Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Stella tells cons like it is: RT convention & why I dont go.

Ok so a lot of people are going to say this post is because of AAD and everything... but let me assure you, its not. AAD has had no problem making its numbers because AAD is affordable and BETTER, but lets not get into that yet, shall we? No, this post is because I have heard YET AGAIN that RT has screwed over more small press authors this year and I think its about time someone brought some facts to light about the much beloved event.

Now, dont get me wrong, I have spent money on rt 4 times, no more. I have learned that RT is not the be all end all for romance cons. Why? because as a small press author, you get shafted, and heres how you do.

NY published authors have no problem on the whole, as they are the ones that get ALL of the opportunities. They are the ones leading the panel lists (and filling the panels with their friends) they are the ones thatget the promotional opps, and their parties are the ones that are picked up. Small press authors get thrown by the wayside in so many ways for RT that is almost laughable. So here we go.

1. The Booksigning saturday is a sham. Going to a con as HUGE as RT, if your not signing saturday, you have no reason to be there. Why? because the "expo" is a joke on the whole. RT has succeeded in segregating those in e book and small press by making sure 90% of small press authors dont participate in saturday by not allowing carry in books. "But Stella", you say, "thats not true." Oh but it is. See, RT plays the game of not knowing if a bookseller will be able to order books for small press... when the Bookseller knows when the sign on who they will order. How do I know? I run a convention, and its the same situation. 90% of all small press (with the exception of Samhain, and mostly, EC) BN will not order so, because of that, small press authors cant sign at the biggest signing event of the con. HOW IS THAT FAIR? Everyone pays and exorbitant amount to attend, so everyone should have the opportunity to sell to people. But its not so.

Now, last years event almost all of the EC authors were screwed over by NOT getting books in for the majority of their authors, even AFTER one of the EC staff worked with them. I know of several authors that were told personally by the BN store when they called that they HAD their books, and they showed up and nothing was there.. whats more, Some authors showed up and there was ONE copy of ONE book on their table. Again, How is that fair?

2. Promotional opportunities are limited. 99% of the reader events are populated by NY authors and NY authors only. Why? Because RT charges an arm and a Leg to be part of these things, They DONT HAVE TO. but they do because RT is a money making machine (WHY do you think your registration is so expensive? Believe me, its not because it has to be, your registration doesnt pay for your meals or anything like that.) This year, a friend of mine had tried to set up a reader event. she is small press, but set it up with some other people, including some new NY authors. She was told yesterday that the time frame was TRIPLE BOOKED and that she wouldnt be doing this. Now remember, this is AFTER everything has gone to print. Either they forgot about her (likely, shes no one big enough to catch notice) or they just didnt care (more likely) because shes not a big name. Either way, her opportunities for promotion to the readers is cut to nothing because she doesnt have any sort of focused event they will attend.

Now you will say "Stella, theres SO MANY other reasons to attend RT." No. theres not. Attending a con like this is supposed to be about connecting with readers, and getting your name known. Unless your on panels, focused in parties or a NY author that can afford to pay for a personal party, your thrown by the wayside. You dont attend RT to network with other authors. You attend to get your name out to readers, and meet other industry. I have been there 4 times, and have busted my ass to meet people, set up smaller events in Club RT, and this does NOTHING. Most readers attending wanna meet the NY authors, and I get that, hell i agree with it, but if thats the way it is, dont try to pull small press authors in with empty promises and ideas.

Here's some things you may not know about rt:
  • All meals (the Faerie Ball and the Vamp Ball) are paid for by the authors sponsoring. So your registration pays for nothing.
  • RT's book goodies have fallen off through the years. I went home with 150 books in Houston. In Ohio I went home with maybe 30. Whats up with that?
  • Promo Alley has NOBODY watching it, In the years since they have instituted it, I have never once seen someone go and watch it. so why charge authors 25$ each for it to "Pay someone to watch it?" Yep, they are TAKING MORE OF YOUR MONEY for no reason.
  • You will not recoup 1/8 of what you paid to go in any fashion. being that if they HAVE your books they only allow 15, you wont make back anything close to what you paid to get there, do your promo and your costumes. And those residuals, of people looking for you later? Non existent.
  • RT tacks on at least a grand for EVERY party they put on. Again, I know because there are standards in food service (not across the board but the majority) and i can figure out how much it will cost for an author to do a party... and 3k-8k isn't it... especially when they never have more food then for 100 people.
Now, Im not talking simply from my own experience, this is what I have figured out after 4 year, and scores of authors and friends talking at the event and after. New authors need to know that RT is not in any way the place to garner new readers, unless of course you have the $ to pay for the privilege. I dont know about you, but I dont and cant justify spending so much to walk around and get ogled by oiled up men, eat crappy over cooked food (and its recycled btw, at least it was in Florida and Ohio), and be ignored by readers who go with their own agenda.

