Being Forced to Sit in the Backlist

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 to some authors 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.”

RT is a major bookselling convention, a place that publishers expect to sell boatloads of titles. The bookselling, I believe, is handled by Barnes & Noble, a company with a history of segregating self-published authors on their online bestseller lists and who has no incentive to promote authors they don’t stock. So the fault here is not with the authors in the other room; it’s with the organizers and the undoubted pressure they feel from monied interests.

So I’d like to propose a bit of a promise to our future selves: Twenty years from now, when a new generation of more tolerant and inclusive artists finds themselves in the position to organize events like this, let’s not be dicks like our forefathers. All of those authors deserved to be treated the same. You can’t force readers to line up equally at every table, but you can make sure the tables are in the same damn room.

I’m sure most of the authors in both of those rooms would agree. This career can be tough. It’s why we have to be good to one another. And yes, there are people in powerful positions who don’t yet understand the change that’s afoot. We should absolutely try to convince them to see the light and appreciate all writers for what they contribute. But more importantly, we have to make sure that when we’re the ones calling the shots, we don’t make the same mistakes.

There’s room enough for everyone. And the days are numbered for those who don’t agree.


Kendall Grey’s Perspective

Courtney Milan’s Perspective

Jana Deleon’s (and others) Comments on KB

My take comes from conversations with friends who were there both as readers and writers. Some people are already trivializing the slights experienced by self-published authors. My two main points remain these: 1) I feel bad for people who were made to feel bad. 2) Let’s do better in the future.

Edited again to add Kendall Grey’s perspective:

Kendall Grey RT

And since we have Steven Zacharius of Kensington Books offering his opinion in the comments, I’ll include his recent piece on how, in is perfect world, self-published books and traditionally published books would be kept separate everywhere, even on websites like Amazon.

Reports vary widely about whether there was any controversy at all. Some feel the splitting of authors by publication method (or whether a book was returnable or not) was no big deal. I have friends who were there and who thought it was a big deal. I’m blogging about this to support those authors who felt slighted and to ask that we rethink these arbitrary designations in the future. Peace and hugs.

174 responses to “Being Forced to Sit in the Backlist”

  1. Douglas Kaiser Avatar
    Douglas Kaiser

    This sounds like segregation. Next thing you know, they’ll make the whole group sit in the back of the bus. It’s time for a civil revolution, and you’re just the guy to do it. And with this post, you have made a good start.

  2. Unbelievable. Wait… no, I believe it, because self-interest and fear causes all kinds of really poor behavior.

    So, if they can’t beat indie authors in the marketplace, they have to use discrimination and name-calling? This is the kind of thing that reflects poorly on the organizers, not the writers, not matter what room they’re in (as you rightly point out) . And that makes me glad that RT wasn’t on my “to-do” list…. nor will it be in the future. Authors need to vote with their feet and spend their money attending (or contributing to) organizations that treat them with the respect they deserve.

    1. Susan, that was exactly my reaction when I heard about this. Until this came out, I was thinking that it might have been fun to be there. I knew a lot of self-pub/Indies who were going, and it sounded, well, inclusive. But if that’s the kind of shenanigans the organizers and the $$$ behind them pull? No thanks.

      Maybe it’s time for us to have our own convention. And I’m just left wondering if you compare $$$ to $$$, which room had more sales this past year – the Indies or the others? Bet the numbers would be surprising.

      1. There is another convention July 9th in Vegas, the RNConvention ( put on by Jimmy Thomas for Indie and NY published alike. Jimmy doesn’t discriminate during the book signing and we all share one room with a great time had by all. I look forward to meeting readers and more authors in July at the 2nd Annual convention.

      2. Steven Zacharius Avatar
        Steven Zacharius

        I don’t think the answer to your question would be surprising at all. The traditionally published authors that are attending RT have sold millions and millions of dollars of printed books and eBooks. And they’re selling them at full price, not highly discounted prices. You guys just keep preaching to yourselves over and over and keep belittling the traditionally published print authors. There’s room for both of you without a doubt but there’s no reason to trash either side. You’re making a living and they’re making a living; so what’s the problem?

        President and CEO
        Kensington Publishing Corp.

        1. I am an Ellora’s Cave author who was placed with the traditional authors. Maybe because I identify more with traditionally published authors than indie authors. I have no idea why there needed to be any sort of hierarchy.

        2. I think the point being made here is about the discrimination by the organizers of the event (RT), nothing against traditionally published authors. Indie authors strongly feel they were discriminated at the event and the organizers ought to take up responsibility for that. Also, there is no need to bunch together what the Indie authors are “preaching”. Not all of them say the same things. But that’s a discussion for another time.

        3. As a reader, it matters not who published a good book. I read both but admit to reading indie authors more because 1. They are more reader friendly than most published in a traditional Publishing House. 2. They are cheaper to buy. Not everyone can afford a $11.99 price tag on a Publishing House book. With the economy the way it is I would think you would take that into consideration. 3. You can not loan traditionally published books. I have friend that would not have reading material at all if it were not loanable by a friend, the indie books are and it is encouraged. I also do not think that just because you are with a traditional Publishing House, that makes you a better writer. It’s all in the perspective, and what you like to read. Indie Authors should not be punished for not wanting some unknown to get their rightfully earned money.

        4. Oh come on, Steve, why the hate? If RT makes claims to support self-pubbed authors, then why not put their money where their mouth is and seat authors in alpha order? Why make the distinction between trade press and self-pub, thus creating a two-tier hierarchy? Did B&N suggest this to the RT organizers? If so, shame on them. Those self-pubbers had to have paid their money just like everyone else, yet they were seated at the back of the bus. Readers are the true litmus test, so why would a conference create ill will by ensuring a certain populace would sell fewer books?

          Editorial Director
          Behler Publications

          1. Now that more people have had a chance to weigh in and the knee-jerk reaction is wearing off somewhat, it looks less like any malicious intent on the part of RT and more like a cluster$&*$ on the part of the organizers. Too many authors, too many attendees, not enough room, poorly trained volunteers, etc etc. Not saying there wasn’t slighting based on being Indie but it doesn’t seem to have been as widespread as it first appeared, and probably wasn’t RT-approved.

            This needs to serve as a learning opportunity, not something that’s just going to divide people further. I know there are some who are very anti-Indie, and I still think it’s pure jealousy. After all *coughstevencough*, the dog tied to the porch often resents the dog running free in the yard. And those poor tied-up dogs will gnaw on their hateful bone until the thing splinters in their mouth. That’s their choice. But I don’t think, based on everything that’s come to light, we can classify RT as being one of those chained-up dogs.

        5. There is no such thing as “full price.” There is only the market price. You are losing share because your business model is inefficient and doesn’t serve the customers, not because others are daring to offer some morally suspect price that as compared to the one true price that you’ve conjured out of thin air.

    2. Agreed, Susan. I had lots of friends (traditional and self-published) at that convention. Beyond disappointed to hear of this.

  3. Publishers and their stooges can play make believe and set back the time on their clocks and watches, but real time keeps moving forward for the rest of the world. Playing these games is just a temporary fix…for themselves. Did you really expect something better from them?

  4. Sounds like the main ballroom should have been labelled, “authors aspiring to make a living.”

  5. Perhaps its time for a new crop of conferences organized by forward thinkers rather than those constantly checking the rear-view mirror.

  6. Hear hear! *Rabble rabble rabble*

    We’re such a society of imaginary prestige. Your actual creations, your factual accomplishments, or even selfless, kind, and communal actions, do not exist unless the “mob” agrees they exist – and sometimes it takes a meaningless piece of paper, whether a contract, a degree, or a green slip of paper with a guy’s face and a number on it, before you’re no longer deemed invisible.

  7. Great point about BN. They handle so many of the conferences in Romancelandia. I really hope that Amazon (or some other organization large enough to handle sales this size) is looking into taking over if it will make a smoother day for readers and a less insulting day for writers.

  8. Here, here. Unfortunately, the arts will always bump up into the real world. A convention interested in segregating writers would have done so whether they were indie or whether there were some other arbitrary reason to do it. If you get enough humans together, they could be all the same race and culture to start, eventually they’d find a reason to hate, discriminate against, and kill one another (it’s just how humans roll). Get enough artists together and they’ll find a way to put one group in a separate room. The not-our-sort-old-chap writers have been discriminated against long before the indie revolution, particularly genre authors. Ms. Hart will just have to console herself with her adoring readers (and boatloads of cash), even if she didn’t win the approval of a bunch of dicks.

  9. Why does this not surprise me? Had I gone to this event, I think that I would have preferred th back room: that’s where all the cool kids were.

    While the likes of B&N act like ignoramuses, the rest of us are laughing all the way to the bank.


    1. “that’s where all the cool kids were” – an excellent attitude. I didn’t attend this year, nor will I until changes are made.

  10. As one of the hybrid authors, I sat in the traditionally published room. But next year, if the authors are separated into two rooms according to traditional and self-published authors, I WON’T be signing at all. I call for all authors to do the same!

