relatively close to each other (there are two con-ready hotels in Downtown San Jose near the Convention Center...hell, KublaCon could use the Hilton San Jose and Kubla Con can use the Fairmont San Jose), and they work through a neutral third party vendor that issues a "Hopper Pass". You order the pass through one of the con's websites-let's say Baycon-at the end of the 2013 con for $120. BayCon gets $50, Fanime and KublaCon get $25 each, and the third party vendor gets $20. If you were to order it through Fanime or KublaCon, the money would be distributed that way. As you get closer to the con season the prices go up, and you can't get them at the door. You'd have to get tickets for all two (or all three!) to attend for the cost you'd have paid earlier for two.
So, what does the "hopper pass" give you?
- It comes on a VERY nice 4x5" laminated plastic card that has custom art based upon the con you ordered it form. The BayCon one for 2013 (if it was this year) would have art drawn by the artist GOA this year, Cliff Nelson. There's one for kids and one for adults (with a special edged banner one for 18-20 adults).
- You get to go to all three cons. No waiting, no reg lines. Show your pass, go in.
- Priority seating for all panels and events. The first two rows are reserved until the panel and events start.
- Priority registration and table assignment for any things like "breakfast with the guests".
- A special, "Hopper Pass"-only program guide.
It's time to really get serious about this. There's opportunities here...and they should be taken.