So here's my call to arms, because I know there's authors out there saying "that's not it, Stella is a liar, and RT is the best!" and they have no idea. So Please, if you had any problems with RT, and how its not affected or affected your career, pleas comment here. I would like these authors to know they arent alone, and that Im not just hemming and hawing because I have another con. AAD came about BECAUSE RT was so shady... and people needed an alternative.


Jenny Trout said...

While I will continue to go to RT, because I'm a NY published author and they just like you to do promo there, I haven't been back since Pittsburgh, due to health reasons. But I can back up the recycled food claim. We paid 100 bucks a head extra for the fund raiser dinner with Fabio and Adrian Paul, and the food was left over from the dinner the night before. I wasn't too upset, because that was a fundraiser, after all, and if they cut corners and got more money for the charity, well, great. But if it's happening at the dinners people are paying to sponsor, that's kind of bunk. If I paid 3k to sponsor a party and they recycled the food from someone else's party, I would be furious.
Like I said, I will continue to go to RT, because it is set up for NY authors. But as I'm also an ebook author, I'm very grateful for AAD, because it's more inclusive.

Nona Wesley said...

Very eye-opening. I can't afford to go to LA, but I'm not sure I'd go if it were closer to print since I'm not in print yet.

Diana Castilleja said...

I have no interest in RT, so I have no need to go.

I know the mentality wrapped around that kind of con and honestly, it's not worth the headache or the financial loss because if you're not NY, you're not getting your money's worth out of it. I've seen enough and talked enough over the years to know they heavily support and loudy denounce small press with their actions. Not my bag.

And what about the GLBT debacle? In Houston, wasn't it? The one year I could've gone. I'm so glad I didn't. That was no less than a slap in the face to their PAID attendees.

A.D. Roland said...

It's horrifically expensive and offensively biased. I've been three times and never seen any return, with the exception of a few low-paying art jobs I could have gotten on my own. The ebook expo is their way of pacifying the few ebook authors who are bold enough to speak up about the exclusion. Even that attempt is half-assed and pathetically obvious in it's intents to just 'shut us up'.

Diana Castilleja said...

I guess I should say I'm not out to offend any NY authors. RT is perfect for them, is planned with them in mind, not small press. There aren't any hard feelings that I don't go.

Unknown said...

I heard about Houston and what happened with the M/M promo. It's sad that genre is excluded because there is a valid market for it.

That said, you should attend a con if you think there is value in attending. Any con open to authors should treat them equally, not by how or where their books are published.

Jenny Trout said...

I have to rescind my earlier comment regarding the recycling of food. I got a message from Jo Carol at RT assuring me that food is never recycled there. I guess it was just the same menu, and that's why we all thought it was left over from the night before. I have to say that it wasn't horrible food or anything, I just thought, "Well, it's what I would do, if I had leftovers!"

Stella Price said...

Florida RT, the same sides for dinner at the Faerie Ball and the Vamp ball. For the Amount of Money people pay for this, their should be NO REASON for that. The Food is cold a lot of the time, over cooked and bland. paying for that is not a good thing. you CAN get better meals, we all know that.

Stella Price said...


Your right about the GLBT debacle. it proves that RT isnt willing to change with the times. and I dont wanna hear the BS about what the Hotel wants, because I deal with the hotels too, and they have NEVER had a problem. Its RT's choice, just like its their choice to not review it, but take the authors money to have ads.

Stella Price said...

And Jen,

So surprised YOU got a call about this, as your not the one to call them out on anything. But I guess the fact that I'm Not a NY author *yet* my opinions don't matter at large... and therein lies the problem. Publishing IS publishing. we all made the journey. Just because you make more $ then someone else, doesn't mean your points and opinions aren't VALID.

Jenny Trout said...

Let's be honest here, Stella... at the moment, there is no way I'm making more money than you, LOL.

Stella Price said...

HAH. No way. Trust me woman, Stella didn't make a grand for the year of 2010, and 2011 isn't looking so good either...

But that's Publishing *shrug* and at least I'm not trying to take people's hard earned money for much of nothing.

