Historical and Contemporary Romance Author

A Brief Reflection on the RT Book Signing Brouhaha

I was not at this year’s RT, so I can’t speak to the precise dynamics that occurred this year. However, in the past, authors who did not have returnable print books (that is, most authors published by digital-first houses and self-published authors) had a SEPARATE signing on an entirely different day. That signing was poorly attended by the public because it was held in the afternoon on a weekday. Not many readers can get off work to attend a book signing in the middle of a workday. This meant most of the people who attended that signing were conference attendees.

I believe that RT moved that signing to coincide with the “traditional” Saturday book signing precisely to give digital-first and self-published authors an experience that more closely mirrored what the print-published authors got in the past: a signing attended by local readers. What they didn’t do was to “mix together” the two groups of authors. There were essentially still two signings, as there had been in the past, but at the same day and time. This caused major headaches (separate rooms, different lines for different types of book purchases, authors having to decide whether to sign print or digital if they had both, etc.), but I don’t believe it was done with the intention of making some authors feel like second-class citizens. In fact, I think it was done with the express intent of making the authors more “equal.”

What’s most ironic is how spectacularly that effort failed. When there were actually two signings and the digital-first/self-published authors really DID have a second-class experience, there was nothing LIKE this firestorm of controversy surrounding the two different signings. Seriously.

While it’s obvious from the backlash that RT handled the organization of this event poorly, the notion that some authors were relegated to a smaller room because the conference organizers had some sort of agenda against said authors is simply nonsensical. Facts that have been pointed to as proof of this agenda include:

1) Smaller table space for digital-first/self-pub authors than for print authors (which was probably done so more total authors could be accommodated and based on the assumption that the authors selling only print and not digital books would have more physical books on hand and therefore require more table space)

2) Digital-first/self-pub authors being referred to as “aspiring authors” (which seems to have happened once when an announcer apparently misspoke; I can find nothing to support the assertion that digital-first/self-pub authors were given name badges that said “Aspiring Author” instead of “Published Author”)

3) A door to the digital room was apparently closed at some point (an accident? which door? people who were there have told me there was always an open corridor between the two rooms, so I have no idea what actually happened, but I doubt any deliberate effort to cut off the digital room)

The bottom line, as far as I’m concerned is this: RT attempted to do what used to be two separate signings at the same time and, because they were accustomed to treating them as separate events, kept them as such because that’s what they were accustomed to. The result was chaos, as large events which are not well thought out are wont to be. But no one had any intent to slight anyone. That’s simply imputing far much more “planning” than the outcome suggests.

2 Comments

  • Cornelia Amiri May 20, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    Thank you for posting this. 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 as 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.

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  • Eliza Gayle May 21, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    I won’t even begin to speculate on the ‘why’ RT decided this year to keep them in separate rooms. I have no hard facts on how decisions were made other than information that it was very difficult to arrange due to the sheer author numbers they were expecting.

    However, it is really frustrating to hear that RT “had” to do it because of the difference between returnable and non-returnable/consignment books. (or NY and small press/indie. However you want to look at it.)

    **They have accommodated both returnable and non-returnable print books in the same room every year for some time now.**

    Yes, last year they kept most indies out of the Saturday signing. But there were exceptions made and those non-returnable/consignment books were handled with the other authors in the same room.

    I can’t remember what happened in Chicago other than I know most non-returnable print authors were not allowed to sign on Saturday. I do not know for a fact if exceptions were made.

    In LA. Same thing. Non-returnable print authors were excluded on Saturday but exceptions were made and the non-returnable books were handled in the same room.

    In Ohio, all authors with print either returnable or non-returnable were allowed to sign on Saturday in the same room. RT was able to accommodate this situation no problem.

    And its gone on like that for the full nine years I have been attending. Of course these days, with the number of hybrid and self pub authors growing astronomically, we are talking about a lot more authors with non-returnable books than ever before.

    I can only hope the main takeaway from this year’s event for RT is that the publishing world has changed and it’s not going back. It’s past time for RT to figure out a consistent way to handle the Saturday book fair for all authors. Most readers don’t know or care who is self-pub and who isn’t and they sure as hell don’t care about which books are returnable and which aren’t. They are there to find books and authors period. Don’t confuse them.

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