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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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