    1. Maybe a side book fair organized by a separate party in a neighboring hotel that includes all authors wanting to take part the evening of the RT fair. “Now meet the authors as they should be. Untainted by corporate pressures…”…

    2. I’m with you, Debra. Hybrid and planning on conferences for 2015. But I’m skipping RT15 now unless something changes. This is not okay.
      P.S. I’m hearing rumblings of a quick-forming IndieCon in San Antonio at the same time as RWA this July. :)

    3. As a hybrid author myself, I was given a choice of which room to sit in. I chose to sit in the Indie room so I could sign my indie paperbacks for my readers. If I’d been in the big room, I wouldn’t have had that choice.

      However… when I chose to sell as an Indie, I was under the impression that all authors would be in one room, which was implied in the promo from RT for the convention. I certainly didn’t know they’d be shepherding readers into the big room and calling them the “real” authors.

      On the bright side, whether or not the powers-that-be think I should be sitting separately, my readers don’t care who publishes my books! In fact, quite a few aren’t happy about the high prices of my trad-pub books compared to my self-pub books, and actually prefer it when I self-pub.

      As long as all the books I put out are well-written, well-edited, well-formatted, and have great covers, there’s really no difference at all between my indie books and my NY books… except for the price, and the lack of DRM ;)

  11. I read, a lot. I buy books and kindle books. I do not care, and never have cared who the publisher is. I don’t go looking for Penguin, or Barnes and Noble. I look for authors I know and titles that capture my imagination.
    The sooner publishers realise they are merely a retailer and fairly irrelevant the better.

  12. Nice and complete utter misrepresentation of what actually happened.

    In fact so good it’s almost the opposite. *golf clap*

    No one was labelled an aspiring writer (one volunteer said it and was instantly corrected). The tannoy directed people to the other room more than once. And badges said “published writer”. In fact people enjoyed it so much, many indie authors gushed how included they felt

    RT is big. So big they can’t fit all the authors in one room. But they do their level best to get everyone included — in fact romance was an early adopter of self pubbing and they embrace it with open arms.

    Sooo….er…what’s this all about then? Or just gossip and hearsay as usual?

    1. I would love to be wrong about this. But I’ve heard from friends and colleagues who all have the same story.

      If the venue isn’t big enough for all the writers:

      1) Get a bigger venue


      2) Separate people by shoe size.

      1. David Macinnis Gill Avatar
        David Macinnis Gill

        “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.”

        I’m a hybrid author, and I was at RT.

        The room the indie authors were in was not dinky. It was another ballroom, and the three times I visited friends there, it was packed. The PA guy repeatedly encouraged readers to visit the self-published authors, so RT was making an effort to steer traffic that way.

        There was no way to get a larger venue. The ballroom was the biggest space in the Marriott, and the fire marshall wouldn’t allow anyone else in the room. They even made people move boxes and take down signs.

        While I understand that some people were upset with what they felt was a slight, but RT has always been welcoming of self-published authors, and this year was no different.

        1. So divide people alphabetically. Or by sub-genre. Or randomly.

          I suppose the people who still see a distinction between self-published and traditionally published view this differently than those who don’t. I added links to the story from observers from both sides. I have friends who were nearly in tears. Others who were there as readers that I spoke with at length over the phone. Their pain is valid, in my opinion. Who am I to tell them that they are wrong to feel slighted?

          1. Chris Stevenson Avatar
            Chris Stevenson

            I don’t know, Hugh, it seems a continuing trend leftover from the dinosaur publishing days. An inevitable segregation, a division between the touted traditional sellers and those who have not gone through the strict eye of the publishing needle. Although, you ARE hybrid, having contracted with one of the glamorous houses. Sounds like head-liners vs lounge acts. Ironic, since you’ve probably out-sold those who occupied the “special” room. Aspiring or budding writers are those who have not quite made it yet. This in no way applies to you or the other very successful SP who have broken records and graced numerous best-seller lists.

            Take it in stride–not to heart. We all know the difference out here and wht it means.

            Your benefactor,


          2. What you fail to appreciate, Hugh, is that in past years, the digital-first and self-published authors had an entirely SEPARATE signing. On a different day. Not in a ballroom. Attended by far fewer readers because it was held on a weekday afternoon when most locals can’t get off of work to go to a signing.

            What RT attempted to do, IMHO, is to give local readers equal access to both groups of authors by holding the two separate signings on the same day. Because book purchases were always handled by a separate vendor for digital vs returnable print books, RT maintained the separation of rooms along the same lines.

            The outcome was obviously a chaotic mess in many ways, but in my opinion, it happened for precisely the OPPOSITE reason than you are suggesting: RT was trying to be MORE inclusive, not less so.

        2. My friends—most of whom are NOT self-published—were placed in that room that was repeatedly labeled “the self-published authors’ room”. Maybe because they chose to sign cover flats instead of print books. Is everyone who is not published by the Big Five now considered “self-published”? That is just bizarre.

          By the way, Kenneth Falk told me the bookstore doing the checkout did not bring scanning equipment, which is the reason for the 90-minute checkout line. He was doing what he could to move things along.

      2. he venue was big enough, rooms weren’t. That happens in every convention. And I;ve heard fro lots of people who were very happy.

        You’re making a mountain out of a very small molehill here. Lots of people were directed specifically to the room. Not everyone got to be in the big room ( I suspect that publishers paid to be there)

        You and/or your cohorts could have been in the big room if they’d paid. Lotso fo people didn’t pay and still got lots opf people coming to see the, because it was well advertised.

        Everyone got to see everyone and were told where everyone was so they could chose where to go. So…what;s that damn problem? I’ve known writers give readings in real live coal cellars attached to a con. This is, er, moaning for the sake of it in the face of that. First world probs and all that.

        1. From what I understand, everyone paid the same fee to attend the event. So no.

        2. Actually, when the event was advertised to authors it was presented as one big room with everyone in the same space. Everyone paid the fee, and put in time and money for travel, shipping, hotel rooms, and more.

          Authors were promised a three foot space, in writing, at several different occasions. Thus, everyone hauled displays, posters, swag, and books in appropriate amounts for a three foot space. People traveled from all over the USA, Australia, and England to discover that the spots were really 1.5 feet. All this stuff that just “appears” on the tables is planned and ordered, often months in advance, and paid for by someone. People order swag from China! There were 700 authors at the event. Hundreds of people couldn’t use their displays, posters, put up their swag, and so on.

          A 1.5 foot space is fine, if it’s communicated in advance, so authors can plan accordingly. It’s not okay when things “just happen” and is presented when you already stand there with all your stuff.

          To make it worse, young adult authors – who were registered as YA – were refused to sit with the other YA authors, because RT deemed them “indie” and in some cases ended up next to extremely explicit erotica. That’s great when young readers come to visit their favorite writer…

          I understand that it might be necessary to split people into more than one room, but for the future it would be wise to either split it alphabetically, or make it perfectly clear from the start that the rules presented at sign-up are only valid for the really big publishing houses.

        3. Nope! I was in the big room and I paid the same as everyone else.

        4. I paid exactly the same amount of money as everyone else and also did a very expensive separate promotion on another evening so this mole hill to you is a little more to me. I had 21 inches wide by 18 inches deep to display items at the book fair – measured it. The one box that I brought barely fit under the table and I had to keep a foot on it because there was literally no room for me to put both feet on the floor. The table behind me facing the other way was so close that I couldn’t get out to go to the restroom, let alone move my chair back enough to stand. Traditionally published authors had double that space and more. As uncomfortable as it was for me, I really felt bad for readers who stood in line for 3 hours to pay for books.

          I met lots of my readers which I was thrilled about and met many more new readers. As Indie authors have more money to spend on marketing, new venues will open up for readers and authors and they will hopefully be a bit more courteous to their attendees.

      3. Margaret Taylor Avatar
        Margaret Taylor

        Actually Kendall Grey pointed out exactly what happened: With pictures included:

        So, sorry Kersplat, I’m with Hugh on this one.

    2. Steven Zacharius Avatar
      Steven Zacharius

      Finally an honest answer.

    3. As one of the Old Broads of epublishing (anyone remember Dreams Unlimited? LTDBooks?) I can attest to the warm welcome I have always received at every RT Booklovers Convention I’ve enjoyed. Kathryn Falk is a visionary and recognized epublishing as being the future long before anyone but the pioneers who founded the first digital publishers did.

      I have stood in the long lines to pay for books at RT. I’ve helped set up and tear down the Book Fair. I’ve signed my print titles in the main room and I’ve signed disks containing digital copies in a different event on a different day.

      Separating authors in different locations is done for several reasons:

      1. Space. Ever try to set up tables and navigable aisles for almost a thousand authors? The main ballroom isn’t large enough to hold everyone in comfort and safety. Accommodations are always a squeeze and this year had more authors than ever.

      2. Finances. The conference book vendor brings cash registers and automated bar code readers to the Book Fair. This makes the sheer volume of purchases possible. With the inclusion of small-press and self-published authors in the Book Fair, realize that no single vendor will carry every title of every attending author. Readers who purchase books from those writers who bring their own print copies will have to pay another way than through the main book vendor. (Their books will not scan at checkout.). Add in the control required for loss prevention and the easiest solution is to separate out authors whose books are not billable through the main book vendor. It’s easiest for all concerned.

