Thoughts on Indie Author Separation at the RT Convention Signing in New Orleans

So, for those of you who have been following the news from New Orleans, I’d like to offer my perspective on what happened during the Giant Book Fair on Saturday when self-published authors were separated from the traditionally published authors and put in a different room, then crammed into tables less than what we’d been told.

Disappointment is the nicest thing I can say. For a conference and an organization that has been vocally supportive of indie authors, I expected better. Indie authors paid the same price for registration as traditionally published authors, but we received less table space and less traffic. We were harder to find because we were in a completely different room. And from what some readers said, if they wanted to buy both traditional books and indie books, they had to stand in completely separate lines. (This is second-hand, as I did not buy any books.) And check-out lines were very, very long.

I was told by someone I trust that the vendor for the event insisted on this. That it wasn’t RT’s choice. That may be, but if that was the case, the convention organizers had a responsibility to let authors know this would be the situation. The only reason I can think that they did NOT was because they knew indie authors would pull out of the signing. I know I would have.

It’s insulting. People publish independently for all sorts of reasons, yet many continue to promote the idea that it’s because we’re forced to. Is that what was meant by one staffer or volunteer referring to us as “aspiring authors” to a convention attendee as they directed them toward the room with the “real” authors? Do they think we’re all just publishing our little books until we get a “real deal” from a publisher? (Note: Please see update below.)

Tell that to the multiple NYT and USA Today bestsellers who were sitting in that room. They were there. Lots of them.

I don’t talk about this much, because it feels like tooting my own horn, but I’ve passed on good traditional oportunities for my work. And I have various reasons for that. Sometimes, the financials weren’t to my benefit. Sometimes, the timing just wasn’t right. I was told by someone knowledgeable that I would be able—if I wanted—to get a publisher for A Hidden Fire before I ever published. I chose not to pursue that for my own reasons.

I’m not opposed to traditional publishers. Far from it. I want a thriving and diverse marketplace because it gives authors many options. And the publishers I’ve worked with on my subsidiary rights have been fantastic. I just haven’t been offered the right print deal for me. Yet. That may happen some day; I’m not ruling anything out.

But the fact is: I’m indie by choice. But for some, they still think I’m waiting around for a NY deal. It’s short-sighted and ignorant.

It’s also bad business. I’ve sold well over 500,000 e-books over the last few years. (There, I tooted my horn a little.) And that doesn’t even touch free e-book downloads or the fiction I’ve given away on my blog.

I sure have a lot of readers for an “aspiring author.” Someone lost out on an opportunity to make money selling my books. Too bad for them.

Please, RT, I know you’re better than this. I’m disappointed that this is the way things happened, but I know you can make this right. I’m not making any grand pronouncements that I’ll never support you again and won’t read your magazine or promote your blog. You guys have a lot of excellent people over there! And up until this, you had one of the most progressive policies in welcoming indie authors.

But unless I have assurance that I’m not going to be treated like a second class citizen again, I will not be signing at another one of your conventions.

UPDATE: Wow! Lots of traffic. So, I want to do TWO quick updates/clarifications.

The RT twitter feed has stated that the “aspiring author” statement was from a volunteer who was quickly corrected, so I wanted to make sure to share that.

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Remember, this was a huge conference and miscommunication happens. I want to be clear that I have no interest in tearing down RT Magazine or the conference. That said, I think they needed to communicate much better with the authors and there were still big issues. As for WHY the separation happened, Courtney Milan has a great post over on her blog about it. She was there, too. So if you’re curious about the details, please check that out.

Also, looking at my original post, I wanted to make sure to say that I had a WONDERFUL time meeting the readers who did find me. Meeting readers is NEVER a disappointment. Part of my frustration at the event was that it was very difficult for readers to find the authors that they wanted with two separate rooms. There was a lot of confusion, and I heard things along the lines of “oh, THERE you are!” over and over. Just wanted to make sure you guys know that, by and large, the convention was really fun. I loved meeting the readers, bloggers, and other writers there.

Posted in Books, Conventions, Publishing, Uncategorized.

33 Comments

  1. Very sad to hear this. I haven’t attend RT but it sounds to me that by enforcing this “separation” both readers and authors lost on great opportunities to both connect and discover amazing authors and books. 🙁

  2. You tell em, Elizabeth. As a confirmed book freak, I have purchased books from both well known and Indie authors and am delighted. I was thrilled to discover the world of Indie when I got my IPad. Whoa!!! Whole new worlds of books to explore and discover, good thing I read fast!! LOL Although I’m not close to New Orleans, as a book buyer, I would certainly be aghast to discover this kind of set up, it’s certainly not a good business decision. What a lousy thing to do to people. 🙁

  3. What a low down dirty thing to do. Shame on RT. I’m not sure if they can ever make this right to the authors or the people attending the event. I’m so sorry Elizabeth, you and all the other Indie authors deserve better than this. What a terrible way to end the convention.

  4. I’ll be publishing my first Indie novel in just a few months and I was so sad to hear of this RT debacle. Whether this was intentional or not, the PR team for this event should have seen this coming and done something to mitigate the damage. Authors should have been notified. Fees should have been reduced or additional signage should have been added. I work in PR by day and this whole thing was completely avoidable.

