*The opinions expressed below are solely mine. Dissenting opinions should be directed my way, and not toward the very lovely ladies who organize this blog. Read at your own risk. J
Okay, I have a bee in my bonnet. No, this is not about archaic clichés—that’s next month’s subject (I just decided as I typed this sentence). This is about jumping on bandwagons (yes, there’s another) and crushing good ideas under good intentions.
My rant today: Reader Events.
Lately, everyone and their brother (I’m on a roll, here!) have decided to host their own Reader Event. In deciding to do so, these obvious assumptions have been made:
- The organizer makes money.
- They are easy to pull off.
- Copious amounts of books will be sold.
- All the organizer needs to do is recruit lots of authors and readers will flock.
Let’s address these poor misguided ideas one at a time.
First off, the organizer usually loses money. Guarantees must be made to hotels and paid in full, even in the case of half the expected turnout. Promised 200 and only 100 registered? The organizer must pay for the 200 anyway. It takes 3-5 years to turn a profit, and only if the event is consistently well run.
Next, anyone who has planned a wedding knows that the success of a quality event is hidden in a myriad of mundane details. There are no Event Fairies who will make sure that everything is magically contracted, informed, designed, ordered, collected, dispersed, arranged, printed, licensed, staffed, bought, sold, transported, reserved, double-and-triple-checked, or paid for. Not even a little OCD? Don’t even think about it.
As for copious amounts of books being sold, most leave that to the author to handle. Rather than bring in a licensed bookseller, they make the author responsible for all legalities. Not cool, in my opinion. Sure, swiping a sale on a Square is easy. But getting shut down for not having a sales tax license can really ruin the experience.
Last of all is the myth: just recruit every author around, and you can rest on your laurels (What the heck is a laurel? Ah. Next month.) Readers will rush to attend and make your event a rousing success.
Nope. It doesn’t work that way. Not even a little.
Here’s what has happened in the last year or so: authors attend an event, make assumptions 1-4, and then schedule one of their own. Other authors rationalize that, “Hey, it’s one more chance for my readers to see me!” and sign on.
To ALL of them.
Why not? It’s a tax-deductible business expense. So these authors end up appearing somewhere in the country every month or so, which makes the chance to meet up with them commonplace. No longer special. No longer sought after.
Meanwhile, readers—for whom these event opportunities require both 1) disposable income, and 2) time away from jobs and families—rationalize that, “I can maybe go to one…” The depth of attendees is consequently spread so thin, that no newly sprouted event is making its budget.
Worse than that, the ratio of authors to readers has been abysmal. Out of curiosity, I attended four of these new events in the last 18 months, and their ratio has averaged 3.5 authors for every 1 reader. I am not kidding.
Needless to say, copious books are not being sold, legally or otherwise.
So what should we expect next? In my opinion:
- Everyone has the right to try. Not everyone will succeed.
- The failed outings will not be re-offered; not by anyone with adequate business sense, anyway.
- The glut should theoretically ease, with a few successful events holding on—if they can survive the current drought of attendees, that is.
- Travel-hungry and over-extended authors need to understand what they are doing to their own situations. More is not better. More overwhelms the system and it collapses.
A year ago I would never have predicted the Reader Event Tsunami and the resulting devastation, and I certainly cannot predict the future now. I only hope authors understand that making one or two special “event” appearances a year will do much more to drum up excitement about them and their books, than by standing on every street corner peddling their wares to anyone who walks by.