Hugh Howey on the RT conference in New Orleans

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JournoWriter

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You're telling me RT made over a million dollars at this convention yet they couldn't get it together enough to save readers from having to spend hours in lines?

Journo's Law: "When lots of people occupy the same location at the same time, there are lines."
 

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The size of the tables seems to be causing a lot of worry: but it would have been the hotel which provided them, not the conference organisers. It's likely that the hotel has one batch of tables for one conference room and another for the other room, and that they told the conference organisers the tables were about six feet wide, which at two people per table became the promised three feet of table-space per author. If the tables for one room were slightly smaller in order to better use the room, and if that room was where the authors with non-returnable books found themselves, then those authors might well feel discriminated against when in fact no discrimination took place.

Or perhaps someone at the hotel thought, "let's find teeny-tiny tables for the self publishers and nice big important-looking ones for the authors with trade publishers!"
 

Mr Flibble

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$484 still seems like a heck of a lot. I'm off to the world science fiction convention later this year, and it cost me about 1/3 of that (Ticket prices have gone up lately -- they usually give discounts if you book early). I will almost certainly come away with more free books than I can carry etc. I usually do at cons! Learnt my lesson -- always leave lots of free bag space for books. The free ones at World Fantasy almost dislocated my shoulder...

OK RT is bigger probably, but it still seems like a lot for just the ticket. Add accommodation onto that, plus easting etc and we're talking a month's wages at least. That's a lot of money for a con. I would certainly expect something pretty special for that money.

ETA: Though I am reminded that cons US side are a bit different to over here. We tend to be a bit more "fan run" rather than professional. But if I pay professional prices, I expect professional product, you know?
 
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Alessandra Kelley

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You're telling me RT made over a million dollars at this convention yet they couldn't get it together enough to save readers from having to spend hours in lines? Well this is not endearing me to them at all.

Actually, the bigger the convention the longer the lines, on the whole.

The big for-profit science fiction and comic book media expos have gigantic attendances and equally long lines and waits.
 

amrose

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$484 still seems like a heck of a lot.

I balked at the price at first, but -

I paid 484 for the full convention registration as a published author but did not participate in the signing. Besides enormous amount of informative panels, agent/editor/publisher presence, etc. There were a number of events that fed everyone who attended well. One of the evening events was a sit down dinner and another was a pub crawl with access to free drinks depending on how early you started.

On top of the panels and the food and events, there are endless gift bags filled with brand new books and promotional items at most of the panels and events. I gave my freebie passes away to someone with a day pass who wanted free stuff way more than I did, but those tickets would have got me two bags of new books and promo items. There were also at least two additional events where the entire point was you could take as many free, new books as you could carry. The two women that accompanied me as readers/fans went home with over 80 new books a piece.

It is expensive but I never felt I overpaid for anything. It was a lot of fun.
 

Mr Flibble

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access to free drinks depending on how early you started.

This would bankrupt a UK con :D There are some events with free booze but usually laid on by pubs. And the booze goes very quickly!

over 80 new books a piece.


Okay that IS a good deal.
It is expensive but I never felt I overpaid for anything. It was a lot of fun.

Fair enough --- like I said, I know there are diffs between Uk and US cons but wasn't sure about what was included in the price (was going by what I get from a UK con apart from access, which usually consists of whatever publisher will give away)
 

eqb

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It's not so much the difference between US and UK, but between SFF and other conventions. I too went OMG when I saw the price for RT, but yes, the con was just chockful of programming, parties, and freebies. The awards ceremony was amazing, too, and much fancier than WorldCon or World Fantasy.
 
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RT registrations seems similar to the ALA and other book-related conferences.

http://ala14.ala.org/rates

But for high prices, check out a developer conference for software developers.

A pass to Apple's World Wide Developer conference costs $1,599.00 USD and includes access to five days of sessions, hands-on labs, and special events.

It includes a coffee break with coffee, juice, tea and doughnuts, or granola, or bagels and fruit and yogurt each morning, a lunch that's buffet style, and an afternoon coffee break.

Because more people want a ticket than there are spaces, opportunities to buy a ticket are raffled off.

There are often free coffee/beverage carts located throughout the conference.

It includes a party with food and a partially open bar at the Apple conference one evening.

The opportunity to buy a ticket is raffled off.
 

Beachgirl

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Prices for my professional conferences are usually at least $500, with extra charges for the mixers, dinners, lunches, walking tours, etc.

For that $500+ I get three or four days of presentations, a cheap shoulder bag and a pen.
 

Anna L.

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It seems to me literature/SFF cons are too often priced way above what low income fans/readers could possibly afford.

In Quebec, we have a yearly book event that's bigger than Book Expo America. Price to get in? Four dollars. Mind you, there is no free books or food involved. But people can see as many authors as they want, buy whatever books they want, and attend a bunch of panels/readings/etc. For 4 dollars a day.
 

