I didn’t go to the big RT* convention. But apparently there were two rooms for book signings. One room was for all the established authors with traditionally published books. Readers could pick a book, have it signed, and pay for it as they left the room. I gather that Barnes and Noble was handling the sales for this event. I’m going to assume this saves the individual authors from handling money.
Then some idiot said the other room was for aspiring authors. Not true. The other room was for independent authors. Their books were not handled the same way because… It’s complicated. But it all has to do with why indies aren’t sitting on many bookseller shelves next to other print books.
But all the authors there “bought” table space. They were supposed to get three feet of table space. Indies wound up with half that and were crammed together in a smaller ballroom.
So the whole thing is being blown out of proportion, but at the bottom of it is still the snobbery between traditional and indie authors. Many indie authors are acquiring their backlists** from traditional publishers and small epublishers who use POD** paper books or very short print runs. Those traditional authors are now indie pubbing those books. So obviously traditionally published authors are running to indie publishing in droves! But there is still something “special” about being able to say I write for (insert big publishing house name). And the traditional houses still hold the majority of the big names in the industry.
The truth is the big publishers have money and they can spend it. If you are a fair-haired child of theirs, they will spend it on advertising. And where do they advertise? Places like RT magazine. So whom is RT going to cater to? The big publishers. This is not rocket science. Money talks.
Today, small and indie publishers make up the brunt of the books available. It’s been a wonderful thing for both the authors and the readers. Never before has there been so much available and in every possible genre. But there is still the lingering snobbery of being traditionally published. Why? I have no clue. Many an indie has turned down a publishing deal with one of the big publishers because they can make more money without them.
If a big publisher came to me with a deal, I’m not sure what I’d do. I’d have to look at the contract very carefully. So often contracts tend to own characters, etc. and I don’t want to give up what I have. It’s all very tempting. And who wouldn’t be tempted by the idea of having a big publisher shove an author into the limelight? Why wouldn’t I be tempted to be wrapped in that protective blanket?
The truth is most indies work harder than traditionally published authors because we’re responsible for more. But the snobbery is there and it’s not going to go away anytime soon. Do you want a pair of jeans from that superstore down the street or the pair with the big name on your backside? And what if that pair from the superstore cost much less, fit better, and wore longer? But people like that big name!
And being those big publishers are the money behind so many book conventions and they have the advertising budgets to toss at magazines dedicated to readers, indies will be shunned. The playing field is changing, and it won’t happen overnight. It might take another twenty years before there are serious changes. But until then, readers shouldn’t have to worry about the politics of this business. Readers only need to be able to find the kinds of books that they love to read and at a price that fits their budget.
So RT made some mistakes. I think they know that by now and someone is probably in trouble. We don’t have the money of the big publishers, but we’re too big to be ignored. Changes need to be made. But I doubt they will happen between now and next year’s convention. Why? Because the big publishers still hold the keys to the money.
Are you a snob? Does it matter who published the book you are reading? Do you love going to big conventions or do the small town ones capture your attention? Have you ever met your favorite author?
*RT: Romantic Times, a magazine dedicated to romance readers
**Backlists: books previous published and the rights to those books have been returned to the author
***POD and short print runs: Print on Demand, books printed at the time of purchase. Short print runs, 300-500 books printed at one time and sent to booksellers.