Kel said...

There's one thing you forgot, Stella. RT sucks to attend if you're a reader. I enjoyed going the time that I went, but I spent more time in my room than I've ever spent at a con because there was just nothing to do.

As a reader, if there was something to do, it was a single thing. The authors made the thing fun, but it was so expensive and so... uninteresting in so many ways. I'll spend my money on books, and on smaller cons and be happier by far.

Kayleigh Jamison said...

Apparently Blogger ate my very long, very witty comment. That pisses me off. I'll just say: I went to RT once, never again. Too much money for too little reward.

I wouldn't go again if they set up literally in my backyard.

And the food? 100% recycled in Orlando. Couldn't have been more obvious. Sorry, but the truth hurts.

Laura K said...

I will comment later as a fan and promoter later today. Am at work!

RobinSlick said...

Actually, I agree with Stella 100% and here is why:

Cost of convention: Approximately $500.00
Cost of hotel: Approximately $500.00
Airfare: Approximately $500.00
Promo: Approximately $500.00
Food: Approximately $500.00

Now, I have low balled a couple of figures (I have spent way more on everything from promo to the hotel) and you might think I high balled food, but if you are in Florida, NY or California for five days, trust me, unless you are eating at McDonalds, you will spend $500.00 on food and drinks over a five day period, which is not unreasonable.

Total that up, it comes to $2,500.00.

RobinSlick said...

Part II
RT, for whatever reason, only allows indie authors three titles, and of those three titles, they are allowed five of each, for a total of 15 books.

Even if you sell the books at $15@, and you sell all of them, that's $300.00.

But wait, you don't get to keep the $300.00, because 40% of that goes to the book seller, who, in the case of the Florida convention, was Barnes and Noble.

So now your net profit, assuming you sell all 15 books, is $180.00.

So I've spent at least $2,500.00 and my return, if I'm lucky, will top off at $180.00. AM I INSANE OR IS THE EMPEROR WEARING NO CLOTHES?

But it's a chance to network and make new fans, you say? Stella is right about that. They are not there to meet you; they want to meet the "stars."

I've attended 3 conventions over the past five years. Yes, the food is terrible - but that is to be expected at banquets/conventions. But the parties are always thrown by the same very connected know, the ones I mention above -- the NY authors the fans really want to meet. I appreciate that Heather Graham is successful; I appreciate that she clearly wishes she had a career on stage. But do I want to sit through another one of her musical extravaganzas while I'm trying to eat shoe leather and powdered mashed potatoes and sipping a drink for which I just paid $10? No. No I do not. Nor do I want to see the ridiculous half naked male models trawling the hallways, trying to get votes for Model of the Year so they get to be on the cover of the next Kensington Romance book.

I'm a writer, dammit.

But I've written many books and I've spent a fortune on promo. So I'm willing to listen to Heather sing, I'm willing to eat bad food, I'm willing to pretend to ogle a model who would probably prefer being ogled by my son, I'm willing to basically pay $500.00 for a convention which will teach me nothing new nor offer me any special opportunities...if they will let me simply sell my books! I would gladly be at RT this year provided I could ship boxes of my books, as many as I wanted within reason (I mean, come on, no one is going to sell 1000 books at that thing unless they are Stephen King), and at least get to keep 85% of the profits. I understand they have to pay people to man cash registers, etc. but hmm...funny thing...whenever I do book festivals, I am perfectly capable of selling my own books and making change without a bookseller. And just think, if we eliminated the middle man, there would be no long lines.

But this convention is a huge cash cow for RT. And they are not happy to just reap in the money from the $500 convention "fee". They need a cut of our books, too.

RobinSlick said...

Part III

And now let's talk about RT itself. They hire substandard reviewers. Am I saying this because I got a less than stellar review? Nope. I'm saying it because I met my reviewer face to face at RT and she told me flat out she didn't read my book because the protagonist had an affair and this mirrored her own life - her husband cheated on her. So rather than read my book unbiased or pass it on to someone else, she decided to give me 2 stars based on what she perceived to be the plot - and then had the guts to tell me that to my face. At RT! And lucky me, the review she wrote was in the free issue given to everyone who attended RT.

When I wrote to RT to complain, do you know what they wrote back to me? "Sorry. The girl you mention just lost her mother. It's an emotional time for her."