      If any of you can devise a working method that will permit every author to sit in the same space (without running afoul of the fire marshal), the public to browse comfortably, and every reader to pay for all their purchases in one transaction, I’m certain the organizers would adopt it in a heartbeat.

      1. Kenneth Falk himself told me the bookstore did not bring scanning equipment, and he was really upset about it. He DID arrange for authors who wished to purchase their remaining books to put them aside and come back later when the lines were gone. Whatever mistakes RT made, that was not one of them.

        1. I believe you are refering to Kenneth Rubin, who is married to Kathryn Falk.

          Just remember, it is difficult to seat 800 authors in a hotel ballroom. I believe Courtney Milan’s essay is spot on.

          I suggest readers and authors submit constructive feedback in a professional manner to RT for consideration to improve future conventions.

      2. Using two ballrooms was not the problem at all. Just start somewhere and alphabetize so A through M is in one room and N through Z is in another.

    4. Actual RT14 Attendee Avatar
      Actual RT14 Attendee

      *applause* Precisely.

      Yes, I was there.

      RT is known for its massive screw ups. It’s never been the most professionally run conference. It’s a fan convention that has vastly outgrown its resources and legacy staff and desperately needs new blood and better organization if it wishes to remain relevant.

      The conference in New Orleans was twice the size of the previous year’s conference in Kansas City, but run as if attendance had gone down instead of doubling. EVERYTHING WAS F#&KED UP, from registration closing early the day before the conference began so people arriving that afternoon couldn’t grab their badges (and not reopening until the morning’s events had already begun), to the goody room running low on books, to editor/agent pitch appointments going massively off schedule, to parties with no food, no drink, and hours-long lines. The hotel’s bar doubled as a leading cause of hearing loss, which made listening to the (unrecorded) workshops difficult because AV equipment and microphones were mostly nonexistent.

      The book signing was just another massive c@&k-up in a conference full of them. Still, I had a great time, and I was one of those people stuck in three-hour long lines. Y’know, as a buyer of the complaining authors’ books.

      In fact, RT is so clueless at running a large conference, it makes me giggle to see people who weren’t there ascribe all sorts of nefarious intents and deep dark conspiracies to the planners. Sorry to disappoint, but you can take off the tin foil: RT really is that badly organized. They do their best, bless their hearts, but this year’s conference got away from them. But all this gnashing of teeth and shaking of fists and using what happened to, yet again, promote the tired agenda of “The Evil Traditional Publishing Oppressors and their Apologists vs The Pure, Noble, Sparkly Unicorn Hearts and Souls of REAL Authors” is really, really….yawn…ZZZZzzzzzzzz…

      Sorry, I dozed off.

      But, srsly, these are the same people who couldn’t figure out that 3300 attendees + pub crawl on Bourbon Street/collect beads at each of the ten bars to win a prize = chaos. You really think they have the capacity to sit around twirling their moustaches and think up ways to screw indie authors because, reasons? Even though indie authors are largely responsible for the massive growth and success of the conference? Even though they had tracks and tracks and track of workshops and programs aimed specifically at indie writers? RLLY?!

      Yes, RT needs to change – and how – if they want to host another big book fair. Not because they actively sought to bruise authorial egos. But because they need to hire professional conference organizers and meeting planners or else get out of the game.

      As for “aspiring authors” – hate to break it to those who weren’t there but still feel the need to throw bricks because, yeah, that’s a productive use of time: there WERE aspiring authors there. It even said so on the name tag. No, they weren’t signing. No, indie/self-pubbed/digital first authors had “published author” on their name tag, same as the traditionally pubbed authors, same as the hybrid authors. But people talking about or even identifying as aspiring authors did occur, all the time. Again, no conspiracy, no slight, just a way to identify the attendees who were readers vs. the attendees who were there primarily to further their craft or learn how/where/when to publish vs. the attendees who were there with published books to promote. So if people overheard “aspiring author” on the day of the book signing: there’s a reason.

      (PS: I saw Liliana Hart’s RT name tag. It said “Published Author.” I didn’t see Kendall Grey’s, but unless she herself checked “aspiring author,” I’m sure it read much the same. Also, funny how you linked AND embedded Grey’s rant but not Courtney Milan’s well-thought out, logical analysis. Oh well, I’m sure you have your bias – I mean, reasons.)

      1. Just FYI, Hugh’s post does link to Courtney’s post, and has since he first put it up.

  13. I wonder how will pay off over for conferences (and bookstores, for that matter) who treat the independent writer as the problem to be blocked/marginalized/shunned.

  14. This does not surprise me. Indies have a lot of prejudice to overcome. Another example of this are “professional writers” groups that won’t consider indie titles for mainstream awards, etc… This will change in time, but for now the “establishment” is disdainful and probably frightened of the Indie Revolution. However, to be fair, there needs to be more of a vetting process for indie titles too. We probably need an Indie Writers’ Association to champion our cause and endorse well written indie titles. In the meantime the sales rankings and ratings might be the best way to judge the merits of indie works.
    “Modern poets talk against business, poor things, but all of us write for money. Beginners are subjected to trial by market.” ― Robert Frost

  15. I wish every self-pubbed author there would have picked up the tables, chairs and books and moved it all out onto the sidewalk IN FRONT of the venue. No one should sit still for this kind of disrespect. I certainly hope everyone concerned there will write/call/e-mail the organizers and demand a more equitable arrangement for next year. Shameful.

  16. This is terrible. There are some very successful self-published writers out there who self-pub by CHOICE — more freedom and more profits! There is great self-published work out there, just look at ERAGON. I think the “traditional” publishers may be intimidated by these self-published authors and are trying to put them down. Shameless.

    1. Steven Zacharius Avatar
      Steven Zacharius

      These comments are just so far off base. RT doesn’t look to segregate the types of writers. There’s no competition at all between publishing houses and indie authors. Stop making this stuff up. It doesn’t exist.

      1. BWAAHAHAHAHA! Oh my gosh. Was your account hacked? You sound insane.

        1. I don’t see how you can say that, Steven. If that were true, the authors would have been listed alphabetically in both rooms and no demarcation line between those who were indie (which seems to include those of us who are published by smaller publishers, although I was put in the big room) and those who were published by the Big Five.

          Makes no sense to me.

        2. Steven is the head of a small traditional publishing house. He once blogged that in his “perfect world”, self-published and traditionally published e-books would be on a separate page on Amazon, or a separate website. He clearly agrees with what RT did and sees no problem with it. In fact, he would love to do the same thing to ALL books everywhere.


          1. If there hadn’t been intention to segregate via self vs trad publishing, the segregation could have legitimately and fairly done via any number of means that didn’t send the message “those indie guys vs those trad folks”:

            –first come, first grand ballroom served (whoever registered first got a a seat at the main room until those seats were filled, then whoever registered got into the next room)
            –via lottery of some random sort (you register and your name gets a number than then is part of a random selection for seatin)

            Probably lots of other non-discriminatory ways to choose who sits where. The fact that it was trad vs self, and the fact that the GRAND ballroom went to trad speaks. I think one has to have blinkers on not to see how it speaks.

            And if there was just an upfront honest note: one room for self, one room for trad–then folks had a choice whether to attend or complain.

            I think the fact that they LIED about how things would be done (see photo and letter to RT portion of blog post) and space given matters, too. I’d be really pissed if I was promised 3 feet and got 1.5. In fact, I wonder if that is something where a whole class could request remuneration. What was promised was not delivered.

            This is not a mountain vs molehill. This is valid complaining to assure that next year’s RT is organized in such a way as to supply what is promised and supply it as fairly as possible in a changing publishing landscape.

          2. Mr. Zacharius’ piece makes a great case for self-publishing. The circular logic makes it difficult to deconstruct, but a few thoughts…

            He lists the services provided by traditional publishers (editing, cover design, marketing, etc.), which look strikingly similar to the services provided by the rip-off vanity publishers of old. His attempt to differentiate serves to highlight the degree to which traditional publishing is based on human vanity – the desire for approval from “the professionals”.

            Of self-publishing, he says “The constant media attention given to these very rare success stories vastly inflates the true value of self-publishing sales.”

            Really. And the same can’t be said of traditional publishing, sir? Traditional publishers don’t inflate stories of their hits to increase profits, stock prices, executive bonuses, and to attract/gain leverage over authors?

            Another gem…”In a perfect world (okay, in my perfect world) there would be a separate section on Amazon or B& for self-published e-books, maybe even separate websites.”

            Yes, I can see how this would be nirvana for you. The fact that a self-published title sits adjacent to traditionally-published products on Amazon completely obliterates the barriers to entry BigPub has spent billions to create.

            Disruption is so messy.

            His primer on publishing economics is helpful: “Publishers couldn’t possibly afford to sell the book away for $ .99. If this were the business model and publishers were making greatly reduced revenue on the sales of these titles, the publishing industry would go belly-up. There would be no way for the publishing company to recoup their author advances and as a result, these advances would drop substantially.”

            My oh my. This does sound catastrophic. So you’d like us to keep the world the way it was in order to support your legacy business model? Um, indie authors don’t get advances, but they write their books anyway. The economics of author advances are your invention. If your business model doesn’t work anymore, change it.

