RT’s Giant Bookfair

Yesterday was RT’s Giant Bookfair. It was easily the most intense signing I’ve ever been at. Authors rubbed shoulder to shoulder (literally), books taking up all available table space, with a line of readers that snaked through much of the building. The waits were immense.

Some self-published authors are talking about one specific thing: that is, the separation of authors into two rooms on the basis of criteria that would not have been obvious to readers. Authors who were selling nonreturnable books–typically, authors from digital-first presses and self-published authors–were selling books on consignment, whereas the other books were being sold by a bookstore.

(For those following along at home: Most authors know what is meant when we say a book is “returnable,” but readers probably don’t. So just to make it clear, many publishers make their books available to bookstores on a “returnable” basis. That means the bookstore can order in 20 copies of a book to see if it will sell well. If it does, yay for everyone! If not, the bookstore can send back the copies they didn’t sell for credit. They do this to convince bookstores to take a chance on authors without having to take an enormous risk. From a book fair perspective, it could be very expensive to order nonreturnable books that are not sold at the book fair. There is little other avenue to sell those books–so ordering those books, and having to eat the cost of them, could easily make a bookfair unprofitable, and then we wouldn’t have them at all. Instead, authors with nonreturnable books bring those books on a consignment basis.)

That meant that the authors needed to bring those books, have them checked out, determine the sales of books afterward, and fill out paperwork as to how they were to be paid. I believe RT handled those sales. By contrast, a bookstore was handling the sales for the books that were returnable. At the RT Giant Bookfair, for administrative ease, authors with nonreturnable books were put into a separate room. This saves a little time because then RT staff would automatically know if an author needed to be checked in/checked out. From the reader perspective, I believe that these books had to be paid for separately, too. (I didn’t go through the paying lines and so cannot say for a fact that this is true, but I’ve heard it more than once now.)

(Another not-so-sidenote: I refer to this as a “separation” because that is in fact what it was. I do not think it’s appropriate to use civil rights language to describe what happened. There is a difference between business arrangements that are entered into voluntarily, and irrational, debilitating animus that is based on immutable personal characteristics. Also, there is a difference between separating people on the basis of irrelevant facts like race, and separation on the basis of legitimate, administrative reasons. It’s really uncool to appropriate the struggles of minorities to describe a voluntary choice to get 70% royalties on digital books. I don’t really want to have that debate, though, because I have Been There Before and it Rarely Does Any Good. So I’m putting my thumb on this particular issue: I reserve the right to disemvowel comments that go there. If you want to engage in appropriation, you can find other venues to do it.)

This separation was not explained well to readers or volunteers–unsurprisingly, since most readers/volunteers don’t really know or care whether the books they buy are “returnable” or not, since that’s a distinction that matters only to the bookseller.

Naturally, people made up their own explanations for the divide. Rumor has it that someone claimed that the authors with returnable books were “real authors” and that the authors who were selling their books on a consignment basis were “aspiring authors.” As far as I can tell, this appears to have been one misinformed volunteer, rather than the official RT Convention description. It was not something that I saw or heard, and I do not think it was widespread.

Several readers had difficulty finding me because it was not made clear that there were TWO giant rooms full of authors, and while there was a list stating what room each author was in, if you’re looking for 15 authors, it gets confusing to plot out a course between them unless you sit down and plan everything right from the start. The end result was that a division made on the basis of administrative ease led to chaos and confusion. It meant that it took readers much, much longer to navigate the Bookfair and find the authors they were looking for, and even longer to pay for those books.

While I understand the administrative reasons that gave rise to the separation, the end result was hurt feelings for authors, and–far more importantly–confusion, hassle, and hours-long waits in line for the readers who had come to this event to get signed copies of books from their most beloved authors.

I hope RT will strongly consider the possibility that a separation based on administrative reasons that are not immediately visible to readers created more difficulties than it solved. One possible solution is to scrap the consignment system and have authors with nonreturnable books sell their own books directly, using something like Square.

Despite these administrative issues, I still really enjoyed the signing. I sold every book that I brought. I met many people I had only interacted with online, and others who have just read my books on their own. Thanks to every reader who came to find me, to the wonderful authors sitting next to me who took this whole thing in good humor, and to the RT volunteers and staff who put in a tremendous day of work to make a signing of 700 authors come together.

51 thoughts on “RT’s Giant Bookfair

  1. Oh, the lines and waiting were terrible! I still had fun though. I’m one who had trouble finding you because I didn’t immediately associate you with the “indie” room and I saved it for last. My biggest complaint is that I didn’t have the program that listed all the authors and where they were. Some people had them but I never saw where I could get one. It was hard to just walk the aisles scanning the name cards; the names started running together in my brain, and I’m sure I missed authors I’d have liked to stop at.

  2. Thanks! Thoughtful and helpful! Such a great event, so many hard working volunteers and RT staff, sad to see that overshadowed.

  3. I would 100% agree except for the fact that I signed as a indie next to other indies at the giant book fair last year. They found a way around the accounting issues and returnable issues for us last year. I also sign all over the country with book sellers, B&N included, who have also done special accounting for createspace books before. I don’t think that’s all that’s happening here. I’m glad the fair went well for you, but many of my friends had a really poor experience.