Hey, I lost my mother, too. The grief is something you never get over. But this is an allegedly professional "corporation." Her review could have ruined my career...and that year, I only sold one book, so I would have to believe her review had something to do with that because the following year, wowie, I sold all 15 I was "allowed" to have.

RT is a waste of time and money for an independent author. You will not gain any new fans, you will lose a lot of money, and you will walk away from the experience disgusted. Unless you are just looking for a vacation from your family and a chance to network with other romance/paranormal authors, RT is a joke. But, that being said, if you are looking to get away from home and network with other authors, and if you are a fan of Heather Graham and her musical extravaganzas, then you will have an awesome time.

As long as you don't remember that you could spend a week in a luxury beachfront resort eating lobster and drinking champagne for the same money....

Stella Price said...

Thanks for the comment Robin. I know you had a bad time of it with the con, and your right, its far too expensive (and it doesn't HAVE to be btw,)and not worth the money.

Im glad you had the nerve to say something as well.

KL/LE said...

What I do like about cons is I get to hang with people I only talk to online - I like putting faces to avatars. These days, though, I watch the promo $$ b/c bills and life get in the way.

With big events like RT, I do expect to spend more than I make sometimes - I need to close that gap, though, if I want to continue.

Kayleigh Jamison said...

Oh yeah, I agree that in this business (as with most) you have to spend money to make money and conventions/signings/appearances are investments into your career, particularly at the beginning.

But I'll go with Robin's numbers and say the $2,000 price tag (minus the air fare because I drove) was probably about right for RT. At the signing I had 15 copies of my books and sold 5, I think.

Last year I spent less than $500 on AAD, and that included registration, meals, gas, hotel, three different costume outfits (a steampunk outfit with a corset that I never made it into, a goth girl outfit, and a full-length medieval gown), party sponsorship, promotional items, and a charity basket.

Oh, and I sold out of books at the signing, where I had the same number of copies as I did at RT.

Difference? I wasn't treated like a second class citizen at AAD, nor did I have to pay $200 just for the privilege of putting a bookmark into the convention bag that ends up in the hotel trashcan anyway.

Unknown said...

Having gone to RT with Stella I can say that RT is more chaos than fun and expensive as all hell. The food was crap and they took it off the tables before you were done eating at several of the events. I've only been once but I most likely won't go again unless I have about 2K to waste.

Grace Fonseca said...

I had friends attend RT and they hated it, because they felt that they had been ripped off, especially about the Food and then if they wanted to attend the Faery Ball it was an insane amount of money to attend. I like cons like AAD because they are smaller and more reader friendly. Plus you get to meet new people and have things to do, not to mention tons more fun.

Laura K said...

Ladies, I found many of your comments very interesting and enlightening. I am a fan foremost and then a reviewer, and promoter last. In fact I represent one of you in the etrade!

I've been to RT before and like one of you, I will be going again mostly to hook up with author friends I've made over the years.

Maybe I'm one of those rare birds, but I have been thrilled to meet my favorite ebook authors face to face. Is the ebook fair a joke? Yes, it is and I find it very disrespectful as well because I'd dare day at least 60% have to be in the trade over the print ladies.

I can't believe RT (maybe I'm naive after all) allowed that awful review to stand after you complained, Robin. I pride myself in my reviewing (I do not review anyone I consider a great friend OR do promo for) and strive to give an unbiased opinion on the stories I read. I LOVE to find tomorrow's stars, reading new authors and getting to meet them.

It was often in line that I met some very nice ebook authors and I took mental note of them. When I came home, I rushed to try out their stories.

This year I'm shacking up with an ebook author and have no friends to hang around with. I'm thrilled because while in Orlando there was only one fan thing (if any) in a time block, I actually have CHOICES between two events at the same time. However will I survive!!! I can't wait to meet new readers in line for fan events and make new friends.

Next year will be the last one for me because it's in my own hometown of Chicago. I will also be at ADD this year and Romanticon. Can't wait!

Stephanie Burke said...

E bloger just ate my whole friggin comment!

Damn them!

It started with a rant, and then how I was prevented form asnwering this post all day by a grooup of friends and my family, and finally about how I was going to miss RT but not a lot of the bull that happend to me.

I mean, i will miss my parties and meeting my freinds and making new ones....

But I can't afford teh expense, and the depression that goes along wiht this con.

Maybe in a few yers I will go back, but for now, I can't do RT.'