            But the grand prize for prestidigitation goes to this nugget: “Once the book is ready to go, the publisher gets behind it with marketing and publicity efforts, and has already given the book the best cover and cover copy that money can buy. The publisher’s money, not the author’s.”

            Not the author’s money?? Are you kidding? Yes, the traditional publisher spends money up front, but if the book takes off, the publishers claws all those dollars back from the author through anemic royalty payments, AFTER the author has earned back that advance you’re so concerned about.

            New bridges between writers and readers are built, and they’re taking more traffic every day. Meanwhile BigPub tries to funnel everyone through their creaky old toll booths.

      2. Terrence OBrien Avatar
        Terrence OBrien

        No competition at all? Independents are certainly competing with the publishing houses. That’s how they went from zero market share to a substantial market share. It would be odd for publishing houses to give up market share without a fight.

  17. “yes, there are people in powerful positions who don’t yet understand the change that’s afoot.”

    Have they been living under a rock for the past five years??

    “We should absolutely try to convince them to see the light and appreciate all writers for what they contribute.”

    The astonishing thing about all this is you’re making what some in the publishing world would consider a revolutionary statement, but it is actually quite reasonable. How could anyone not agree??

    “But more importantly, we have to make sure that when we’re the ones calling the shots, we don’t make the same mistakes.”

    I don’t know that there’s going to be room for both camps in the years to come. Not that we’d decide that, but that publishers are inevitably going to go extinct. They’ll morph and adapt, I’m sure, but just as Kodak will never be the giant it once was in the realm of photography, the writing is on the wall for Harper Collins, etc.

  18. That’s unprofessional and inaccurate to label and separate the authors that way. Now that those ‘aspiring’ authors have been treated so poorly this year, hopefully, they won’t be back next year nor other self-published, indie authors, until it is changed. Insecurity and fear show up everywhere… Not to be tolerated. It’s disappointing.

  19. We definitely need an indie author convention with massive amounts of authors attending. Then, the press needs to be invited so they can write up positive reviews about the experience and learn the facts about indie publishers.
    As far as the RT convention in my home town, if the indie authors that paid the normal fee were put in a side room, they should have protested by picking up their tables and chairs and setting them up where they saw fit (a little rebellious, but hey, there act was a serious slight to indies).

    1. There is “sort” of one in NYC, but it’s mainly run by service providers – publishers, online retailers, etc. – who want to sell to indie authors. Very few authors have tables. Wondering why that is. I’d love to see an indie author convo.

    2. There are cons for indie authors. A lot of the smaller cons have a HUGE Indie presence. If that’s what you’re looking for, have you tried going to any of those?

  20. I think someone should contact Amazon and see if they would be interested In sponsoring a meeting

  21. So glad I didn’t attend this convention. Thanks for showing your support for indie romance authors, Hugh. Yikes!

  22. Thank you for speaking out for us indie authors who work just as hard in many instances on craft and career as trad published authors. I made reservations for this convention, then cancelled them for this very reason (and also because my personal life took a dramatic turn). I couldn’t believe that a big convention like RT did this to authors. It’s like shades of Jim Crow when blacks had to sit in the back of the bus, or drink from different water fountains. Such segregation should not be tolerated at an event where each author pays the same fees.

    1. You can’t seriously be comparing this to Jim Crow laws?

  23. Courtney Milan wasn’t in the traditionally published room. She was in the indie room, right across from me.

  24. Dick Whittington Avatar
    Dick Whittington

    One thing for sure, Barnes & Noble won’t be there in 20 years. Their management is totally focused on putting themselves out of business. Talk about putting your head in the sand and ignoring progress. They are the worst! To authors and consumers, alike. They still live in the dark ages and refuse to see or believe that the world has moved forward…and isn’t ever coming back!!! Sounds like it’s time for Amazon to take this over too.

  25. […] to Hugh Howey, the smaller Mardi Gras ballroom was reserved specifically for authors labeled as […]

  26. I am not at all surprised by this. I was in the publishing industry 10 years ago and the attitudes and mentality hasn’t changed a bit.

    Sure they are forced to do eBooks but look at the pricing of eBooks. Not to worry though, the days of the old school publishing houses are numbered and getting shorter every year.

    They don’t get it and of all people, Hugh, you should know it intimately.

  27. […] when indie authors felt slighted when they were separated from the traditionally published authors. (You can find links to some here.) Read those posts, because they are important. They are expressing the frustration of some VERY BIG […]

  28. I found the entire organized part of the convention rather frustrating. This was the first time I had attended RT, and I’ll probably not choose to go to this one again any time soon.

    I do not feel I wasted my money by going to New Orleans, but if I had it to do over again, I would just go to the city where the conference is happening, hang out in the bar and meet authors/industry professionals for drinks, dinner, shopping, and some brainstorming time.

    If anyone is interested in my reaction to the conference, they can read it here:

  29. According to RT Book Reviews:

    “There was no “aspiring author” room at the #RT14 book fair. A volunteer misspoke while directing traffic and was quickly corrected.”

    With all due respect, it might be a good idea to determine who specifically heard the room referred to this and if it was heard by more than one person before the tar and feathers are broken out. I can’t address other issues Kendall Gray might have raised but the “aspiring author” room comment may be a molehill, not a mountain.

    1. One of my colleagues tried to enter the room and a volunteer said, “You can’t go there. It’s not an exit.” I think they tried to make up for it later on with announcements about “New York Times bestselling authors in the Indie room.”

      I understand that it’s hard to keep everyone and everything under control at an event this size, but in my opinion the book fair requires a new take. My main issue is that what RT promised authors at sign up was very different from what actually happened. It could still have been okay, if the major changes had been communicated.

      It wouldn’t have taken long to send out an e-mail telling authors, “We will have to divide the book fair into two rooms” and, “Unfortunately, we can’t offer the table space promised, so every author in the Mardi Gras ballroom will get 1.5 feet instead of 3.” They must have known about the change since author names were marked in the program. Thus, there would have been ample time to tell everyone, so we could have prepared accordingly.

      1. I’m hybrid at the present time. If I were offered 1.5 feet, I’d cancel. That isn’t enough space to put even 1-2 of my print books up, and nothing for book cards for my electronic titles. And no space for my chocolate dish!

        I attended 2012 (?) in Chicago, and its organization was abysmal. But I have to say we small press and indie authors were right there next to MOST of the larger-house published authors. A few were segregated into an elite room and the reader/customer had to queue up or win a lottery or get a ticket or something. I didn’t pay much attention.

        After the Chicago conference, I resolved not to attend again. Whatever the motivations, which I honestly feel we might not ever really know, I have much better ways to spend three days and a whole load of money.

  30. It sounds most of all like snobbery. Secondly it sounds like ignorance. If there’s another excuse for it I don’t know what it is.

  31. Wow. I might have gotten a small parking spot – in the back… lol

  32. MeiLin Miranda Avatar
    MeiLin Miranda

    Folks, I ask one thing: do not compare this to racial segregation. Whatever happened at RT does not reach the level of Jim Crow.

    1. Thank you, I was going to say this too.

  33. What is described in this blog post is beyond me. Readers could care less if the book they are reading is self-published or traditionally published. Why would a company choose to minimize or marginalize what has to be a substantial revenue flow from Indie authors? It defies common sense and just doesn’t make good business sense.

  34. […] unfortunate that there are now usual suspects when it comes to indie author drama. Indeed, people who were there have pointed out that this is what […]

  35. There seem to be indie forums and traditional forums, but has anyone thought to organize a convention of writers and integrate them? I think it’d have to be organized by a self-pubbed writer and then integrated, for I’ve seen far too many traditional ones look down their noses at indie writers. In fairness, perhaps that’s more the demands of the traditional publishers trying to protect their brand than anything else.

  36. It seems like B&N would earn a lot more money if they made it easier to get self published books into their brick and mortar stores. Stock what the people are reading, no matter who’s publishing it. If they are really that against Amazon maybe they should start their own POD system.

    1. Steven Zacharius Avatar
      Steven Zacharius

      B&N sells indie books on the Nook. Are you suggesting they bring in POD titles into the stores? First of all they’re considerably more expensive than traditionally printed books and there simply isn’t enough shelf space to sell every book published. Also, they collect money for positioning from publishing houses. Indie authors aren’t going to pay for promotional space, nor would they be printing enough copies on their own to warrant having dedicated space. This is why the indie sales are primarily in ebooks where there is no overhead and the books can be discounted to a lower than typical price to draw attention to them.

      1. Seriously? Indies won’t pay for space? What rock have you been under? All my indie friends make more money in a year than most trad authors will see in a lifetime. And speaking as a formerly trad author, I KNOW that for a fact. ”

        Drop by our very expensive booth at BEA and think again when you say indies won’t pay. You’re dead wrong.

        1. Jana, I WILL drop by your booth at BEA and take wonderful pictures and include in in posts about how great indie authors are!!

          1. We would LOVE to see you and have you take pics, Renee! Looking forward to it. :)

      2. Hi Steven,

        In case you weren’t aware, Barnes & Noble retail stores are quite happy to stock and sell POD books by indie authors. Especially ones that are LightningSource printed and Ingram distributed, assigned the standard wholesale discount, and made returnable. And without a fat publisher overhead in the equation, an author can price their POD titles quite competitively.