  4. Hi! I had a fabulous time at RT and for the most part thought they did an incredible job of organizing and keeping things running smoothly.

    I do disagree on their decision to split the indie from the pubbed authors and I do not believe for a minute that it was administrative. I’ll tell you why. The two rooms shared a common hallway. That hallway is where the line to leave the area for the book fair was. To check out, you got in one line. At the end of that line, they separated you indie (nonreturnable) books from your pubbed books. You went to one register to pay for the indies and another to pay for the pubbed. With this setup, there was no reason to separate them into different rooms based on checkout procedures.

    As I said, I enjoyed the conference and I’ll be back, but I did think the split into two rooms was confusing to readers trying to find authors (I personally don’t track who is indie and who is pubbed when I read) and I found it offensive. Hope they change it!

  5. Jasinda,

    I’m curious what “more” you think could have been going on, and I don’t mean that in the snarky sense. I really do, legitimately, wish you’d tell me what else you think is going on. Right now, the implication is that this is based on anti-indie animus–but that’s hard to justify, since by my flash guess, around 40-60% of the room I was in appeared to be non-self-published authors.

    I’m certainly not trying to imply that the experience was great for everyone. It clearly wasn’t. It sucked. The only reason the 3 hours in the crowded room were bearable for me was that the person scheduled to sit next to me didn’t show up. It was also a terrible experience for readers who had to pay in multiple lines that lasted, in some cases for 2+ hours. I do not think my readers should have to wait in a lengthy line more than once to purchase books, and I’m appalled that they were expected to do so. I will not be attending or signing books at RT again unless and until they promise that this is corrected, and I am going to e-mail RT something to that effect when I have the chance.

    But the simplest answer appears to be, “RT does not appear to be super on the ball. In fact, I am not convinced they know where the ball is.” The level of fuck-uppery at the signing was on par with what I saw in other events–like the RT Pub Crawl, which I helped sponsor, or that I heard about in other author-sponsored parties. As far as I can tell, RT was totally unprepared for the number of participants–both indie and traditional.

    It’s hard for me to posit active, overt animus on the basis of one chaotic mess, when so many RT events were also chaotic messes, and when this one was not divided along the lines of indie versus non-indie.

    Finally, I’m not sure exactly how your books worked last year, but the impression I get is that you were an exception, rather than the rule. (This is not something where I have personal knowledge or experience, and so if I’m wrong, and you remember how things went, please jump in and correct me.) Last year, they actually had a separate expo for digital and indie books (described here; link thanks to Angie James: http://www.rtbookreviews.com/rt-daily-blog/inside-e-book-expo-2013-rt-booklovers-convention). I’d love to hear more about the general level of indie participation in last year’s book signings.

  6. @Lori Ryan: Lori, I think the difference wasn’t because of the difference in payment method by readers, but in author check-out/check-in procedures.

    I had to get someone to sign off on the number of books I took in with me. Those books had to be compared to the form in question, stamped with the appropriate stamp, and accounted for. They had to make sure that there were prices on the books. Authors in the indie signing hall weren’t allowed to leave as soon as the signing was finished, and had to wait for someone to come by and tabulate their books.

    I think that’s why they separated the authors: so that all the authors that they had to check books in for and check books out for were in the same place. Authors with returnable books didn’t have to do any of that stuff, and could just come and find books on their table, and leave whatever was left behind.

  7. Hi Courtney – I am glad I got to say hi although you were sold out 🙂 I found it very easy to find you because of the map (it said Courtney Milan row 35 Mardi Gras room) but it must have been much harder if everyone didn’t have the map.

    Also, I had to pay separately for the indie books.

    @Jasinda last year I thought indies signed on a different day, so admin issues may have been easier?

  8. Good to know, Courtney, but I still don’t think it justifies the split. There’s got to be another way to do it. I do appreciate the sheer number of books and people they had to deal with, but there are other ways to deal with this problem.

  9. I’d be curious to find out whether the authors in the big room have similar complaints as the authors in the smaller room, esp. as it pertains to the overcrowding at the tables, etc. It sounds like it was an organizational nightmare, and regardless of whether the slight was intentional or not, a lot of authors have very negative feelings toward RT now. As a matter of fact, one might argue it was such a mess that the intentions aren’t as relevant as they might first appear.

  10. RT staff did check out my books from the Indie Room then I was sent to the other line and that took an hour. (totally worth it but a/c would have been nice)

  11. I was just the Book Fair Chair for our local RWA chapter’s conference. We had the same issue with authors and books. We used a local bookstore to provide the books however some books could not be purchased by the book store. We still allowed these authors to sell and sign their books however they simply paid a table fee, supplied their own books, handled their own money transactions and put a sticker on the book (one we provided) so the book store cashiers would know they had already paid for it. However ours was much smaller than RT. I can absolutely see why RT would do what they did. Seems like most of the problem was they were the only ones who knew why.

  12. I think your suggestion of indies using Square to check out during the signing is fantastic! I love how you not only evaluate and explain the problem but also offer a viable solution. It’s easy to complain but far more effective to offer a way to fix the issue.

