Worldcon Bidding Process

The Worldcon bidding process can take up to six or more years, though is it frequently as short as a single year. It is governed by the rules set out in the WSFS constitution and administered by the various Worldcon committees and the WSFS business meeting. The steps, in order:

  • Many Worldcon bids start out by announcing that they are thinking about bidding in some future year. This is usually done in hopes of scaring potential competition to declaring that they are interested in some other, empty year. The theory is that the strong bids will sort themselves out to avoid competition. When this happens — it's far from universal — it happens typically 4-6 years before the site selection vote.
  • Because of the exclusion zone, which sites will actually be eligible in a particular year can not be known for certain until the location of the administering committee is known, which happens two years before the site selection vote. Consequently, many bid committees do not formally declare their candidacy until two years before the site selection vote, but if the administering committee for a particular year is unopposed, some committees will formally announce earlier.
  • The formal announcement of a Worldcon bid is strictly a matter of publicity. There is no formal organization which controls bidding, and no requirement that there ever be a formal announcement. Nevertheless, a formal kickoff (usually either at Worldcon or at the bid's home regional is normal practice.
  • Once a bid is formally announced, it begins a heavier schedule of bid parties and bid tables, sending bid committee members to major conventions, and especially to Worldcon. This can be an expensive and exhausting process for a small bid committee, and recruitment of a support infrastructure (Friends of the bid) is essential.
  • During this same bidding process, members of the bid committee usually make a point of volunteering widely to help at Worldcon and at regionals to show that they understand the volunteer nature of sf cons, that they are willing to help others, and, especially, to show that their members (especially the presumptive chairman) is competent and hard-working.
  • The culmination (though not the end) of the bidding process is at the Worldcon at year before the vote and at the Worldcon at which the site selection vote will be held. Big bid parties are held and the bid committee needs to be in evidence and looking good.
  • It is not uncommon for a bid to wait until the last year before declaring, often at the Worldcon the year before the site selection vote is to be held. This strategy saves a huge amount of wear-and-tear on the bid committee and lets the bid choose to run if the competition appears to be weak or faltering or has collapsed. It also allows a bid committee to exploit facilities which became available late. The disadvantage of this strategy is that competition which might have been beatable if the bid has started sooner has developed a strong position.
  • The first formal step in the bidding process occurs when the Worldcon bid does its bid filing with the administering committee. This must happen more than 180 days before the opening of the administering convention. A Worldcon bid must file to be on the site selection ballot.
  • Not long after the 180-day deadline has passed, the administering convention publishes the site selection ballot and opens site selection balloting by mail. Not many votes are cast by mail, and most of them are cast much closer to the administering convention. Bid committees vigorously distribute ballots to their supporters urging them to come to Worldcon and vote or, if they can't come, vote by mail.
  • At the administering convention, parties often start before the convention officially begins, but at-con site selection balloting does not start until the administering convention officially starts.
  • At-con site selection balloting normally ends the evening of the second-last full day of the convention. (The most common Worldcon schedule has the convention end early Monday afternoon. Sunday is thus the last full day, and at-con site selection balloting thus ends Saturday evening.)
  • Once at-con site selection balloting has closed, the site selection administrator and representatives from each of the bid committees which have done a bid filing retire to count ballots. (Note that a bid committee which filed, but only after the 180-day deadline, does not appear on the site selection ballot, but is eligible to win as a write-in and to take part in site selection ballot counting. A write-in which has not filed is ineligible to be selected.
  • When site selection ballot counting is complete, the winner is unofficially announced. The winner is official after the site selection administrator presents the results of site selection ballot counting at the session of the WSFS business meeting the following morning. Unless there are significant irregularities (which has never happened) the WSFS business meeting approves a motion to declare the winner announced by site selection administrator to be the winner of the right to host the Worldcon two years hence and to direct that the ballots be destroyed.
  • The winning committee then announces its Guests of Honor (never made public in advance of winning or as part of the campaign), dates, rates, and officers.
  • A few hours later the winning committee takes over the space previously occupied by site selection voting and for the rest of the convention, sells memberships and does voter conversions.
  • And for the next two years, the winning committee plans and runs the Worldcon.