        Your theories about the reality of indie publishing don’t seem to bear much resemblance to on-the-ground verifiable reality.

      3. Terrence OBrien Avatar
        Terrence OBrien

        The lower price yields the same unit revenue to the author that he would receive from a typical traditionally published book. But the lower price also results in more unit sales. So he makes more money. It’s a competitive tactic successfully employed by independents. And it also does draw both attention and market share.

  37. Well, that’s really horrid. I’d love to see a bigger and bigger presence at BEA. At least they keep all the authors in the same room.

  38. Steven Zacharius Avatar
    Steven Zacharius

    Please keep in mind that in terms of most of the events at RT, it is the traditional publishing houses that are paying for most of this conference. It’s the big authors that are the big draw and get people to attend. It’s the publishers that pay for the parties and the pub crawls that draw the crowds. But that doesn’t mean that the different types of published authors can’t coexist. There’s room for everybody. In fact there’s more than romance authors at RT. There are thriller, mystery and western writers as well. It’s a place to have fun, meet your favorite writers and more.

    1. My publisher, Ellora’s Cave, was a sponsor as well. It wasn’t just the Big Five. So why did some of our authors get put in with the indies? Makes no sense.

    2. Every author paid the same fee. Every author was promised the same thing. Every author didn’t get what they paid for. Rationalize all you want, but when two people pay the same price for the same thing and only one of them gets what they were promised, we have a very ugly name for that.

    3. Terrence OBrien Avatar
      Terrence OBrien

      Yes. Indirects and free rider effects can be very beneficial. Independents can also thank traditional publishing for building a huge market for fiction. That’s where the independents’ consumers come from.

    4. I am a self-published author and I, along with six other self-published authors, paid for a stop on the pub crawl. So, no, it wasn’t just traditional publishing houses that paid for events.

  39. Did you REALLY compare authors being broken into two groups to racism and the civil rights struggle?

    Jim Crow? Seriously?

    Can y’all get a grip on your indignation and notice your offensiveness?

  40. Steven Zacharius Avatar
    Steven Zacharius

    Let me correct Hugh here. RT is not a conference that is designed to sell boatloads of backlist titles. In most cases the publishers give each author a handful or a carton of books to sign to sell to the fans. The publishers don’t have all their authors there, no conference room would be big enough for that type of event. Only the authors that pay to exhibit on their own are there. The purpose of the RT convention is for readers to meet their fans. In contrast the RWA conference is more focused on workshops for the writers although they also have a day where donated books are sold to raise money for literacy. But the purpose of RT is not to sell boatloads of backlist titles as you mentioned.

    1. 1) Calling something a “book fair” does imply that it’s an event for, you know, the purchasing of books.

      2) The fact that traditional publishers want to give authors “a handful” of books to sign does not mean that that is what the purpose of the event was or that people who were promised space for books and swag were not cheated or treated unfairly when some got it and some didn’t.

  41. And we all know how well Barnes and Nobles are doing – they are very close to having to close their doors and now they have taken steps to alienate even more readers. Their actions are terrible!

  42. Yes, the publishers pay for a lot of stuff, but authors with many decent size publishing houses ended up in the “aspiring authors” room with readers saying, “I couldn’t find you. I thought you weren’t here.” One of my colleagues was told, “That’s not an exit” when she attempted to enter the “indie” room.

    I understand the need of dividing a big group, but do it alphabetically or something. I absolutely agree with you that there should be room for everyone. I am a firm believer in teamwork, and incidents like this will hurt the entire industry. I doubt I will return to RT. There are many conventions, and there’s probably one that will fit me and my view of the world better.

  43. The reason was mostly practical. The booksellers who could get the books from the regular catalogs provided the books for the selling and put them on the tables. All other books, indie books and the ones brought in by readers for authors to sign had to be checked in. The split was more due to bookseller requirements. There were some big authors in the indie room. The announcer made that clear, and mentioned it several times.
    The “aspiring author” comment was made once on the tannoy and was quickly corrected and never repeated.
    This was the first booksigning of this kind and lessons were learned. If people cooperate with the organizers it could result in something wonderful in years to come. There is no hidden agenda, no deliberate attempt to keep anyone down.
    I’m a hybrid author signing in the trad room, but I didn’t get any of my indie books to sign. With so many authors it was hard to organize. This was truly the first of its kind.

  44. I didn’t attend RT this year because last year they were even worse–we weren’t allowed to sign on Saturday at all. In fact, last year, I gathered up 36 of the banished authors and we did our own signing at another hotel that Saturday–and even with low attendance, we sold more books than we did at the Thursday “Expo” signing designated for indies and e-book publishers.

    Romantic Times is a dinosaur of the industry. It’s also primarily a author-meets-author/editor/publisher/bookseller event, because most readers can’t afford it. I’d rather attend smaller conferences. Heck, even put on my own (which I’m doing in Seattle in October) than to go where people can’t appreciate indie voices as the trend setters we are.


    1. Sigh… you are an indie writer’s hero. Not only do you write amazing books but you aren’t afraid to say it like it is. A rare combination in today’s climate. I am determined to meet you one day … damn that ocean for separating you from UK indies and readers. Oh I know, next year you could arrange one in the UK. Pretty please :* x

      1. Oh, J.D., don’t damn the pond! I’m crossing it in April 2015 to attend the London Book Fair! (I may come just to network and meet industry folks to talk about foreign distribution and translations–or I may join some friends and get a booth to share.) But I’ll definitely be there and hope to do some signings outside London, too. Too far away to pin down details, but please keep in touch! I’m even building up my street team in the UK to prepare for it. If you want to join in and get some swag, please contact one of my assistants or me via e-mail or FB Message.


  45. In case it hasn’t been mentioned (I’m sure it has) the booksellers this year were not Barnes & Noble, but Anderson Books. I’ll be honest, I was expecting it to be Barnes & Noble, so I don’t know if this was the first year they didn’t participate or it just hasn’t been publicized before.

    There was also an issue where the indy authors books were not provided by Anderson’s so they had to be checked out in a different way as well. Total BS, agreed, but it definitely didn’t help with the overall feeling IMO.

  46. “This sounds like segregation.”

    Please. This is beyond offensive. The entire civil rights metaphor is completely out of place here, and an insult to real oppressed individuals and groups.

    1. What’s offensive is not understanding the definition of a word. Segregation, according to Oxford, is separating into groups. Yes, it is used frequently in civil rights issues because civil rights issues are about separation. However, it is NOT a ‘civil rights’ designated word.

      1. As the granddaughter of a black farmer who was forced to leave Mississippi lest he be lynched during the tumultuous history of segregation in the United States, I have to agree with Ann.

        Yes, what happened this weekend at RT14 was deplorable but this *isn’t* a civil rights issue. Gay marriage is a civil rights issue. This, on the other hand, is not.

        And no, this was *not* segregation, de facto or otherwise. Small Published (Elora’s Cave, Samhain) authors were also in the Mardi Gras room along with self-published authors — this has been stated multiple times.

        Separation? Yes. Segregation? No.

      2. ” Yes, it is used frequently in civil rights issues because civil rights issues are about separation.”

        And when someone – several someones – deliberately invoke civil rights history by talking about people being forced to sit at the back of the bus, then they are specially referencing segregation by race. I’m a writer. So are the people using the words and images. These references are not accidental, and they are hurtful and wrong and incredibly poorly judged.

        Also inaccurate, as several people have tried to explain.

        1. + a million

  47. It fear or a rising group. People will still be people and whats percieved as a threat will always be pushed to the edge. It’s pretty awful but can always, unfortunately be expected.

  48. At least, for the most part, us authors stick together. The camaraderie I’ve seen amongst authors have been refreshing. I’m curious where those of us who are hybrids would be placed?

    1. T.M., Hybrids had to choose which books they wanted to sign. Indie or trad. Not both.

  49. […] an unrivaled skill for hyperbole.  What’s the beef de jour? This morning Hugh Howey wrote a brief bit about a weekend convention. Seems convention organizers decided to put some authors in a back room for some reason while other […]

  50. But what if you were a hybrid author? Were you expected to rush from room to room, selling your properly published wares in one space while hawking your self-published books in the other?

    Could it be… Schrodinger’s Author!? :O

    1. Please note that I use the words ‘properly published’ with no actual seriousness.

  51. There seems to be a lag in perception here, rather like the kind where distant relatives were always shocked you’d grown when they saw you every few years. We review science fiction and fantasy small press novels and short story collections, and had a policy where no self-published authors were allowed to submit their work for review. In part, this was to cut down on the sheer volume of works we were sent, but even we made exceptions: authors whose stories we had previously published were in practice allowed. Perhaps the fact that I am an engineer caused me to need a measurable metric but we had to have some kind of filter.

    What sort of filter would work for conventions like this? Perhaps there might be a cut-off point based on sales; Amazon sales figures would perhaps work. Say, anyone who sells 5,000 copies or more gets to sit with the big kids as a co-equal. This figure is not pulled out of thin air; it’s the sales point at which traditional publishers think about asking for sequels and making money.

    By that metric, not just my personal opinion. you and Liliana Hart were unconscionably slighted.