    I do wish that indies had been mixed with trads alphabetically. I actually intended to come get your autograph and likely would have if you’d been in the other room. As it was, I was losing steam by the time I noticed the check out line had grown to gargantuan proportions, and I didn’t have the energy to trek over and back. I waited in line to buy four books for over an hour. If I had it to do over again, I’d have authors sign book plates and not bought books at all. Live and learn, eh?

    Sorry I missed you! ♥


  13. @T L Haddix: I was in the “big room”, and I made one trip through the other ballroom at one point. To my (limited) observation, the traffic level in both rooms was comparable. There were several announcements made encouraging readers to visit the digital/indie room. (And I never heard the “aspiring” word once – it was always something like, “Make sure to visit the bestselling authors in the Mardi Gras ballroom.”)

    To me, I wouldn’t call the book fair an organizational nightmare. The books were ready where they were supposed to be, we had bottled water and pens, volunteers offered help if we needed it, there was a program with a map of all the authors, and to my knowledge no readers were turned away. I can think of many, many ways that it could have gone wrong (or wrong-er), but didn’t. RT staff and their volunteers worked *hard*.

    However, the line to check out was extremely long. In my recollection, the line to pay has been long at every RT I’ve attended, but this was the longest I remember seeing. Oddly enough, traffic within the book fair area really thinned out during the last hour of the event. I got the impression that readers saw the line growing, thought, “OMG, I need to get in line NOW, or I’ll never get out!” and then by the last half-hour of the book fair, everyone was just standing in line.

    I can understand why the different rooms situation was surprising or upsetting to some. I had no idea that we weren’t all going to be in the same room until I sat down and looked at my program. What I don’t believe is that RT set out to intentionally slight or hide indie/digital authors. RT has always been so inclusive. All of our conference nametags said the same thing: Published Author. With the exception of specific publisher-sponsored events, every panel, workshop, or party I helped with or attended at RT had traditional and indie authors side-by-side.

    In a way, the hurt feelings and confusion caused by the two rooms situation might be a testament to the conviviality of the con up to that point. We’d all been mixing so pleasantly and professionally, and suddenly…there was this corridor between us. Wait, what?

  14. The two people on either side of me were definitely not indies, but published digitally/digitally-first. I was largely unaware that there were problems until after the fact.

    That said, the space issue was crazy. Since Bree & I both anticipated being at the signing, we actually had two spots, and it was still cramped beyond belief. We were told we could bring up to 20 copies each of five titles, and we did. Between the scant table space and lack of storage for extra books, it was almost not manageable. I actually did have to have a tote of reserve swag removed before the signing began because the fire marshal was unhappy about things sticking out from under the INCREDIBLY narrow tables.

    I managed to sell about half of my books and give away lots of swag, but I feel like that must have been in spite of the issues many readers faced. I know I had some people who either couldn’t find me or never got around to me. But it seems more like a problem of faulty organization and poor management choices than anything else.

    …except for the volunteer calling the indie/digital room the “aspiring” authors’ room, which doesn’t even make sense to me. What the hell would a room full of aspiring authors be signing and selling?

  15. As a reader, I can say that while I enjoyed meeting several authors trying to find them all was a nightmare as so many lines snaked through the lines to see the authors. It was crazy; the process to get in was ridiculous, the fact that three different start times for the signing were published is wrong on so many levels, the “check-out” system was a complete nightmare resulting in many people abandoning their “personalized” books. While I will attend RT in the future I will avoid the book fair. I missed so many authors despite having the list because instead of listing every author by name (or names for those who write under more than one) and then listing what row they were on, they were listed by row BUT wait, then there were two rooms and some were published traditionally and some not and then there’s the new adult and young adult and the “featured” authors and, and….TOO confusing when there are that many people in a room. Just put ALL authors side by side in alphabetical order and put the “feature” authors elsewhere because their lines snaked down into the other authors lanes making it even more chaotic and crowded. As for the process of selling books, there has to be a better way. Also, I heard the “aspiring authors” announcement and comment more than once. Look, I read a lot of different authors; some traditionally published, some published by e-book houses, some independently published and to me they are all the same and should all be treated with the same courtesy and respect. The fact the “other” authors were crammed in like sardines did not go unnoticed by readers. I swear it was like being in high school all over again there was a “cool kids” room and an “other” room and that in this reader’s opinion (a reader who spends a lot of money on books every year)is just so wrong. I have very little respect for the organizers of this event for what looked like an obvious snub to self pub, small press, and independent authors.

  16. I drove down to NO just for the book signing, and I can tell you the trad authors were just as crowded at their tables. If there was one person in front of the table talking to the author, their space was totally obscured. I passed up more than one author and had to backtrack because of it.

    The complaining authors can be thankful they were able to sit through the crowdedness. I was at the book fair check in right around 11:00 and stood waiting in one of two rooms packed with readers for about an hour. (I don’t know why they bothered with fire regulations. We’d have never evacuated our holding pens in time.) I didn’t get in to the signing until after 12:00. Then there was the wait in the world’s longest check out line; I lost track of the time on that one.

    I’d go again though, equipped with bottles of water and in shorts, because it was fun to see in person all the authors I’ve only encountered on the internet.

  17. Several indies signed at both signings last year. I can’t give you an exact number, but it was a decent number. I declined to sign this year because I didn’t like how not everyone was included last year. Just my personal decision. I attended the signing as a reader instead. I did hear the words aspiring in reference to the indie room and from talking to several readers after the signing, they did too. I think a better system needs to be implemented for an event of that size. I was very involved with RT last year and this year and will continue to be so, but I won’t sign until changes are made to how the signing is organized.

