Sometimes I hate the money.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not some Birkenstock wearing, granola-eating naive, idealistic artist who believes in the sanctity of art above all else. I understand there is commerce in everything, art included, and that the largest engine driving the world is money.
But sometimes I hate it.
Recently, my first novel, 2000 MILES TO OPEN ROAD, was published. Right now, I’m working as hard as I can to promote it. I’ve been to signings and readings, to conventions, I’ve produced and mailed thousands of chapbooks featuring the first two chapters of the novel, I’ve sent press releases. I’ve done everything I can think of and everything my writer friends have found successful, to promote the book.
One suggestion I got was to attend the Great Lakes Booksellers’ Association conference in Chicago; to attend their Regional Author Event. That, I was told, would put me and my book in front of hundreds of booksellers. It would allow me to pitch directly to the people who put books in the hands of readers.
Not only would this be a great opportunity for me as a writer, but as a bookseller as well. My wife’s bookstore, Green River Books, is a member of GLBA. Promotion of both writer and store.
I sent numerous emails to various executives. Over and over and over again.
None were answered. None.
Except, finally, an email sent to the general mailbox at GLBA.
Here is part of their response:
Thank you for your interest in our 2005 Trade Show. Though there are
numerous opportunities for authors…we reserve those opportunities for authors who are represented by an exhibiting publisher, i.e., a publisher that has a booth….
Once you’ve established that your publisher will be represented…contact me…or send in a “Call for Authors” nomination form. We welcome and review all nominations until the trade show schedule is set and all author slots are
What? Did I read that correctly? You’ll let me tell booksellers about my book only when my publisher has given you money for a booth?
The Great Lakes Booksellers’ Association says their mission is to bring books to readers, books to booksellers, the written word to those who love to read. In fact, their website says, “The Great Lakes Booksellers Association is formed to support bookstores and to promote excellence in the publishing, distribution, promotion and selling of books.”
Evidently, that’s true only if you buy a space at their regional show first.
The booths are decently cheap, a bit less than $600. The cancellation policy isn’t particuarly good (a $200 fee if you cancel at least two months out, no refund at all if you cancel less than two months out…standard practice in the convention industry).
I’m not an idiot, I understand GLBA has to cover costs, but by having a policy of “pay us first, then we’ll allow you to promote yourself,” they cut out any publisher who doesn’t have a decent sized budget for that kind of thing.
But the publisher should be willing to put money into their books, shouldn’t they? True enough. Except that there are ten regional ABA-style organizations. If they all charge $525 for a booth, that’s $5,250 just for booth space. Doesn’t include shipping, transportation, accomodations, and meals (not to mention all kinds of things I’ve probably forgotten). That’s all on top of all the other marketing publishers have to do.
Small publishers, medium publishers, self-publishers, assorted others don’t always have that kind of budget.
And let’s not forget, promotion at GLBA has two elements. First is the booth cost. Second is the review process. Remember the email response? “We welcome and review all nominations….” So they take your money, then decide if your subject matter is appropriate, I guess.
But what if it’s not? What if I wrote a porn novel they didn’t like and I was the only book being promoted by my publisher at the time? Would they take the booth money and then deny me the opportunity to promote the book (and then refuse to give a refund based on their own rules)?
I understand covering costs, but linking book promotion to whether or not the publisher has bought a booth is not what GLBA says they want to do.
Why does GLBA connect the worthiness of a book with money?
So I will continue to promote my book the best I can. I will try and get in contact with all of the GLBA members and pitch my book to them without the help of the Great Lakes Booksellers’ Association. I will try to succeed inspite of their heavy-handed attempts to get some money out of my publisher.
Like I said, sometimes I hate the money part of the business.