    1. So by this reasoning, if a traditionally published author has only sold 1000 books, should they also be put in the “aspiring author” room? Everyone should be together period. If two rooms are needed, then divide by alphabet. Readers will understand much better they need to cross the hall to get to the other authors when they get to the M row and run out of authors.

    2. Deanna’s right. 5,000 is a really low number for books sold at a Romance-novel convention like this one. Hell, I sell more than that in a month (even a slow month like this one). Maybe if RT would stop trying to handle the sales part and just let each author handle sales at her tables (like they do at Authors After Dark and other cons), then everyone could be together. The mega-traditional star authors like EL James or JR Ward or whoever they are featuring, can have theirs go thru B&N, but anyone else can just set up shop and use a credit-card swipe thingie (or PayPal payments) on the spot.

      Oh, but that sounds too simple to work at RT.


  52. I wasn’t happy at all. I’m a traditionally published author with Harlequin who has also put out an indie series. I had to choose which side to sit in, which meant I couldn’t sell both kinds of books — and I have a Harlequin out this month. I chose indie because I wanted to sell those books, though I would have rather sold both. Imagine my surprise not only to be treated like a second-class citizen, but also in having to check in my books at EVERY turn. How many times did they count my indie books? How many times did they stamp them? What was I going to do, steal my own books?

    It was absolutely ridiculous, and as someone who has sat on the traditional side for the last 4 years, I’m seriously pissed at the treatment indies got. I chose indie because, big surprise, I make more money there. I sat next to Liliana and we talked quite a bit about the disparity and how irritated we were. Until RT gets it together and puts everyone in the same room (or divides by alphabet but has ONE checkout for all books), I refuse to sign again.

    1. I’m sorry you went through this, Lynn.

      1. Thanks, Hugh. I realize there’s a problem with returnable versus non-returnable books, but there has to be a better way. Readers don’t know or care who published the book and the entire process should be seamless for them. It wasn’t, apparently. :/

  53. […] I began seeing links to Hugh Howey’s piece Being Forced to Sit in the Backlist, in which Howey talks about the Romantic Times Bookfair, in […]

  54. I was at RT for the day on Saturday but didn’t sign (and wouldn’t–I can’t deal with those massive LOUD events that make me feel like an over-stimulated toddler–LOL). Everyone I talked to after the giant book signing used the word “Cluster F**K” to describe it, and this includes readers who came to me in tears after spending two hours waiting to check out and nearly missed an event of mine that they really wanted to come to. It was insane. The thing I don’t get is why RT didn’t do what every other conference is doing these days and give indie authors stickers to put over their bar codes that tell the retailer those books were already paid for with the author. It’s worked like a dream at every conference I’ve been to for years now and it would’ve worked at RT too. I can’t believe their decision to separate the indie authors into a separate room was entirely due to administrative issues. That’s too simple. I also found it extremely infuriating that I registered for a one-day pass to do an author event with one of my publishers, paid my $80 and couldn’t even get a badge from RT. My one day there confirmed my suspicion that the RT conference isn’t for me. I won’t say never again, but I certainly won’t rush right out to register either.

    1. Exactly, Marie! So many others can figure out a way to do this. Why it’s beyond RT’s logistical reach I can’t fathom. But they are very old-school about everything. Until they get into the 21st century, you can’t expect a whole lot of progress. At least this year they allowed the indies to sign at their event. Last year, they just shut us (and some who are with e-book only presses) out. I had to book a ballroom at another hotel to allow 36 of us to get to sign (and provided a shuttle between the two hotels for hours to allow readers easy access).

      I think indies need to get creative like that. Unfortunately, readers don’t know who is indie and who is with a publisher. And they don’t care. So I hear a lot of reader frustration when they went to the “wrong” room and then couldn’t find the authors they had come there to meet.

      I’m so glad I wrote RT off after last year, but I feel sorry for those who are still hoping for them to come out of the dark ages and put on a con for all authors–and their readers.


  55. I’m an author who actually participated in the signing at RT this past weekend. It’s true that they separated us into two separate rooms – I sat in the ‘indie’ room – and that space was very limited.

    I also witnessed the volunteer who made the infamous ‘aspiring author’ comment. She was directing foot traffic and referred to one room as ‘published’ authors and the other as ‘aspiring’. This is a shame, but I feel like people think the event organizers actually came up with this term and encouraged its use. That certainly wasn’t the case. It was one confused volunteer.

    For the record, there was an announcer on the intercom throughout the signing who frequently encouraged readers to visit ‘NYT best-selling indie authors’ in our room. He did not use the term ‘aspiring’.

    That being said, I do think a single room signing would be ideal. Still though, I met a lot of readers and had a good time. I sold books and gave away all the goodies I’d brought for readers, too. I don’t regret participating in the signing.

  56. Granted: At least RT is trying. Okay, not necessarily succeeding, but at least they’re attempting to include the huge piece of their genre that isn’t covered by traditional publishing.

    And I have to give them an eyeroll, but they are lightyears ahead of, say, SFWA.

    What bothers me is my colleagues belittling indie writers because they are complaining. And using “civil rights language.” This was literally separate-but-equal treatment. Please do not pubsplain to me how this is somehow NOT separate-but-equal treatment.

    1. Yeah, I’m really bothered by the people jumping on those who were hurt by this. The attitude seems to be from some that if it’s only a minority of people complaining, then their complaints aren’t justified.

  57. […] Hugh Howey wrote a post, titled: Being Forced to Sit in the Backlist. Hugh wasn’t at the con, so he doesn’t know all the facts, For some reason he was told that […]

  58. I clearly need to start going to conventions, as they’re apparently never boring.

    On a more serious note, I couldn’t imagine (as Deanna Chase brought up) being a hybrid author and having to choose which books I could and couldn’t promote, based on nothing but the method of publishing. If someone can explain to me why that’s not asinine, I’ll listen.

    1. Because independently published books don’t make traditional publishers money, Dan. Have you not been paying attention?

  59. Seems like the answer is the same as in any situation where one receives far less value than was promised in exchange for an investment of time and money – vote with your feet. Clearly indie authors face additional hurdles in marketing their work, and every avenue must be explored, but this is just a plain old bait-and-switch scam.

  60. This is the 4th RT where I have volunteered to work at the Book Fair. This convention had over 2000 people registered, twice the size of last year, which was huge compared to the one before. It is a learning experience for all.

    Other years the e-book author book fair was on a separate day, which allowed me to volunteer at the “paper” book fair. This year I was in the ballroom at 5:30 am on Saturday, and the RT people were already working. I worked until 4:30 pm, leaving them behind to guard the authors’ stuff.

    I was with some of the organizers when we discussed a few options for next year — such as having an express payment line, such as “3 books or less”. There are other things planned to speed up checkout as well.

    As for signs, the New Orleans fire marshal was there checking at least 3 times before the event opened. He would have shut the entire book fair down if there was anything blocking a pathway, so anything not attached to a table, had to go.

    As for separating people out, how about putting the “featured authors”, those likely to have huge line ups, in another room? Lines blocked other authors — for instance author Tiffany Reisz was blocked for a while by people lining up to get one of Nalini Singh’s few copies of a yet-unreleased book. Suzanne Brockmann, a hugely popular author, was placed in the regular rows, which I expect blocked the authors near her.

  61. […] many times over the loudspeaker. Still, word has gotten out, and the rumor mill is going strong (fueled in part by Hugh Howey) about how horrible RT is for treating indie self-pub authors as […]

  62. Honestly, as a reader in addition to being a writer, the idea of making a consumer stand in 2 lines and in effect creating 2 stores because of differences in back office accounting is ridiculous with today’s technology.

    There’s a barcode on the books, right? There’s probably a master list of which books are consignment and which ones are not (presumably as part of the registration for the less than 3 feet of retail space). Let the computer do the segregation (and the computation / deduction of the 20% fee).

    Don’t make customers / readers stand in 2 lines. Don’t make authors split up along lines that aren’t meaningful to the consumer.

    It’s like going to a grocery store and having to stand in one line for name brand products and another one for house brand products because the coupons are different!

  63. I agree with Marie Force’s post. The payment issue could’ve been easily handled as she stated. It was a fiasco checking in books, rechecking them and then checking them out. And if you wanted to make any free, you couldn’t unless they had been marked prior to the event. (This was also not explained before we arrived at RT) The biggest problem I saw was that RT had grown too much. This was my first RT and from what I was told, last year’s event was only in the 1000’s. This year’s numbered around 2500. They should’ve cut the registration off well before they did because they were ill equipped to deal with that many attendees. From what I understand, last year’s event also had a separate day for the Indie’s to sign as well and I was told it was much more successful. I’m only going on what I’ve heard as I didn’t attend RT13. Sadly, I don’t plan on attending RT15.

  64. […] Today, however, self-published author Hugh Howey (who wasn’t at the con) wrote a post about how the self-published authors and traditionally published authors were being segregated. Civil rights movement analogies were […]

  65. As an author in the trad pub room, I had readers tell me they didn’t have time to get to my table because of the wait times. I had friends in the other room say they twiddled their thumbs the entire time, and readers say they were directed to the trad room. Hopefully next year they will figure out an alternative.