  18. @Tessa Dare excellent point about the sudden separation at the signing after a wonderful few days of all authors being treated the same. I can say that I went back and forth between both rooms several times (I was totes overwhelmed and couldn’t get my act together) and the digital/indie room had significantly less traffic each time.

  19. I think my next question is, what did hybrid authors do?
    The ones who were in a trad room?

    Were they not allowed to sell their self-published books because they were consignment?

  20. This was my 9th straight year at RT and 8th as a published author. Over the years I have been excluded, included and separated in every way possible. It was better this year than last only because I was “allowed” to sign during the giant book fair. Last year I could not because only a select group of indies were included in the Sat. signing. At this point I have no faith that RT will resolve this by next year.

    It does seem an easy enough solution if RT would allow indies to handle their own transactions via square, but then RT would not receive their cut. And that is something they will never allow. Charging a table fee to circumvent that issue would likely not work because then many authors would be outraged that the indies have to pay a table fee and the trad. Authors do not.

    Even though I got a bit antsy in my cramped spot, I am glad I participated this year. The readers who went to the effort to find me were very happy to see me and that meant a lot to me.

  21. I think everyone is making thoughtful comments. As a reader after standing in line so long to actually get in and the two rooms and the crowds and the two check out lines I gave up. I only saw my must see authors. (2 in one room and 3 in the other) I didn’t even attempt to see any of the featured authors. After that I gave up and checked out.

    The last RT I went to was in Chicago and although the lines were long there I felt I was able to speak to a lot of authors. The thing I missed was meeting authors I didn’t know and hearing about their books. I can tell you I would have purshased more if I could have done it a little more pleasantly.

    Thank you to the authors for coming to the signing and the convention. You are why I come to RT.

  22. I am a new writer not yet published at all. What can i expect at the RWA in San Antonio regarding learning how and where best to get published?

  23. From a reader/actual “aspiring” author POV: RT was one big cluster#^%€ from nearly start to finish. The staff – and I know they work VERY hard and with the noblest intentions – were just not adequately prepared for the number of attendees. The volunteers – who also worked hard and did their best – were not adequately trained nor given enough communication. The Mardi Gras World party was an operational disaster, the pub crawl almost as bad, and I heard the Samhain “Sinners and Saints” party looked like a swarm of locusts swept it bare less than fifteen minutes after opening. If you didn’t stand in a long queue hours before the reader parties began, forget about having a decent experience once in the room.

    There were other issues. The goody room went from three books per attendee to two after the first 12 hours (and a monster line to get in). The agent and editor pitch appointments were badly screwed up. My friend was told the editor with whom she had an appointment never arrived. After waiting an hour, my friend was allowed in the room to see if anyone else was free for a “bonus” pitch to make up for the one didn’t get. Lo and behold, there was the editor, sitting alone. No one told the volunteers managing the communication with the pitch appointees that she was there. Stories like these abounded at RT – at least in the moments when the noise in the bar didn’t rival a jet engine on takeoff and one could have a conversation that didn’t trigger laryngitis the next day. This was the only RT where my luggage went home lighter than it arrived, because I refused to spend the majority of my conference time in line and so books and swag didn’t come my way. And that was fine with me – taking stuff home wasn’t my goal. But I wonder how many authors and publishers lost out on reaching their intended audience.

    I didn’t go to the book signing. But the reason I didn’t go to the signing is because I showed up at 11, an hour after it officially opened. I got off an elevator and was met with a wall of humanity wrapping around the third floor, down to the second floor, and snaking through a second floor ballroom in a line that made Disneyland at Christmas look like a ghost town. (Plus, volunteers screaming at me to get to the back of the line when I just got off the elevator on the third floor and was trying to suss out how to cross an English Channel of packed bodies in order to get to the escalators and said end of the line: not cool). So I retreated. Which may be why the end of the event felt light to @TessaDare – I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who arrived later, saw the situation and instantly thought, “Life’s way too short for this.”

    So claiming that RT has some sort of malicious intent or deliberately set out to make indie authors feel second class is, quite frankly, ridiculous. I’d love to ascribe that level of forethought to them, but it was plainly obvious they were overwhelmed and went for the most expedient solution possible without thinking through all the ramifications and permutations and possible blowback.

    @JascindaWilder: perhaps the reason why people were talking about “aspiring authors” is because aspiring author WAS a name badge designation at RT and real, live aspiring authors – who have yet to publish a book, indie or otherwise – WERE at the conference. I was one. No, I’m not offended if you call me that. Considering how poorly trained the volunteers were – most of whom are readers and have zero idea of author politics or the indie/trad battle of bruised egos – I’m not surprised if a) one or two volunteers got the designation wrong and/or b) the overheard conversations had zero to do with the book signing and were instead “why does your name badge say that/what do you write/do you have a book out?”

  24. @CD Reiss – Hybrid authors had to choose. I went around and around with RT about this months before the event. If a hybrid author chose to sit in the “traditional” big room, he/she could not bring their Indie books on consignment to sell. If he/she chose to sit in the ebook/indie room, they could not sign their traditional books. This I think, above everything else, is the biggest problem with the way the authors were separated. In this day and age, many authors are not “just” indie or “just” traditional, and I had several disappointed readers who couldn’t get certain books.