  5. Sounds like they are very blind. I apologize you had to endure this treatment. To be honest if I had attended the convention it would have been solely to meet you. I hope they see the errors in their ways and at least offer an apology to the indie writers they shunned. Don’t let it get you down. We all know how talented you are and love your writing and the worlds you create for us! Thank you again for all of the time you give to us, we really appreciate it!

  6. It sounds like someone needs reminding that readers do not care how a good book is published. They don’t choose their next great read based on whether it was traditionally published or self-published. An author is an Author is an Author…Thank you, Elizabeth Hunter, for writing great books and caring enough to speak up.

  7. If you hadn’t been an Indy published author I may have never found, and fallen in love ith, your books. I am behind you in any choice you make.

  8. That is bullshit. I have read soo many books and I must say that your writing style has connected with me unlike any other author. It should make no difference to the convention organizers. You are all authors…and a shame that for the fans it was harder to find….even more of a shame because people looking for new authors to read dont get the exposure to you. Therefore it’s left to us, your fans to continue to scream your talents from.our roof tops.

  9. Elizabeth, I applaud you for speaking up here. I know RT is a great organization and readers love their magazine but for many years, Indie authors have been put on the back burner as second class, which is part of the reason I have not attended one of their convention. I, too, Indie publish by choice. To not be included in the ‘author signing’ is outrageous and shame on the vendor who insisted on that division when all authors paid the same price for the signing area (and indie authors pay their own way, not a publisher). I’m sure, in time, readers will find out who it was.

  10. I under the ‘hybrid’ author classification. My one book that has been traditionally published was complete happenstance. I didn’t seek it, I was content being an indie author. I wish confeences would stop seperating the two. Being published doen’t make an author better than a self-published one. That mentality is ignorant and annoying. I hope RT learned their lesson.

  11. I’m glad you wrote about this. I’m with a small publisher, and I heard it was difficult to get to sign at all, and it looks like those who did get to sign had a rough go of it. With the exorbitant registration fee, that is quite unfortunate.

  12. I think Sandra said it well, I second that! As a reader I’ve never distinguished publishing type, if I like the look of a book I buy it regardless. I feel incredibly lucky as a reader that indie exists, it’s opened up my world and my favourite authors, including you of course! are mostly indie. I would have been very upset as a reader to go there and find that.

  13. I’ve praised Liz Hunter to all who will listen, along with other Indie and mixed authors. Got beat up by a publicist for inferring that one author who was and is published in “the Establishment” was Indie. Like it’s the publishing equivalent of the “L” word. I’ve never been to a con or BEA, but clearly there is prejudice afoot. It is not a democracy, fair or a level playing field (see comment from Liz about paying the same as the “published” authors, for a table) if some authors are treated differently than others. In fact that is discrimination, plain and simple and cannot and should not be tolerated.

  14. Well said. i completely agree with you. RT is a good organization, but they botched this up big time. They can fix it if next year, they treat all authors on equal footing. If they don’t, the indies will pull out, and that would be very sad for readers.

  15. I am with an advance paying small press. I signed up, requested a seat on the traditional side. Everything was fine until I received an email a month or so later telling me they took my slot away and moved me to the “waiting list” for the Indie side.

    When I got to the book fair I had about one foot of space to set my stuff up, even though I was told I would have 3 feet to work with. When I addressed it, all I got was a shrug.

    That’s not even all the problems I experienced. They screwed up my book sales so major that I finally just gave up on trying to get it fixed and took it up with my publisher. The entire thing was a nightmare, start to finish. It was poorly handled, all the way around I think.

  16. Great post! The best I’ve read on the subject so far. Objective, informative, and concise. Thank you for speaking out and congrats on your sales! (well-deserved TOOT TOOT)

  17. Well said it is important to speak up. I too am an indie author of two books so far and it drives me mad that some people look down on the indie option.

  18. Well thought out post, Elizabeth. And disturbing to read that traditional and indy were separated. This does a disservice to the fans. I suspect that RT is learning from this situation, and I hope other fan conferences are taking note. Best wishes.

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  20. This angers me but I’m not surprised. The snobbery, fostered by legacy publishers with flagging sales numbers, still goes very deep. We don’t need you anymore, New York. The times they are a changing. I’m a proud independent. Check out my book sales and then call me an aspiring writer.

  21. Enjoyed reading this, Elizabeth. Feels like you and the other indies took one for the team. It’s an ongoing affair that has come a long way in a short time. Where will be in five years? Exciting possibilities.

  22. HEAR HEAR! I would have tracked you down anyway, if I’d been there. I read the excellent summary by Courtney Milan on her blog. All done for administrative purposes! Poorly done. I hope RT learned its lesson.

  23. I didn’t attend because I live on the other side of the world, but if I had been there I would have found you, because most of my favourite authors are Indie, even if they had put you in a basement. I will continue to promote you and other indie authors who deserve the recognition.

  24. Then there are those of us who are both indie and trad published, including a NY pub for me. But my publishers have my book out only in e-format. I have no print books, only ebooks, and nearly 70 of them at that. What’s an author to do at a con like that? When I go to venues to sell, I have my ebooks on disk (in 5 formats) that I can sell and autograph. But as for traditional book signings, we e-published authors are screwed, wouldn’t you agree?

  25. Two things: welcome to corprate America, and your books are head and shoulders above a lot of authors published by companies.

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