    And yes, I agree with Courtney Milan that civil rights language shouldn’t be used, but I have get to see anyone use the term “racial segregation”. I’ve seen a few comments on this, and I’m confused why some are so focused on semantics and turning it into something else instead of working together for change. I’m glad she steered away from it. Equality and segregation are acceptable terms to use in this situation or any similar situation where there is the action of setting someone or something apart from something else. Let’s try unity instead of needless controversy, and support indies who paid a lot of money to attend and were disappointed, and rightly so.

  66. […] He titled his post “Being Forced to Sit in the Backlist.” […]

  67. I’m a hybrid author who sat in the traditional room. I don’t remember how the registration process went (or why there was even a delineation). I vaguely remember my thought process being that they could order my trad books for the signing and I could bring my indie books (which sell in the thousands each month). WRONG. Only those in the “self-pub” track could bring their own books to sell. The RT peeps ended up only being able to get one of my books there for the signing (which has been out for years and I’ve already asked for the rights back to it). Needless to say, the signing itself was a total waste of time. I wanted to buy the rest of my books afterward, but the lines were insane (and I never heard an announcement about authors coming back to buy their stock). I immediately regretted selecting whatever option it was during the registration process that didn’t classify me as indie (even though I’ve trad published, have an agent, etc… I make way more self-pubbing and would’ve preferred to be there signing THOSE books if I only got to pick one), and made a mental note to not make that same mistake next year.

    THEN I walked into the indie room after the signing and was appalled. They were packed in like sardines! The friend I traveled with was literally sitting elbow-to-elbow with authors on either side of her and the tables were smaller! Did I break out a ruler? No, but you didn’t have to in order to see the difference…especially after sitting at a bigger table for 3 hours and walking in to see that. Afterward, we both talked about how they should’ve separated it by names and not trad here and indie there. Nor should they have stopped some authors from bringing their own books to sign. Writing/publishing is a business and many authors I know are going both the indie AND trad route.

    FYI, the signing wasn’t the only problem (which is unfortunate because I met Kathryn Falk a few years ago, and she’s a lovely person who loves romance). The registration process was totally FUBAR and some of the volunteers were rude (I asked one a couple of questions and another volunteer came up and said, “No more questions,” and yanked her away). I overheard other volunteers bitching about authors and calling them liars when they complained. I know volunteering is tough (I’ve done it a literary festivals), but acting like that is really bad for the overall image…and it will all come into play when/if I decide to go again next year. And if indie is segregated that decision is already made for me…Sorry, but my business model includes both.

    1. Morgan Jameson Avatar
      Morgan Jameson

      I simply find this reprehensible. When I publish I will simply not support their venue with my money, despite not having been personally slighted. I will vote with my wallet. I encourage other indie writers or soon to be indie writers to do the same thing. Let them stew in their own sauce.

  68. Wow, thanks for this! I’m in indie author in two genres, traditional mysteries and paranormal romance. Because I’m the president of my Local Sisters in Crime chapter and the president of the national online chapter, I put ALL my conference money this year to mysteries: Left Coast Crime in Monterey, CA; Malice Domestic in Bethesda, MD and Bouchercon In Long Beach,CA.
    I doubt I’ll do Malice again because it’s all cozies and I don’t write those, plus indies aren’t invited to be on panels.
    My paranormal romance series (eight books) provides 90% of my royalties and I have a small but active Street Team, so I was planning to put my focus in 2015 on Romance cons.
    I’m for sure going to give RT a BIG miss. $484 plus hotel and air fare for $60 in sales?
    And a space no wider than my desk chair? And segregated?
    I’ll stay home and take out BookBub ads.

  69. Eugenia Struchen Avatar
    Eugenia Struchen

    Dear Discriminating Idiots,

    These authors you call aspiring are just as good if not better than the ones you featured in the main room. What the heck gives you the right to sit here and relegate these awesome authors to a secondary room just because they are self published or for any other reason. Discrimination went out a very long time ago. Get with the time morons and stop acting like you are holier than thou because guess what? WE THE READERS DECIDE WHO IS GOOD AND IS NOT. Listen to use and you would find your so called aspiring authors are just as good if not better than those you placed in the main room. Being published traditionally does NOT make the author better or worse. It is the author’s fans that decide that. And to the authors who were relegated to the secondary room I am so sorry this happened to you and know that your fans love your work just as much no matter what those fools said. Keep your chin up and keep writing because we the fans know better!

    One very ticked off book fan.

  70. I was at the RT book fair on Saturday and sat in the RETURNABLE BOOKS room. That was the only *intended* difference. The other room was for those selling NON-RETURNABLE BOOKS – both self-published authors and small press published authors with POD books. It was NOT a self-published-only room. I understand from an RT staffer that this was mandated by the bookseller, who didn’t want to deal with selling non-returnable books (something RT is going to have to negotiate in the future, for sure – other bookfairs I’ve been to where B&N and BAM were the bookseller managed to find a solution). But that was the why behind the clusterfuck. And I’ll agree it turned into exactly that.

    Hugh is right that some authors were offended and hurt by how this worked out – and I totally understand why. Those in the NON-RETURNABLE room had less space than promised, heard about the one ill-informed volunteer’s “aspiring author” comment, and had less traffic than in the other room. They paid the same and got less. And I can tell you that many of us in the other room felt terrible for them. Worse, the readers were utterly confused, thinking it was organized alphabetically and then not realizing there was a second room despite INCREDIBLY LOUD announcements every 15-20 minutes inviting people to visit “the NYT bestselling authors in the indie book fair room.” But even if they had understood the organization, they wouldn’t have had adequate time to visit both because 3 hours was too little time for the size of the event AND the doors opened 40 minutes late due to fire marshal difficulties. As someone else said, all of it was compounded by the rudeness of some stressed out RT organizers and volunteers at the end and afterward (which I experienced personally).

    I have a few self-published titles and plan more, and I also have books with small presses and New York houses. As much as I disagree with those who in almost a kneejerk way put down self-publishing, I also really don’t see the need to throw stones in the other direction, either. I make good money on my books from all three of these – enough that I quit a job with excellent pay and benefits in December to write full time. The brilliance of this moment as authors is that we have choices and options, and that we can pick and combine those options in the way that works best for each of us. So why are some authors who are outraged at the treatment of those in the indie room bashing traditionally published authors in these comments? I find that frustrating, too. If we don’t like distinctions being made between us, let’s do our part to stop perpetuating them ourselves.

    I encourage those with concerns and suggestions to contact RT so we can avoid a re-do of this year’s problems and make it a great experience for readers and authors.

  71. I wonder why people thought the rooms were divided into Trad published and indie published.
    “INCREDIBLY LOUD announcements every 15-20 minutes inviting people to visit “the NYT bestselling authors in the indie book fair room.”

    The behind the scenes may have been returnable vs non-returnable, but the effect was to segregate the traditionally published (Big 5) from everyone else in a better environment. They then went and compounded this by announcing to the conference that the other room was the ‘indie room’.

    Perception is everything. Take a step back and look at how this looked to both the indie authors and more importantly to the readers (and to people like me that are just reading about what happened). The fact that there was a bookkeeping reason behind the two rooms is irrelevant. The reality presented was that the Traditionally published authors were favored.

    I’ve read a lot of comments from Big 5 authors that you are all just one big happy author family. To me the proof is in the pudding – how many authors will refuse to take part in an unfair situation that favors them. I would hope that if this situation were to arise again that authors on both sides would just simply refuse to take part.

    1. I agree with you, Jeff. If you’re hearing justification in my words, that’s not what I’m intending. At all. I’m just clarifying that the convention’s intention was different from the outcome (which isn’t what’s being said in the original post). Based on incomplete info coming out of the con, the interpretation seems to be planned malice rather than the disorganized offense that actually occurred. And offense is offense is offense – I get that. I’m not defending RT in this. They made a huge mistake that has to be corrected before next year.

      I think if anyone had known the book fair would go down like this, there would’ve been an outcry beforehand. But RT told us we would all be in one room. In fact, the point of having just one signing at the Con this year instead of the two that took place in the past was to combine what had formerly been an eBook Fair on one day (where you could also sell POD books on consignment) and a Giant Book Fair on another (which was all and only traditionally published). Irony abounds. It wasn’t until we got there that the separation became clear.

      And it wasn’t as clear cut as Big 5 only in the “traditionally published” room. Authors from Ellora’s Cave, Carina, and Entangled Publishing, for example, who had returnable books, were also in there. None of those count as Big 5. In fact, in the usage of “indie” as meaning non-New York-published, small boutique and digital-first publishers like these are often counted among the indies, and they were in the “traditionally published” room. Which makes the point – trying to separate the two groups based on this accounting issue doesn’t make sense for anyone except the bookseller. And least of all the reader who neither recognizes nor cares about who publishes the books they love.

      1. Laura, I 100% agree. Doesn’t justify the mistake, but it was a mistake and not something personal or intentional, even though it affected people deeply and negatively.

        As any large organization does from time to time, mistakes are made. A truly successful one addresses it, corrects it, apologizes and moves on. And then we can. How it gets handled is very important in the next few days.

