An open letter to the organizers of the RT Booklover’s Convention

To the Romantic Times Magazine, and organizers of the RT Booklover’s Convention,

I will never forget the first time I heard about the RT Booklover’s Convention.  As a newly self-published Romance author, I was thrilled at the thought of an event that huge. I wanted to be a part of something that celebrated readers and writers of Romance, and I wanted a place to network, build relationships, and interact with readers.

 

Last year I attended my first RT in Kansas City and had a great time. The panels were interesting and informative, the parties were fun, and I got to spend time with authors I had forged friendships with via social media. It was why I was so excited to attend this year’s RT convention in New Orleans. I had every intention of making RT a part of my year travels. However, I found myself very disappointed in the way my fellow indie authors were treated this year. I am speaking, specifically, about the Giant Book Fair.

 

In 2013, there were two book signings held at the RT convention. One was for independent authors, ebooks, etc. The other was for mostly traditionally published authors. At the time, I was disappointed to know that RT felt the need to separate indies from traditional, as if there was some reason we could not share a space and sign together. However, I was happy just to have a table to sign at RT.

 

When I registered for the 2014 convention, I was elated to see that the two signings would be combined. Anyone who has ever attended RT knows that many people who cannot come for the whole week, make the effort to come to the Giant Book Fair. The amount of attendees at the Giant Book Fair are exponentially more than those who would attend the Indie and Ebook Expo. It hardly seemed fair that only traditionally published authors would have access to those crowds. For that reason, I was excited by the change. One book fair, traditional and indies signings together—that is what was promised. That promise was never fulfilled.

 

While I did not register early enough to secure a table at the book fair, several of my indie author friends did. Even though I was not part of the signing, to see the way indie authors were treated at the book signing was very hurtful to me. Indie authors are a community, and what hurts one of us hurts all of us.

 

At this point in my open letter, I would like to pose the following questions. What motivated you to separate indie authors from traditionally published authors for the Giant Book Fair? What logic was applied in this situation? Who decided that indie authors were not good enough to sign alongside the traditionally published authors? Did you think that readers would care that we were mixed together?

 

Let me tell you something I’ve learned in the three years I’ve been in business as a self-published author. The majority of readers out there don’t care who publishes their favorite books. There are many who can’t even name the publishers of their favorite books. All they know is that they love to read. The authors they love inspire and encourage them—we transport them to different worlds and different places and write characters that they can fall in love with. Whether we are traditional or indie, we are who they come to this event to see. To have a joint signing with both indies and traditionally published would have been RT’s chance to show that they support the rapidly growing indie movement. On the surface, it seems as if you do. You allow indie authors to register for your convention and pay the nearly five hundred dollar fee—the same as the traditional authors. You host many panels at the convention about indie and self-publishing. You even teamed up with Smashwords and Amazon this year—two businesses that are at the forefront of the indie publishing movement.

 

However, your decision regarding the book fair is very telling. It shows us exactly where we stand in your estimation and just how little you think of us. My next question to you is: how could you? How you could separate indie authors from the others? How could you give them a smaller table space than what was originally promised? How could you allow your volunteers and staff to herd readers away from the indie room and toward the traditionally published? Lastly, how could you allow your staff and volunteers to refer to the traditional authors as ‘published’ and the self-published authors as only ‘aspiring’? Actually, I’m going to take this a step further and ask: how dare you refer to us as aspiring? With this insult, RT has blatantly shown us that we are not real authors to them. We do not count, because we don’t have the backing of a traditional publishing house. Even though a large portion of us sell enough books a year to be able to support our families. Even though some of us have followings of thousands of readers who are rabid for our books and support us by purchasing, reading and reviewing those books. Even though some of us have earned the distinction of being on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, New York Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal bestsellers lists.

 

How dare you trivialize those accomplishments by calling us aspiring? I went into business for myself as a self-published author almost three years ago and in that time I have created a brand and grown that business. I help my husband support our family, and now my household has two steady incomes. Indie authors are bold and brave, we are intuitive and we are resilient. We are changing the face of publishing, and those who cannot acknowledge this and accept those changes are stuck in the past.

 

I am taking this time to say that I do not plan to ever attend the RT Convention again. I am sure my measly $500 registration means nothing to you in the grand scheme of things, but this is a matter of principal. I do not believe any Indie author should fork over that much money to be treated poorly at your convention. All of those authors who were forced to sit elbow to elbow in a tiny room separated from the rest of the signing deserve an apology and a refund, and in the future you might consider handling this sort of thing differently.

