There's a story going around today that self-published authors were relegated to second-class status at a book fair in New Orleans yesterday, but whether that actually happened is still up for debate.
Here's what I know for sure:
- The RT Booklovers Convention wrapped up yesterday with the floor plans). , a massive event where 700 authors crowd into a couple ballrooms and sign and sell books. The authors were split between the Grand and Mardi Gras ballrooms at the Marriott Hotel in New Orleans, with one room over twice the the size of the other (
Here's what I don't know:
- Exactly how the authors were divided, or why.
According to Hugh Howey, the smaller Mardi Gras ballroom was reserved specifically for authors labeled as "aspiring". In other words, self-published authors:
Imagine selling two million books, having half a dozen of your novels hit the New York Times bestseller list, being inundated with thousands of fan emails every month, and then having someone call you an “aspiring writer.”
That’s what happened in New Orleans this weekend, when the planners of the RT Booklovers Convention decided to place self-published authors in a dinky room off to the side while the traditionally published authors sat at tables in the grand ballroom.
Authors like Liliana Hart, who is at the top of the game not just in the romance genre but in all of publishing, was labeled an “Aspiring Author.”
That sounds like a damning critique of the folks running the convention and their disdain for self-published authors, right?
I was prepared to report on Howey's post and second his complaints, but while I was looking for background information I found an alternate explanation as well as details which debunked Howey's description.
For one thing, if you look at the floor plan I linked to you'll see that the Mardi Gras ballroom is hardly a "dinky room off to the side". Depending on how the traffic was routed it might actually have been more accessible than the Grand ballroom.
And that's not all. According to Courtney Milan, the authors were divided based on how their books were sold:
Some self-published authors are talking about one specific thing: that is, the separation of authors into two rooms on the basis of criteria that would not have been obvious to readers. Authors who were selling nonreturnable books–typically, authors from digital-first presses and self-published authors–were selling books on consignment, whereas the other books were being sold by a bookstore.
That meant that the authors needed to bring those books, have them checked out, determine the sales of books afterward, and fill out paperwork as to how they were to be paid. I believe RT handled those sales. By contrast, a bookstore was handling the sales for the books that were returnable. At the RT Giant Bookfair, for administrative ease, authors with nonreturnable books were put into a separate room. This saves a little time because then RT staff would automatically know if an author needed to be checked in/checked out.
Rumor has it that someone claimed that the authors with returnable books were “real authors” and that the authors who were selling their books on a consignment basis were “aspiring authors.” As far as I can tell, this appears to have been one misinformed volunteer, rather than the official RT Convention description. It was not something that I saw or heard, and I do not think it was widespread.
I don't know that Milan's explanation is correct; in fact I agree with the commenter on her blog who explained why the division was probably unnecessary.
But in spite of it being unnecessary, I think the division along returnable/consignment lines is much more plausible than dividing the authors based on self-published and traditionally published. It sounds like the kind of decision which was made to reduce the hassle of those in charge of running the Giant Book Fair, and hang the problems it created for everyone else.
And it did create problems; Kendall Grey took to Facebook this morning to detail just how cramped she was in the Mardi Gras ballroom. Among here complaints:
"Two authors will be at each table; therefore, you will have half of a 6 foot table -- which is a 3 foot length." <--LIE. I didn't have a ruler, but I took a picture, and my space was nowhere NEAR 3 feet. See below.
"Authors are arranged in alpha order by last name. This applies to every section." <--LIE. If we'd been organized alphabetically, the two rooms would have been broken up around the last names beginning with the letter M (or thereabouts), NOT by publishing platform.
I can't tell you what really happened at the Giant Book Fair; I wasn't there. (And from what I can tell, neither was Howey.) If you have a first hand account which better explains what was going on, the comment section is open.
But whatever happened, it's clear that the policies were not well explained nor well executed. If this event had been planned better then authors would not be complaining about being cramped. And if the policy had been explained better then we would not have rumors going around that self-published authors were being maligned.
Let's hope the RT Booklovers Convention does better next year.