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.
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:
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.