Archive for the 'The Industry' Category



23
Oct
09

sorry, that ain’t how it goes (Agent Edition)

So there’s stuff allllll over the internet about the relationship between author and agents.  It goes something like this: author writes awesome book, sends it to agent. Agent likes book, agrees to work with author to sell book to publisher for mutual benefit. Agent works hard, places book at a great house, everyone is happy and makes money. Insert HEA here.

Well, maybe not exactly like that, but you get the idea. And if you still don’t know what I’m talking about, there are a million places you can learn all about every nuance of how the agent/author interaction is supposed to work. Of course, this always makes me wonder: with SO MUCH information out there about what to expect from a literary agent  where do people get these crazy ideas about them?

Some of it is simple ignorance, some is misinformation from scammers, and some is simply stupid television.

I’m a horrid cheapskate, so we don’t have television at my house. As a result, I cruise through a lot of Hulu when I have thirty minutes of downtime. This exposes me to a lot of TV shows I would not otherwise watch, including a new ABC classic, Castle (wikipedia link to avoid ABC’s AWFUL auto-launching ads).  The show’s premise is as follows (again, from the wikipedia article):

“Nathan Fillion stars as Richard Castle, a famous mystery novelist who is initially called in to help the NYPD solve a copy-cat murder based on his novels. Stana Katic stars opposite as the young detective Kate Beckett. Following his encounter with Beckett, Castle decides to use her as the model for his next book series. He uses his contacts and receives permission to accompany Beckett while investigating cases.”

Fun right? I mean, sure it’s a little far fetched, but who wants reality in their TV? Heck, we don’t even want reality in our reality TV! I can swallow a little ridiculousness in the name of a good show, and it’s got Mal from Firefly! (<3 ❤ <3) So I thought I’d give it five minutes. Of course, those five minutes happened to be from the latest episode on Hulu. To truly understand my horror (and the next few paragraphs), I ask that you take 2 minutes and watch the very first bit. Just 2 minutes, I’ll wait.

Ok, for those of you who didn’t/couldn’t watch, here’s the crux. Our author, Mr. Castle, is woken at 7 am in his lovely NY apartment by his extremely fashionable “book agent” ringing his door bell to come and tell him that he is on the short list to write the new James Bond series. This is of course fantastic news… but I couldn’t get much past that because I was too busy picking my jaw up off the floor from the incredible, stupid wrongness that was the set up of events for this scene.

I’ll tell it to you straight. Your agent will never visit you at 7 in the morning, in heels and a hot red dress, to tell you about a deal. She may call you, email frantically, maybe even send flowers, but I’m willing to bet you a great deal of money that she will never show up uninvited at the crack of dawn to play coy about you getting a huge deal. This is mostly because your agent is probably in New York, and, chances are, you are not. Even if you do live in NY, I’m pretty sure your agent still wouldn’t drop by your apartment without invitation early in the morning, (though maybe Nora can set us straight on that one).

This is because, unlike as is depicted in this episode, the agent/author relationship is a professional one. Of course it’s wonderful if you’re friends with your agent, but business is still business, and your agent is aware of that even if you’re not. After all, they’ve got other clients. Of course, life is different if you’re a “famous mystery novelist,” but I’m pretty sure even Tom Clancy’s agent doesn’t just drop in at the crack of dawn. That’s just… stupid. And rude. And unprofessional. And counter productive.

STILL, I could have swallowed all of that for the sake of TV. Really, I could have. My disbelief is used to being in a high state of suspension. However, the little tick that really did me in was the phrase “book agent.” Both our author and our agent referred to her position as being a “book agent.” I have never heard this term. Lit agent, sure, agent, literary agent, etc. But it’s not even the “book” part, it’s the fact that he has to identify her as a “book agent,” which begs the question, as opposed to what? Does he have a film agent too? Is he an actor? Maybe his real estate agent drops by for beers every Saturday and he has to keep them straight.

There are exceptions to every rule, but generally speaking, if writing is your bread and butter, you’ve only got one agent, your literary agent. The person who makes the deals. If you have other agents working with your material (say for foreign rights, or if your book gets turned into a movie), they go through your lit agent. That’s why it’s so vital to get an agent who loves your material, they become your door to publishing, and, through it, all the other good stuff like movies and commemorative shot glasses and your face on a cereal box.

I’m sure there’s more to the show, but I shut the page down after 2 minutes of that swill. The worst part about all of this is that, while it’s easy for me to see how desperately stupid all of this was, how completely and deliberately divorced from the truth, most people probably watched this and saw nothing wrong.  The space in their brain for information about being a writer, hither-to pure and untouched, is now filled with blatantly false B.S., all thanks to Castle, and that’s just sad.

Just think of this as another reason to do your research. You can lose viewers (or readers) for the stupidest stuff. You don’t have to be 100% real, but it does help not to be blatantly, foot-in-mouth-to-the-knee wrong. Just a thought, Castle writers, just a thought.

03
Sep
09

Who’s Afraid of Urban Fantasy?

I’m about to step in it big time with this one. I’m primarily a writer of secondary-world epic fantasies, and here I am opening my mouth about urban fantasy. That’s just asking for a smackdown. But here goes.

