“Aspiring” Indies: Same Stuff, Different Day

indie authors keep outThe indie-author blogosphere (you didn’t know we had one, did you?) lit up this week with fallout from an article Hugh Howey wrote about the shabby treatment of indie authors at the RT Booklovers Convention in New Orleans last weekend.

Howey said he had heard from several people who attended the conference that indie authors – even bestselling ones like Liliana Hart – were labeled “aspiring authors” and shunted to a separate room during the book signing event. And while trad-pubbed authors each had three feet of table space for signing their books, indies were crammed in like sardines next door.

As near as I can make out from the comments, the “aspiring author” thing was either a single comment by a volunteer who misunderstood the difference between the two rooms; or a title attendees picked for themselves upon registration, and if they accidentally ticked “aspiring” instead of “published” on the registration form, it was their own damn fault.

As to the separate signing rooms, the split was supposedly an administrative decision. Trad publishers shipped in books for their authors to sign (and for fans to buy on site); indies, of course, brought their own books. Reportedly, hybrid authors had to pick one room or the other – and if they picked the trad-pubbed room, they weren’t allowed to bring in copies of their indie titles because of the potential confusion over who paid for which books where.

Howey says, “RT is a major bookselling convention, a place that publishers expect to sell boatloads of titles.” It would stand to reason, he goes on, that the corporation running the sales portion of the event would want to encourage sales they can make money on. It’s unclear which corporation that was, however; Howey speculates it was B&N, but someone posted in the comments that it was a company called Anderson Booksellers. I’d never heard of Anderson, so I did a quick web search and found several unrelated indie bookstores with that name, as well as an operator of grade school book fairs. So I still don’t know who ran the sales operation at RT.

One thing Howey didn’t directly mention is that the convention organizer is RT Book Reviews magazine. I admit that I have never picked up a copy of this publication – but if it’s anything like the other industry-related magazines I’ve seen, publishers probably buy a lot of ads in it. You have to wonder whether the publishing industry attitude toward indies didn’t permeate the convention’s planning process, at least to some degree.

On the other hand, in the comments on Howey’s blog, one attendee said the whole convention was poorly planned, and the book signing snafu was only one of many screw-ups.

So who knows? What we do know is that indie authors attended the RT Booklovers convention assuming they’d be treated as equal to their trad-pubbed colleagues, but weren’t.

Maybe we need our own convention.

Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

17 thoughts on ““Aspiring” Indies: Same Stuff, Different Day”

    1. Yvonne, Howey and the attendees he heard from certainly thought so. Whether it was deliberate or just cluelessness on the part of the convention planners is the question, I guess.

  1. What does the RT stand for? I tend to ignore all slights as not my problem – I’m busy writing. Maybe I need to pay more attention. Thanks, Lynn.

    1. Not a bad policy, Helen. 🙂 I believe RT stands for Romantic Times, but I gather from their website that their definition of “romance” has broadened over the years.

  2. Lynne: You are correct RT stands for Romantic Times. Kathryn Falk started it. The mag was one of the earliest that Harlequin, Silhouette, Loveswept and Avon authors could buy promo in. It was so costly! If my recall is right, Falk owned a bookstore–new and used or perhaps just used–which is where most of us made our reputations and found romance readers. All major conventions cater to the trad published. It just has not caught up to the ebook revolution. I don’t know that savvy ebook authors need such a magazine to promote books. We have our blogs, our webpages, Twitter, Facebook and Google +. I wouldn’t pay the freight to go to a conference. I’d rather spend it on a Bookbub promo and sell books. I have been to dozens upon dozens of conferences. In forty years the message has not changed. Produce more product. Write good books. Moreover, trad pubbers are always behind the trending curve.They never start a trend. I learned more chatting with authors, agents and editors in the lobby of the hotel or over drinks or coffee. Taking a step back after thirty-five years, here’s another thing that hasn’t changed. Everybody wants a slice of the author’s paycheck. I look at Return on Investment for my $$$ now. Conferences don’t make the cut. It is nice to meet new authors and make new friends face-to-face, skype works just as well. Before RWA came along, used books stores were the first to have small regional romance conferences. Those were fun because readers flocked to them.
    Just saying…
    Jackie Weger

    1. Jackie, RT’s ads are still pricey — the lowest price on their rate card is something like $1000.

      The message at conferences is changing, but slowly. Panelists at the World Fantasy Convention in 2010 (the first one I ever attended) were completely dismissive of self-pubbing. Two years ago, WFC had a panel discussion that was somewhat less critical. I didn’t go last year (couldn’t justify the ROI on a trip to England, no matter how I squinted at the “vacation” aspect 😀 ), but I am going this year (I couldn’t pass it up — it’s 10 minutes from my house!). It will be interesting to see how much, if anything, opinions have evolved.

  3. The organizers should be mortified that they showed their ignorance. Hugh Howey is a big deal, Indie or not. Remind me not to waste my marketing money on this convention.
    Thanks for your perspective.

  4. “Maybe we need our own convention” YES! Or perhaps we need to shake off the old school thinking completely. Just exactly what do indies get out of these conventions anyway? Are we trying to connect with readers? Or are we trying to be noticed by the establishment?

    1. Good points, Meeks. 🙂 The establishment would certainly like for us to think we’re there to connect with them — but we don’t really need them, do we? So an indie convention ought to focus on the readers. Hmm….

      1. I don’t know who’d have pockets deep enough to fund an Indie Convention, but that would be one convention I would go to. 🙂

  5. This sounds like an ideal prompt for an enterprising indie to set up a conference in reverse, giving priority to Indie authors and charging the publisher based trade a premium to join in. They could get a place in the indie hall if they offered at least one indie a decent and worthwhile publishing contract and contributed to promoting their other books.

    Trad publishers could still advertise in the brochure, but must support at least two indies with ads for their books and they’d need to pay top dollar for their table space. That should sort out the finance bit.

    This approach should enable everyone to gain from the event.

  6. How about a form of travelling roadshow, stopping in various cities with a different cast of Indie Authors in each city or region?

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