    That said…I do want to point out one thing. During the event, I repeatedly heard announcements over the loud speaker reminding readers to “visit the ebook signing in the Mardi Gras ballroom”. I wonder how many readers thought ONLY ebooks were being sold/signed via authorgraph in that room and didn’t have a clue we had actual print books sitting on our (very cramped) tables.

  25. Hi,
    First I would like to say I DO NOT work for RT! But I am one of their core volunteers who was at the door for all the large events. Including the book fair, until the last person walked through.

    First and foremost, something that people dont understand is, every major event, where we would have high attendance the fire Marshall was on site and literally tagging RT for any little tiny detail. From people not standing on the right side of the hall waiting in line, to authors beautiful banners having to be removed at the book fair. They would not let us stand in the door entrance to greet our guest for the book fair we had to be in the doorway a good ways. There was two check outs but the Indy was was never ever backed up. I had a clear view of it from my place. They made us remove tables in indie room to allow more walk space, per fire marshal. Minutes before we let authors in.

    Also, as far as core volunteers go, MANY of us including myself have extensive experience with event planning, crowd control and events in general. It’s not just a bunch of
    People thrown to the wolves. Another problem is when the original plans were changed by fire marshal instruction, yes it could be a little crazy. Trying to reorganize an event in minutes for 1100 standing in line. That is why the book fair opened late. They would not allow us to open until all authors banners were not only down, but removed from room.
    To address the “aspiring ” author comment. NOBODY was told at the doors, Indie authors were aspiring. Several of my personal friends, including my best friend were in that room. We told guest and I quote my EXACT words, repeated every 10 guests “traditional authors to your left, indie/ebook authors to your right ladies and gentleman” if someone asked and hundreds did, what indie meant, it was explained you write and sell your own work.
    I have to say the authors in both situations were very, very gracious and worked with us volunteers, we really appreciate that.
    The check out lines were long. We are at the mercy of the book vendor somewhat in how they want sales handled. I assure you all, these issues are being evaluated today!
    I tried to explain this on an authors site yesterday and was pretty much called a liar. I assure you I have no motive hidden or otherwise to fabricate these issues 🙂
    Courtney thank you for bringing this up and also to all of you who are so professional and understanding. RT is working on the issues and wants to do better.

  26. Elizabeth Naughton – that is the issue, I couldn’t win either way! We need a better system to recognize TP, Indie and self published authors selling across all 3 channels. i should be able to sell what I want! Any book from any publishing house or any self published book.

  27. Aloha, Courtney! Great seeing you at the Giant Book Fair. I think you all in the Mardi Gras Ballroom had more fun with readers (and each other) as you could talk without yelling.

    The issue comes down to space – how do you seat 700 authors? Hindsight is 20/20 – perhaps RT should have placed the “big names” in the Mardi Gras room – it had more “breathing room” plus it would drive more traffic to it (whereas their location in the other ballroom created havoc for the rows of authors in alphabetical order).

    The only other suggestion is the convention center (assuming it is near the hotel for future conventions) – would readers be willing to walk over to a convention center?

    I encourage readers and authors alike to submit constructive feedback and suggestions to RT for future consideration.

  28. Kenneth Falk told me the bookstore arrived without scanning equipment, which is major reason for the delay in checkout.

    I don’t understand how most of my friends (some with the same small publisher) ended up in the smaller room and I ended up in the big room. I’m not sure my experience was any different, however, because it was so crowded and people were looking for the big-name authors.

    According to the Kensington CEO, the Big Five publishers deserve better treatment for their authors because of their generous sponsorships. Not sure if that’s the reason this was done, but it seem clear that the big sponsors expect more in return for their financial support than signs and ads in the program.

  29. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have signed up for the book fair if I’d known there would be two separate rooms. When I registered for the con, it was plastered all over the RT page that it would be ONE signing. Yes, they did make several announcements which was immensely appreciated. I saw maybe one reader in the room during the first half hour. After that, more slowly trickled in. About an hour and a half in it got extremely busy. It was a packed house by 1:30 PM.

    Even though it was frustrating and depressing at the time, I KNOW RT didn’t do it on purpose. The whole “segregation” argument is vile and completely misinterprets what happened. It was simply poorly planned. I don’t think they were prepared for that much growth over last year’s numbers. It was evident in several areas of the con that the planner was over-whelmed. I’m an event planner at a hotel by day, so I get it. It happens. It wasn’t a way to hold the indie author down. It was an unfortunate event that resonated negatively with me, but I know it was an accident and hopefully these other people will begin to understand that too.

  30. @T L Haddix:

    I don’t have negative feelings toward RT. Not at all. Was the set-up ideal? Nope. But we had a group of indies that does pretty much require a different selling/buying method than traditional publishing. Previously they’d had their signing on a different day because of this sort of thing. There were complaints on that, too. I know, because every time I’ve attended RT, I’ve signed at both, because I write ALL THE WAYS… O.O And every year I’ve signed up to attend, until the change this year, there has been a form included in the registration so that any author who wanted to sign at both could fill out the needed info TO sign at both.