 

I am sure in the days to come, you’ll start rolling out the excuses. I’ve already seen a few of your tweets defending these actions or trying to ‘lay rumors to rest’. What I am hoping, is that you will not just talk, but listen. You posted on social media that you wanted feedback and you are sure to get exactly that from the many authors and readers who were outraged by this situation. It is my hope that you will take our feedback seriously and rethink the current format of your convention, which is discouraging for Indie authors, to say the least. Until significant changes are made, I will only support conventions that support freedom of choice and artistry instead of deriding it. I implore my fellow authors to do the same … not just Indies, but traditionally published as well. We are all published authors, and we are all a part of the wonderful Romance community. There is room for all of us on the bookshelves of readers and at the RT Convention.

Sincerely,

Elise Marion (more than just an ‘aspiring’ author)

 

P.S. If any of my reader or author friends reading this letter wish to share their thoughts with the good folks at the RT convention, you may do so at this email address: trent@rtconvention.com

They have stated that they welcome feedback. Show them where you stand. By the way, Trent (who’s email address this is) is a great guy, so be nice to him. He was nothing but courteous toward us when we interacted with him and was doing the best he could. Thank you

6 thoughts on “An open letter to the organizers of the RT Booklover’s Convention

  1. Jean says:

    Well said. I’m glad I didn’t go this year. After finding out the indie publishing signing was a different night at last year’s convention, I pulled out. I’m so glad I did as it sounds like RT has not revised their attitude towards indies. I’m so sorry the indies were treated badly and I will not be attending an RT Convention. Excellent post. Thank you for speaking the truth.

  2. Elise, I didn’t go to this year’s RT Convention, but I’m sorry to hear The Book Fair didn’t go well for indie/small pub/e-pub authors. I have attended both RWA and RT’s conferences in the past and traditionally published books were always kept separate from indie/small pub/e-pubbed books. This wasn’t due to a policy set by RT, but because of how the books were purchased and sold.

    In the past, the Giant Book Fair was always handled by B&N. Unless B&N can purchase your book through a distributor they do business with, they can’t bring it into their system and they can’t sell it. Because of that, authors who brought their own inventory or who were published through POD (print on demand) could not take part in the Giant Book Fair, because B&N wasn’t able to order their book.

    I always found this to be ludicrous, because even though I could and still can purchase my books through B&N’s web site, they are unable to order them so I could sell them at the book fair since they are POD (my publishers all use Createspace for my print titles). Could this possibly have been the case for this year’s conference as well?

    • Elise Marion says:

      Hi Kathryn,
      You make a good point, and it’s one that others have brought up in defense of what happened or as an explanation. Here are my thoughts on that.
      1) Why would RT promise a joint signing if they knew it was impossible because of the bookseller issue? Here is what they promised on their site regarding
      the book fair. I copied this word for word from their website:
      This year we have combined our Giant Book Fair with our E-Book/Indie Expo to provide a great, new, merged experience. Find all of your favorite authors in one place
      Here’s more:
      For the first time in RT history, the Giant Book Fair and the e-Book/Indie Book Fair have been combined! It’s a one stop shopping experience for everyone.”
      “Two authors will be at each table; therefore, you will have half of a 6 foot table — which is a 3 foot length.”

      As you can see, they very clearly made promises that were not kept. If you are friends with other Indie authors that signed there, look at their photos from that day. You can see that the space they were given was literally half what was promised. Not to mention that placing the authors in two different rooms is hardly a ‘one stop shop’.

      2)I didn’t buy any books at the fair, but have been told by several sources that there were actually two checkout lines specifically because of the issue of bookseller vs consignment. Now, if there were already two checkout lines, why couldn’t all the authors be in one room?

      3) I have done events that mix authors who sell on consignment and those who use a bookseller. Specifically, The Novel Experience in Atlanta just this past March. The way they got around that problem was to have authors who provided their own books mark them across the barcode with a black marker so the booksellers knew what was what. Seems like a simple solution to me.

      These are the reasons why I don’t believe that the bookseller issue was the only factor at play here. RT has been in business for a long time and this year was it’s 31st anniversary, so we know they know what they’re doing when it comes to booksellers, etc. So, it stands to reason that if a joint signing wasn’t even possible because of the bookseller issue, then they never would have even promised it. Or maybe they would have, to placate the indie authors who wanted in on the giant book fair because it drew a bigger turnout than the indie expo.

      Either way, the situation was handled poorly and Indies were the ones who got the short end of the stick. Why do you think that is? I believe it is because they don’t take us seriously. To us, we aren’t as important as the traditionally published, even though we pay as much money to be there as they do, and go through just as much effort to be there, sign, promote, etc.

  3. mitziflyte says:

    Thank you, so much, Elise.
    Your post was very thoughtful.
    I will soon indie publish my first book with more to come.
    I’ve worked very hard on my writing career for fifty years, while working full time as an RN. I’ve received some successes in small and indie presses for short pieces.
    I bet there were some indie authors in that room who’ve sold more books than some of the “trad” authors in the bigger room.
    Why should any indie-published author go to RT, if they will be treated like “aspiring” authors? That’s an insult.
    Thanks, again.
    Mitzi Reinbold w/a Mitzi Flyte

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