  72. lee ann daugherty, B&N bookseller Avatar
    lee ann daugherty, B&N bookseller

    I’ve always wanted to attend a convention as a reader, but have never been able to afford it. But if the division and inefficiency discussed and portrayed here is any indicator, I think I’ll stay away. I also think the malice aimed at B&N is pretty rank. As a 21 year veteran of Waldenbooks and 5 years at B&N, I have read and recommended countless authors at the beginnings of their careers which are now flourishing. As a non-tech person asked to sell NOOK, I glommed on to the only expertise I had to sell them:my knowledge of a whole new world of ebook authors I’d discovered but could now push and the devices you had to have in order to have access to their work. And also traditionally published authors whose backlists languished in out-of-print status were being reprinted digitally so that I – hallelujah! – could recommend them again. Booksellers are still the main ones getting the word out on who is good, no matter how they’re published. I routinely review books on NOOK and share it on my FB page, “like” and share new or little known authors to get their names out there…heck, I compose email lists of upcoming authors’ newest works and release date and send them out to some of my dedicated romance customers, all on my own time! So show a little respect for the lowly bookseller, please.

    1. Hi Lee Ann – thanks for all you have done and do for authors and readers. Just to be clear, Barnes & Noble was not the bookseller at this event. My experience with B&N at all the big indie author events is that they’ve been willing to work conference and signing events where authors could sell both their returnable and non-returnable titles. I’ve been at three events in the past 8 months where this was the case with B&N. It was the convention that said the bookseller dictated the arrangements that have caused the controversy, so no general maligning of booksellers was intended…

  73. […] Being Forced to Sit in the Backlist | Hugh Howey […]

  74. […] I started seeing hyperlinks to Hugh Howey’s piece Being Forced to Sit in the Backlist, through which Howey talks concerning the Romantic Occasions Bookfair, by […]

  75. […] authors’ even though they had sold millions of copies and had wild success with their ebooks. Click here to read […]

  76. […] out of the RT Booklover’s Convention this weekend. The first I saw of it was when I read Hugh Howey’s post about the mass signing at the end of the convention. The post was soon picked up and being echoed […]

  77. Thanks for hosting this discussion here. I hope that lessons learned will be addressed upfront and in public. I’m going to reserve my willingness to attend future cons for that. I personally had a fantastic convention, learned so many things I can’t implement them fast enough. The exposure was the best I’ve had. Panels much better than last year. As in any big convention, the real learning happens in the audience, rather than on stage or in panels. Without all the organization that went into it, these people never would have assembled for me to meet and mine their information. For that I am extremely grateful, and always will be.

  78. It’s not about hurt feelings; it’s about paying for something and not getting it. Authors pay money to conferences to receive exposure, and then they don’t get it. (Full disclosure: I was not at RT, but I’ve experienced something similar at other conferences.) If indie authors receive lesser treatment, they should pay a lesser registration fee. Basic business sense.

  79. […] you might recall, a story has been going around (largely at the instigation of the rabble-rouser Hugh Howey) that at the Giant Book Fair on Saturday, self-published authors were maligned with the label […]

  80. John O'Donnell Avatar
    John O’Donnell

    Well i am going to BEA NYC for two reasons, one because I got VIP tickets but mostly because you will be there Hugh. Want a book and an autograph, and here any speeches you will be making. I was just going to go down a day or two, but now I have a reason to go everyday, lol.

  81. Not gonna read all the comments, because, well, TL:DR. Just wanted to throw this out from my personal experience. It is possible for Barnes & Noble to process consignment sales for self-pubbed authors. There’s a form and everything. You just verify sales and they send you a check in about a week or so after they take their cut. So the bookseller on hand does have corporate resources available to have just handled all the book sales at the con. I did a signing with a bunch of other writers at a B&N with my self-pubbed books and they just dealt with the paperwork and paid me promptly. So they could have handled it if they had been interested.

    But the whole separate room thing is crap. Pretty sure I woulda revolted. But revolting is my default position some days. :) Glad you’re doing well, Hugh. Hope to run into you again on the con circuit some day.

  82. RT book fair:
    As an author who was in the indie room at the RT Book Fair -(published by Ellora’s Cave, Eternal Press, and also in indie) 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 including the one where we were all refereed to as aspiring authors – that included all the NY York Time best selling list authors in there. 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 a 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.

  83. […] when a bloody wanky author uses phrases like  ‘Being Forced to Sit in the Backlist’, and words like ‘segregating’, we know that he is deliberately invoking the civil […]

  84. If indie authors receive less, they should pay less. Period. And the policy should be made clear upfront.

    Personally, I won’t spend my time or money on an entity perpetuating this type of discrimination–conferences, conventions, or organizations. I recently applied to an organization that won’t accept me as an active member or even an associate member, because I’m indie–they will, however, take my money as a fan of the genre … funny, since I’ve sold more books and made more money than many traditionally published writers. I’ve decided to wait for the industry to catch up with reality. Meanwhile, I support organizations operating in “what is” rather than clinging to “what was.”

  85. You definitely hit heart strings. Too many think in outdated terms. We all need to make a living, and most of us make very little, so when a group makes it harder to earn that dollar by dividing our work and giving unfair advantage – is it worth the time. Thanks for the post.

  86. That’s outrageous, but I’m not surprised. At least indie authors were allowed to be there. Mystery fiction is a lot worse. At Malice Domestic, a cozy mystery lovers’ convention, the only authors allowed to talk on a panel and do book signings are those who are trad-pubbed. Here’s the rule, published on their site:

    Malice Domestic will only offer author assignments to traditionally published authors or those who have been nominated for established mystery awards.

    Traditionally published authors include those who—

    1. Did not pay any costs associated with the publication of their books.

    2. Are published by a company that—

    a. publishes at least three authors other than the publisher, members of the publisher’s family, or staff of the publishing company. (Authors publishing under multiple pseudonyms count as a single author.)

    b. does not guarantee publication of all submissions and provides editorial support to its authors.

    Established mystery awards include the: Agatha, Anthony, Arthur Ellis, Barry, Dilys, Edgar, Hammett, Lefty, Macavity, Shamus, and the Dagger awards presented by the British Crime Writers Association.

    Well, that let’s me out…

  87. […] Being Forced to Sit in the Backlist from Hugh Howey: 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.” […]

  88. I just heard about this over at Romance Divas. Very disappointing. I was thinking about attending next year and now I’m wondering if I should spent my advertising funds elsewhere.

  89. […] Howey gets feisty On May 18th, the celebrated indie author got a little miffed in a blog post on his web site. It was about the RT Booklover’s Convention, which featured […]

  90. I’ve spent almost an hour reading all of these comments. I was at the Indie book signing and have a picture very similar to Kendall Grey’s – specifically me squashed in between two other authors. I kept dodging elbows when one of them would stand up and talk. I’d say I had about 18 inches of space. Max.

    I am with an advance paying small press, and when I signed up for RT, I chose the traditional side of the fair. I received an email about three or four weeks later telling me they took my spot away and put me on the waiting list for the Indie room. So, not only did they take the spot I had away, there wasn’t another one to put me in! Anyhow, maybe two months before the conference I received an email telling me I had a spot. Now, this was still at the point where I assumed we would all be in the SAME room with the promised three feet of space.

    Imagine my surprise (after hauling all my crap from Texas, and down five blocks on Canal getting harassed every step of the way by weirdos because of piss poor hotel planning) when I showed up and had 18 inches of space. By the time I got all my crap on my table, called my editor down and begged her to take my suitcase upstairs because I had no room, and finally sat down, I was sweating. Then…the fire marshal came in and told us if our signs weren’t “attached to the table” we had to remove them or they would shut us down. I had to hide my sign in a hotel closet (still there by the way because I forgot it after everything else that happened) and shove my boxes under my feet and pray if I had to get up and pee I wouldn’t trip over someone and embarrass myself.

    It was a disaster. Complete and total. When I addressed it to RT volunteers and to Trent Hart, I just received some shrugs and the response, “I don’t know what happened with the space.” This is not even talking about what happened with my book sales. They were beyond FUBAR’d. I won’t even talk about that one, mainly because it was a mistake on their part and not done with malice. The space is what really got me angry because someone made the decision to do that, not address it, and then force us to just suck it up.

    This was my third and last RT. It’s always been disorganized. No food at the events, messed up schedules, crowded hotels or sold out hotels and poor planning with overflow, etc. This year was insanely bad. During my very first panel with Mark Coker, we had to scoot all of our chairs forward so he could hold up his laptop and show us his slides because he didn’t have a projector even though he asked for one twice, I think. This was my first year signing, and I’ll never do it again. There are way too many other conferences out there for me to deal with this. I emailed RT about the space issue because in my opinion, we should receive a refund. I have yet to receive a response from them or see any official statement about it.

  91. […] been handled. Everyone is weighing in. You can read some various perspectives from Kendall Grey, Hugh Howey (whose article seems to have sparked much of the discussion), Courtney Milan, and Smart Bitches. […]

  92. […] Being Forced to Sit in the Backlist | Hugh Howey. […]

  93. […] unjustly separated from “real” authors in a different section (you can read the post in here). But in Madrid there was no separation. Because not many indie authors were even invited. […]

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