    Since there were issues with separate signings, they were put on the same day. Still complaints. There needs to be a way to keep the transactions separate, because of all the matters Courtney discussed, authors have to understand the business matters behind it, which is going to require some open-mindedness.

    Eventually, I suspect a more workable solution will come to play, but that won’t happen without open dialog…and without compromise on both sides, from RT, AND the authors. Perhaps the ideal compromise is two separate signings, but one on Friday night that is open to the public and promoted just as heavily as the main bookfair. Is that what indies want? No. But as long as the return/transactional fees come into play, again, compromise is necessary. And honestly, I’m fine with RT getting their cut from my consigned books. They are provided the space, the free promo…why shouldn’t they get the cut? Two signings also provide more of a focus and would make for smaller crowds.

    RT is hugely supportive of the romance genre. Back when digital was the ‘new’ thing and anybody digital wasn’t a ‘real’ author, RT was always a huge supporter. When hundreds of people told me I wasn’t a REAL author, RT asked me “When is your next book coming out…we can’t wait!”

    From the get-go, RT has been supportive of indie authors. They do NOT care who publishes the book…not when it comes to reviews, when it comes to promo, when it comes to setting up panels at the convention, promo alley, etc.

    You’re seeing complaints from people, yes…but there are just as many, I suspect, that while they realize this isn’t the ideal set-up, they also know that RT is still one of romance’s biggest supporters and they are very open to listening to suggestions, etc on how to try to make this more workable.

  31. I would have preferred two signing events like last year because I also write books available through a “traditional” bookseller as well as ebooks that I’m indie publishing.

    My reasoning is that I can’t sit in two places at once and having two events doubles my ability to give promo stuff out. And selling two, three books at a signing (which is generally all I do sell – why would someone pay $15 for a trade paperback copy of one of my titles? I wouldn’t! ) does not justify my sitting at a table for three hours. What does justify it is my ability to smile and chat with would-be readers and give them a card with a link to my website and where to buy my ebooks. That’s why I do RT.

    This convention was twice the size of the past couple and there is frequently confusion in any event. Keep in mind how many volunteers there are and how well ( or not well ) they must be trained. Amazing it works as well as it does. I’ve been behind the scenes of the Faery Court several years running and it was insane how much work went into that event.

    At my first RT in 2002 I sat in the “Indie corral” which was segregated from the traditional group by a fence. At that you had to stand in two check out lines if you wanted both traditional and small-press books. Believe me, that was worse.

  32. @Pat Ward: Last year some of the best and most attended seminars were in the Indie/self-publishing track at the RWA 2013 convention. Many, many traditionally published authors are working to add either back-list titles they’ve gotten the rights back on, or bonus books (novellas, short stories) through indie publishing to boost the sales of their books under contract. It was a marvelous collection of information.

  33. @ Shiloh Walker

    I hope they do get it right. And I hope the real issues that came up don’t get overshadowed by all the drama. It sounds like, if it was handled properly, it would be a fun con to attend. But unless they get some better organization and over-prepare in years to come, it’s a con I’ll avoid.

    There’s been a lot of knee-jerk reaction, and hopefully that’s starting to calm down. If it does, that’s when progress might get made.

    Something else that I’ve seen mentioned kind of in passing, and I’m curious about (and I know you personally might not be able to answer this) – what was it like there for authors with physical limitations? (Or attendees, for that matter.) Does anyone know? I’ve heard the horror stories of SP/Indies having to lug books hither and yon, and I know there’s no way I could do it even if all the other things did improve. Is that something they’re set up to handle or conscious of, I wonder? Was it that way last year?

  34. “Kenneth Falk told me the bookstore arrived without scanning equipment, which is major reason for the delay in checkout.”

    Not having scanners was ridiculous. I couldn’t believe it when I saw they were checking the books out by hand. If that’s the best they could do, I’m not surprised they couldn’t handle the mixing of trad and indie purchases.

  35. @Eliza Gayle: I’m with you, Eliza. At least they allowed you all to sign (and in the same hotel at the same time). But it sounds like authors weren’t given advanced notification about being in a separate room, so they weren’t able to inform their fans how to find them.

    As you know, I swore off RT after only two of them because last year they just didn’t want to bother with trying to accommodate indies or those with non-returnable books. Hell, we don’t want some bookstore stripping off our covers and getting a refund while trashing the books. We’d definitely rather take them home with us to find another reader someday!

    RT needs to stop trying to put a convention with 2000+ people (I hear this year’s was the biggest ever, so who knows how many were crammed into the Marriott) into a hotel or even two hotels like they did in Kansas City. They need to book a convention center and make ample room available for ALL the authors and readers wanting to be there.

    And on a much smaller scale, Authors After Dark (one of the best conventions ever) manages to just let us sell our own books regardless of whether we’re with a publisher or not (or have returnable books or not). Sure, the mega-stars won’t want to be bothered with swiping credit cards at their table–but that’s what we have assistants for. Hell, if I can afford two assistants, I’m sure they can afford their own team. Or maybe the bookstores can just cater to their needs and let the rest of us in the midlist meet our readers and sell books of ALL types, returnable or not returnable.

