Monday, May 19, 2014

Thoughts from the RT convention

I am home again after my RT convention adventure, and look back at the event with mixed feelings. I had some great experiences that wouldn't have been possible without RT, but funny enough, my good memories aren't related to the convention itself.

What was good?

I met a lot of great people. This is the first time I met my publisher and any of the co-authors at Desert Breeze in real life. We talk on Facebook all the time, but meeting people face to face is awesome. I also met some other Internet friends, and made new acquaintances in the lobby and at the events.

The Intergalactic Bar and Grille. I met wonderful Linnea Sinclair in real life for the first time, met Vijaya Schartz for the first time, and got to know some other wonderful sci-fi romance writers. I had a blast at the IBG.

The first night had a Mardi Gras event where participants got to see the huge Mardi Gras floats, listen to appropriate music, get beads, and get a feeling of Mardi Gras. Very cool, lots of fun.

The Fan-Tastic day brought people in on day passes. I met some truly awesome readers and other writers.

What was bad?

The organization of the event leaves a lot to wish for. I don't know how you can be unprepared for managing a large amount of people when you know exactly how many have signed up, but that's the impression I got. "Ooops, that's a really long line, guess we don't have enough buses."  "Ooops, we don't have enough food." "Ooops, we're out of coffee." Logistics can be difficult, but the convention has the advantage of knowing how many attendants they have.

Setting details like food and buses to the side for a bit, the fiasco I will remember that has tainted RT Conventions for me for the future is...


The book fair. 

Before I start sounding like a real rambling bitch, I want to point out some facts that non-authors often don't know, or don't think about.

  • An event such as the RT Convention is planned far in advance. I'm a last minute girl, but I know many authors who started to plan their displays in September last year.
  • Displays, posters, swag, and books are ordered far in advance. 
  • A vast majority of writers travel to the convention. Most come from different parts of the USA, but some come from Australia and the UK. This means that authors have either paid to send their things ahead, or brought them on planes.
  • Everyone pays for the conference, for travel, for hotel rooms, and everyone has taken time off from their writing, daytime jobs, families, or whatever they would normally do.
It's easy to forget that all this stuff that we hand out don't just magically appear. Someone has taken time to design it, order it, pay for it, and bring it. One of my neighbors at the fair had ordered her swag from China to be able to get suitable quantities.

When the authors signed up for the fair, the information said, "For the first time in RT history, the Giant Book Fair and the e-Book/Indie Book Fair have been combined! It's a one stop shopping experience for everyone!" I also have a number of e-mails and information letters saying, "Two authors will be at each table; therefore, you will have half of a 6 foot table - which is a 3 foot length."

Thus, every participating author - and there were 700 total at the fair - planned for a 3 foot length. Everyone brought displays and stuff for a 3 foot length. 

When we arrived, it turns out that a foot in New Orleans is quite different from a foot in the rest of the world. Instead of two authors per table, there were three to four. So, the three foot length turned out to be 1.5. Two feet at most.

I've had three foot spaces at other fairs, and had room for my displays and books in between. Here, everything was crammed in and as you can see in the image below, we're sitting shoulder to shoulder. Luckily, one author in our row didn't show up, so we could expand to getting this much room per person. Yes, it was smaller at first.

I would be fine with that, if someone had bothered to communicate it in advance. I would have been gravy if I had gotten an email saying, "We have overbooked the fair, and in order to accommodate everyone, we must ask you to accept a smaller space." Everyone found out when it was time to set up. I wouldn't have hauled a suitcase filled with extra stuff for the book fair if I had known I wouldn't have room for it!

I asked a volunteer why the spaces were so small - there were plenty of room for more tables - and she said, "Well, you know, Indie authors. I guess we expected you to have ebooks. No one expects Indie authors to have real books."

Really? I didn't sign up for the e-book fair. I signed up for paperbacks. RT crew counted and packaged my paperbacks, and then unpacked them and stamped them. The piles of books could hardly have been a surprise.

On top of this, the one stop shopping experience turned out to be big publishing houses in one room with ample space, and everyone else crammed into another room. I could live with that too, if it hadn't been for RT volunteers telling guests that, "This is the room for aspiring authors," "Don't go there, that's not an exit," and "That's just the Indie authors. You want to go in there to the real authors."

That's not an exit? 

Seriously? I had few people find me, and those who did said, "I didn't think you were here, I thought I missed you." "I couldn't find you." "I wasn't allowed to go in here."

I think someone discovered the boo-boo and tried to make up for it; the speaker started calling out, "...and then we have New York Times bestselling authors at the Indie book fair..." By then it was too late. Everyone were already mad.

And... There was a young adult section of the Indie room. Funny enough, only YA authors from the big publishers were allowed to sit there. YA from non New York houses were placed alphabetically with everyone else, which meant that fiction geared towards very young people ended up next to explicit erotica. Not cool.

I understand that it might be necessary to divide this many people into more than one room. Do it alphabetically, and don't have people showing guests away.

I believe that RT should offer an apology to all the writers and publishers in the Indie room. They should also offer some token of compensation. I don't think this will happen, and for that reason, I am out. Next year I'm going to Arizona Dreaming.

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