Cathy C

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Arriving at this thread late, but I was there and visited both rooms extensively. The events described at RT simply didn't happen the way Howey claims. I was at the book signing. I was at first surprised there were two ballrooms, but the main room was PACKED, with just room at each author's station for two small stacks of books (remainders stayed in boxes under the table until needed.)

The fire marshall was a real concern. Authors had to take down any displays that couldn't be attached to the table skirting, and readers were let in in small groups to prevent capacity problems. The Fire Marshall actually stayed for the entire event, which is rare beyond belief. Colored bands were required for major bestsellers so people stuck in line outside the room could gain admittance when their number series was called. It's difficult for people who have never attended an RT to grasp the sheer scope of a signing. There are anywhere from 200-500 authors present and more than 1,500 readers. I'll see if I can find some photos taken from prior events where there were balconies overlooking the room.

ETA: Okay, I found a few from the 2009 convention taken on the second floor overlooking the signing. Note that all three photos are of the same signing. The whole room wouldn't fit in one photo.

RT2009+043.jpg


RT2009+044.jpg


RT2009+045.jpg


Here's one I posted on Twitter during the signing. Look at the table across from where I sat. See how tight the authors are? It was about the same in the second room. I was in row 3. There were 42 rows in the two rooms, with about 25-30 authors per row.

I directly asked RT staff, including several people I know well, about the two rooms. The issue came down to room capacity along with returnability of the books. Books brought by authors for sale had to be separately accounted at the registers, so the most efficient way (although perhaps not the most user-friendly) to solve it was a second bank of registers. There were trade pubbed people in that room, including NYT and Harlequin authors (both of whom are beloved by RT and fans) who just happened to have self-pubbed titles for sale too.

As for the value for cost, it's hard to imagine another con where there are so many devoted readers, booksellers and librarians in one place. I always pay for the full registration, although there are one-day passes just for the signing. I believe for Teen Day (just YA authors) the fee is $30.00 per teen plus one adult chaperone. For adults, it's $99.00 but you get access to the full day of events.

I've been to two WorldCons, two World Horrors, two Thrillerfests, and any number of smaller cons. RT is like nothing you can imagine. It's book binging on an insane level, plus meeting 3,000 of your soon-to-be best friends in one spot. Everyone is happy to the point of chirpy. No other con compares, and I don't even try to anymore. RT is worth every penny, every year. :)
 
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BenPanced

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An email I've received from Carol Stacy, Publisher of RT Book Reviews

(Mod note: email contents removed -- Kylabelle)

Sorry. It went out to everybody involved with the Book Fair, so I figured it was okay to post.

Summary:

1) RT was looking for a better way to handle the signings. They'd done the E-book, Independent Publishers, and Graphic Novel Expo separately for several years but just didn't get the same traffic as the separate Big Book Fair.
2) She conferred with several authors, commercially published, self-pub, and hybrid, on how they could improve the Expo traffic. The general consensus was have one big fair.
3) New Orleans was the first time they tried it. Lots of things didn't work, especially when the Fire Marshall appeared unannounced the day of the book fair and they had to change things that he had previously approved, including taking down directional signs and banners that helped people figure out where to go.
4) Because the signs and banners were removed, there was confusion on who was seated in which ballroom. Attendees got a road map that listed which author was seated in which row in which ballroom, but the Fire Marshall had the signs removed that pointed out which row was in which ballroom. Nobody directed traffic to go through the larger ballroom first. Carol Stacy, Publisher of RT Book Reviews, was personally doing the opposite and directing people to the smaller ballroom first, where the indie and self-pub authors were.
5) People weren't told to stand in line twice and make two separate purchases for their books. They were told the opposite to save a trip since books sold on consignment had price tags attached to the backs of the books and the bookseller had a handle on inventory.
6) Authors were seated according to the bookseller's criteria, based on "easy ordering from a distributor or publisher with a 40% discount, returns accepted with no additional cost to the bookseller for return shipping" (direct quote from the original email), to help him keep his books separate from the items brought in on consignment, not because of the rumored hierarchy of commercially published vs. indie/self-pub. Some independent presses met the criteria, so they were seated in the main ballroom; some commercially published authors brought in books that were out of print and no longer available from a distributor so they were seated in the smaller ballroom since they had to sell these books on consignment.
7) A volunteer mistakenly referred to the authors in the smaller ballroom as "aspiring authors". The organizers seriously regret this error.
8) But RT wants to make it work and is willing to listen to any suggestions, so email them and they'll take things into consideration.
 
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Kylabelle

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That's all good information, but it's really not okay to post the entire email, sorry.

I'd very much appreciate it if you could summarize the main points and maybe share a couple of key excerpts?

I do gather she clarified all of the points of contention that have been expressed here, quite thoroughly, and asserted the intentions of RT to work out the issues before the next conference, which is great to learn, though not surprising to me at all. :)

Thanks much.
 
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