    Needless to say, RT won’t be on my dance card anytime soon. I did have a few readers disappointed I wasn’t there–because apparently they didn’t hear me swearing off RT forever last year after I had to book a separate hotel and hold an alternate signing for 36 of the uninvited authors. Oddly enough, even with very low turnout, most of us did better than we had done at the RT Thursday “Expo” sale in 2013.

    But I think better communication (rather than blindsiding) will help authors get the word out if they want to continue to cram too many authors into too little space and expect readers to sort out the mess on their own. AND the best solution–a bigger space. They should look at San Diego’s convention center or any large city’s.

    Then again, after yet another clusterfuck, maybe authors and readers will decide they don’t want to be part of the mess. Okay, authors wanting to network with industry folks and other authors probably will always go to RT. Those of us primarily wanting to meet our readers in a meaningly way will set up things like KallypsoCon, which we both will be at in October, for chances to spend one-on-one time with readers. That’s what most of us authors and readers want.


  36. I heard the stories about the segregation, but I didn’t know it was that bad. That’s really unfortunate. Especially for you, Courtney, who is both indie and traditionally published! How can they treat so many best-selling authors like that? I’m sorry this has happened to you and so many other indie authors. I hope that this doesn’t keep you from the RT cons forever. I would really love to meet you one day.

  37. @T L Haddix: Shiloh, the problem with having indies and those with non-returnable books on a different day is that they had it Thursday afternoons when all the locals were at work or picking up their kids from school or running them to activities after school. We have fans in the area (and the signing is the one thing at RT that is meant to bring together readers and authors. The rest of it is author-author networking or networking with booksellers, agents, editors, publishers, etc. If they insist on continuing to try to hold this mega-event in one or two adjacent hotels, it’s never going to be ideal. They need a convention center setup if they continue to take all comers without heeding their space limitations.

    So perhaps it becomes an all-day signing with one group in the mornings (preferably the indies ) and another in the afternoon and those who do both traditional and indie–our dear hybrids–can opt for both if they wish. Readers will spent a full day at a book signing. Kinda like Book Bash in Orlando coming up June 28. Tickets for that (at $8 each) sold out within a couple hours, but they know they have to adhere to the space limitations and readers have a whole day (I’m thinking it’s 10-4) to meet, talk with, and have their books signed by authors.

    RT is a publishing dinosaur in today’s age of e-books. I remember when I only had e-books I won a chance to submit a book for review and was required to print and mail them a manuscript in order to do that. I just waited 9 months until I started putting out print books to submit the copy to them. That was 2012, long after ebooks had been all the rage.

    Their convention is still thinking along the lines of how it used to be, too. They need some new blood planning this thing.

    Personally, I’m going to look at smaller conventions in the future–because having one-on-one time with readers is my main objective when I go to a con. Okay, when I go to the London Book Fair or Novelists Inc or BEA, I’m there to network and hang out with authors. But I try to only do one of those types a year. I’d rather create my own events or just pick a couple mid-sized ones (like RomCon next year) that are more reader-oriented.


  38. FYI, Rt’s Founder is Kathryn Falk. RT’s President is Kenneth Rubin, not Kenneth Falk. Kathyrn has posted on her Facebook that the book fair (and fire marshall) are top priorities in planning for RT15 in Dallas.

    Carol Stacy, RT’s publisher, announced at the Welcome Party that RT will reviewing “indie” books in the future … small steps! Sadly, many readers “ate and ran” from the Welcome Party, which celebrated diverstiy and humanity. There was plenty of food and seats for readers at this event but few enjoyed the actual program.

    I come to RT knowing that lines will be long (akin to Disney World). I planned on finding my favorite authors at Club RT (I saw the big names from my own table). I attended the less popular events which were just as fun. And I dined away from the hotel with other readers, bloggers, and authors. There were plenty of books at events … and even left on tables for others to take.

    Samhain provided more desserts later in the dance party after the swarm demolished the first round (probably hungry after the pub crawl).

    Readers with special needs (i.e., scooters) were allowed first into most events.

    I believe the long lines at RT enforce my suggestion for smaller regional events such as Barbara Vey’s Reader Luncheon in Milwaukee. The Washington Romance Writers (DC chapter of RWA) will be hosting a similar luncheon in the fall. Likwise, authors could go on tour.

    I love RT; I appreciate Kathryn’s support of the military; but also recognize that there is room in Romanceland for other venues to connect authors with readers.

  39. @Cassandra S.:

    Cassandra, thank you for your thoughtful post. This was my first RT, and I so agree with your analysis of the experience–as an author, this sort of feedback will help me decide whether I’ll spend my promo dollars at RT again. I met very few readers and found it almost impossible to get myself into a situation where I could have meaningful interaction–except for line-ups waiting for buses that took forever to arrive! And I feel terrible that readers had to wait so long simply to get a book and talk to an author, and it’s so regrettable that you were treated rudely during the book signing.

  40. When I first signed up for the fair, I was wait listed. I was contacted and told that there was now room for me a few months ago. I’m assuming that without there being a separate room there wouldn’t have been room for me or for many of my peers. So I’m thankful to have been included. It was messy and chaotic but hey, I’m not judging because I sure as hell didn’t help organize this huge event. I think that possibly this reaction comes from some deeper seated issues about the industry in general right now. Then again, while I’m a hybrid author, I was seated on the trad side… But you know what? It was pretty squishy on that side too.