I wish I coul remember everything that I typed, it was beautiful. I started trying while getting my spine adjusted, it's listing to teh right, and getting bent into a pretzel by my confused therapist who didn;t know if I was cussing in pain or ranting on my blue tooth. And that is where the keep the lap top away game began. And it ends wiht me sneaking my own computer after being drugged with flexoril, maybe I should have not moved that couch for a friend, and now you have drugged up dyslexic typing.

I am going to miss RT for my friends, the great parties I got to throw, my babies the models, my fellow authros who supported me and helped me through, and for the friends I have yet to make.

I will not miss the lost paperwork, the returned books, the stolen ot trashed promo, how some people walk off wiht my displays.... it goes one an on. It got so bad that in Pittsburgh I announced that I was giving up writing. But a group of fellow authors and friends, some great great readers, and some reviewers kicked my butt for me but good and I got my head back int he game.

So I will miss many aspects of RT. There are a lot of things that I can live without, emotionally and financially. I am going to miss a lot of the staff, they were fun and helpful and some of them can gooand suck eggs as far as I am concerned. I am going to miss talking wiht eh volunteers, face to face time wiht my readers to get direct input, and t drive my publishers crazy wiht new ideas.

Aspects of this con cannot he duplicated or replaced. I will miss that. But emotionally and financialy, I can't deal. And lets not get into missing or misplaced paperwork, stress, and a lot of nasty comments.

And I am not even going to go into how I pissed off The Black RT with my crazy views about equality and placement of books by Black authors is not in teh African American section but with their specific genera....

But I digress.

God thing, many bad things, and I will miss everyone going this year as I will not be there.

I Really wish E blogger didn't eat my comments earlier, It was a beautiful rant, followed by common sense, and ending with a joke.

But as I can no longer keep my eyes open, I will stop stinking up this blog with my anger pain, disappointment, and joy... and go to bed.


Unknown said...

I'm a NY and eBook author. I agree with the cost details on the conference. The three times I've gone, I spent upwards of $4k for registration/air/hotel and promo. I got to meet FEW readers.

It was like pimping my books to other authors. We all read, but WTF, the last time I went, I met maybe five people who were JUST readers. Not reviewers, not authors who read too, but just readers. That's not a lot of readers if you ask me! And I went to the damn thing to meet readers.

It will have to be right in my backyard before I go again, and even then I'm not sure I'll go. It just doesn't seemed geared toward readers anymore. As someone mentioned, it's a money-making machine for the magazine.

As for the Promo lane deal. That's a JOKE. If you're going to charge then have someone on hand to monitor it. But the thing is, RT doesn't pay anyone to work the conference they have a volunteer staff, much like RWA. AND if I recall correctly, their volunteers pay FULL PRICE for registration.

As for the registration fee and hotel food. There's a BIG reason for that. RT only negotiates their conference about one year out. That means that they can't get good deals on anything. It's the hotel who's in the position of power, because there are only a FEW conference hotels in the country that can handle 1K or more attendees for an event like RT "throws" on. They should be negotiating at least five years out, but they don't for whatever reason. *shrug*

In fairness to RT, the Houston M/M issue wasn't their doing. The area was open to the public and a woman went through with her kid, complained to the management, who then ordered RT to take down the M/M promo. If I recall, they also made some of the more erotic items be tucked at the back of the goodie tables.

IMHO RT is FAR from professional. As to reviewers their reasons for reviewing/not reviewing, I can't speak to that, but has anyone noticed how books that are 4.5 stars or Top Picks generally have a COLOR ad in the magazine? It's not all of them, but a LARGE majority of those 4.5 star and Top Pick books have color ads. Interestingly enough those color ads look like they're paid for by the publishers. It takes me back to the days when an eBook had to have an ad of some sort just to get a fricking review. I have a feeling it's STILL the same way unless you're with one of the larger ePubs. IDK

On top of that they don't tell you how many copies they're printing. I used to work in advertising and newspapers touted their circulation numbers so you could see you were getting a GREAT buy in CPM. Not RT. It's one of the reasons why I've stopped advertising. I'm tired of not seeing any return on my monies.

I just don't see that RT has much of anything to offer me as an author in terms of reaching readers. I've never seen a spike on my sales when I did an ad or didn't do an ad.

I now attend smaller reader conferences. I'm doing four this year alone, and I'll get one-on-one face time with readers in smaller, more intimate settings. I'd rather talk romance books with readers than party all night with male models.

Robert C Roman said...

Interesting points. This will be my first RT, and I'd originally decided against going. I'll have to keep my eyes out for the things you guys are talking about.