  41. This was RT # 7 for me, so I have watched the way this convention has grown and changed. I admit, I always have a good time, and this year was no different. I’ve learned never to line up for the parties, (because I HATE lining up) but wait and go in a bit later. I was surprised to see so many people leaving Mardi Gras World when I got there around 10 pm. Especially since they had a fabulous Zydeco Band. The food was great, and plenty of it all the time we were there. My steampunk event on Thursday had a lot of readers, and as usual, our group had a wonderful time. The “Saints and Sinners” party rocked on until midnight, and I was thrilled to see the cover model for 3 of my books busy doing photo ops. More promo for me! I didn’t go to the Friday night event, just did Bourbon St. instead, (that was EPIC!). The only complaint I do have is that there wasn’t much traffic in the row at the Indie signing on Saturday. I actually don’t expect to sell books at this signing, but do like handing out promo stuff. Even with Shane Rice there, I had few people stopping by. Despite the record, (3200 attending Kenneth told me) I think more people wanted books signed by the “big name” authors. I understand that, I’m just not there yet. Fantastic Day was another great promo event for me, with a bonus of being able to play “fan girl” with several of my favorite authors. I’m not sure with two huge ballrooms for the big signing why the authors were not just divided up alphabetically, with the authors who would get big lines around the perimeter of both rooms. I think it would have made it easier for the readers to find us. The attraction of NOLA, the big name authors, so many attending made it a very challenging event. Did I have a good time? YES! Did I meet readers, authors, bloggers, reviewers, etc.? YES. It was extra fun to “hang out” with my favorite cover model. So, overall – worth the money for the convention. I won’t ever give up on RT, but I might pace myself over the next few years.

  42. I have no idea whether the separate rooms at the Book Fair was an intentional slight to Indie authors, an attempt at keeping their accounting fluid, plain old poor planning/stupidity or the pressure applied by Traditional publishers to keep their stars away from the riffraff, nor do I care. I do know that my table space was 21 inches wide by about 18 inches deep. I had one box that I could not fit under the table and still have my feet on the floor in front of me. The table behind us, facing the other way was very close and did not leave room to get out to go to the restroom let alone back up my chair to stand up. I also know that authors in the Traditionally published room had considerably more room.

    I did meet quite a few of my readers, gave away some books, and introduced myself to many more, even though our room was not very busy. What does matter in the future is where and how I will spend my marketing dollars as I’m sure that other events will continue to grow and attract readers and may prove to be more accommodating and courteous to participants.

  43. This was a great post, and although I didn’t attend this year, I did attend in 2013… at least the “Indie” authors could sign on the same day. I wanted to point out that most indie authors don’t guarantee returnables because they print books that are not returned to them. (Stores get their money back by proving a non-sellable book by ripping off the covers and sending those to the author because they don’t want to pay shipping.) Well… that’s the reason most of us do not have our indie books in bookstores, it’s not because of quallity of the book. I think what separates one writer from another is not how they publish, but the product they give to the readers. Bottom line.

    That said, I would suggest that RT put up a pre-order of books so that returnables would not be an issue. Readers could buy the books before they go to the fair(or could pre-pay before the event) and wouldn’t return afterward, obviously. And the seller would only bring books that were already sold, again assuring the returnable issue was moot.

    I think RT Convention has a lot to offer beyond the signing, not the least of which is meeting readers, industry professionals and other writers… but, it’s sort of like trust. My mother always said; “The first time trust is a gift… the second time it has to be earned.” We are all writers who work our tails off. I’ve said dozens of times, authors should be judged by their work, and should be put the same playing field, until we prove we don’t deserve to be.

  44. Thank you for taking the time to put things into perspective, Courtney. By and large I ignore people’s personal rants online. I want to focus on the writing. I think many authors get so caught up in the business aspects, they forget what a joy and privilege it is to have this gift. I know.readers can tell when an author puts their all into a book. You can’t give your all to the writing if you give more to the business.

    Authors…write what you love and don’t forget to enjoy whatever journey you’re on.

  45. RT book fair:
    As an author who was in the indie room at the RT Book Fair – with all being said I’m going to post my honest view point on it – It wasn’t so much the separation but they could have done more to encourage people to come into our room. They made a few announcements that we were in there but only about five announcements the whole time and there were no signs or anyone directing people to us – the only people who came in I think were people who were actually looking for authors in there – still I gave out all my swag and I sold one book. Also everyone working the event should have been told about us and told to direct people to us as well as the authors in the big room. Apparently neither of those were the case. It wasn’t a purposeful slight at all just an over sight but hopefully RT will learn from it. I also wish they would have used words like a return or non return or indie or traditionally pubbed book instead of the verbal terms I kept hearing such a real book or indie or regular book or indie – it just doesn’t sound right as all the books are real books and regular books – a book is a book. I assure everyone that the quality of the writing and production of every book in the indie room matched the quality of every book in the traditional pubbed room. Hands down – no question of that.

  46. There is one point you did not make, Courtney. I am traditionally published with a digital line and any of my books were sold through a deal RT had with Autography. So, as far as I know, with the exception of the print/digital issue, my books would have been treated the same as the print books in the other room.

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