Read this article at io9, in which Orbit Books’ Tim Holman (disclosure: my trilogy is coming out from Orbit, not that this has anything to do with anything in this case) notes the phenomenal growth of urban fantasy. To the point that it’s rapidly consuming the whole SF field.

Now, I read some urban fantasy. In fact I read both kinds of urban fantasy: the pre-Anita Blake kind (e.g., China Mieville, Neil Gaiman, the Paper Cities anthology) as well as the post-Blake (e.g., Jim Butcher, Marjorie Liu, and yes Laurell K. Hamilton). I even write a little in short story form, though my stuff veers closer to the pre type than the post. I’m aware of the differences between urban fantasy and paranormal romance, or at least to the degree that the issue has been decided (which is to say, not). So I’m not completely ignorant on the subject. Being here at the Magic District helps, actually, because my UF-inclined fellow Districtians’ books are all on the excellent end of the Urban Fantasy continuum, and I’m being exposed to more through their posts.

Despite all this, I had the same reaction as a number of io9 commenters to the news that UF was growing like the Blob: dismay. Because like them, I’ve seen a lot of stuff from the crap end of the UF continuum, and this phenomenal rate of growth probably means that more crap is forthcoming. It’s not nearly as bad as some people are making it out to be; a lot of the rage I see directed at urban fantasy has to do with the preponderance of girl cooties in it. The spec fic field has never been very welcoming towards that. But we still hit the Sturgeon’s Law problem: with so much urban fantasy out there, how am I ever going to be able to sift out the gold nuggets from the flood?

And what does this mean for me as a writer?

Don’t worry; I’m not dumb enough to change my writing in order to try and fit this trend. Think about it: by the time I finish Book 3, write another book, hopefully sell that, and then do the 2-year wait for publication, the trend might be over. But as a writer of primarily epic fantasies, does this trend mean I might have trouble selling my books in the future? After all, the last time there was a trend like this — I’ll cite the surge in psychosexual killer-based horror that happened in the Eighties — the rest of “traditional” speculative fiction suffered mightily. Many publishers, as I understand it from folks who were active at the time, were trying to capitalize on the slasher/splatter/supernatural killer film boom (think, “Nightmare on Elm Street”), so a whole slew of novels in the same vein came out around this time. They sold well, too… for awhile. Then the public got really, really tired of their similarity, and the books stopped selling. There was too much of the stuff out there, and too much of it was crap; the market got glutted, and subsequently contracted. Aside from Stephen King and a few notable others, there was a solid spate of years in which horror was functionally dead. (These days it’s rising from the dead, pun intended, largely on the strength of… wait for it… zombie fiction and vampires. And, of course, urban fantasy and paranormal romance.)

During that market contraction, writers in horror and related genres had trouble getting published. (Don’t take my word for it; here’s an interesting 1991 convo between some spec fic writers discussing the matter.) Even some science fiction and fantasy writers suffered — because publisher dollars were being heaped onto the horror pile. And later, when the pile caught fire (to mutilate a metaphor), publisher dollars became scarce as they fought to survive massive financial losses. It’s taken years — decades, literally — for genre and industry to recover.

Now, I’m no expert about the business end of publishing. Frankly I’m a babe in the woods as these things go. But it seems to me that if a trend caused this kind of implosion in one genre market, it could happen here in fantasyland too.

So what am I gonna do about it?

Well, like I said, I’m not going to suddenly start trying to write urban fantasy novels; that way lies danger, Will Robinson, danger! (Though I note with irony that there are substantial urban fantasy elements in Book 2 of the Inheritance Trilogy. Didn’t plan ’em, they just happened. Can’t talk about that without spoiling Book 1, though, so…) I’m also planning to diversify. My next project on the table is a YA novel, possibly a duology or trilogy. If I can establish myself in another genre — and YA SF really is different from adult SF in many ways — that might insulate me somewhat, should another market contraction hit. Also, since many of my fantasy novels contain core romantic elements, I’m hoping to get the attention of the romance industry. Now there’s a financial juggernaut; to paraphrase Carl Sagan, there’s billions and billions of dollars churning out of that engine. Only smart to try and build an audience there.

IMO, this is how writers have to think, nowadays. Yeah, we’re artists, and craft comes first. Still, I dunno about other artists, and I’m indulging in some wishful thinking here, but I want to reap the financial rewards of my art before I kick off, not after, thanks. At the very least, I’d like to continue paying rent and buying food. That means I need to understand how this business works.

So here we are. What do you guys think of the surge in urban fantasy? Is it a good thing? A bad thing? A good thing for now, bad for later? Bueller?

28
Aug
09

Publishing situations I didn’t think of

In the years I spent trying to get published, (querying, reading, re-writing, etc.) I read a lot of publishing blogs. This was partially because I wanted to be an informed author, but mostly because I hate looking stupid, and the best way not to look stupid is to be informed! Anyway, I thought I’d pretty much covered my bases in my research. I mean, I’d gotten an agent, gotten an editor, and turned in two books, without running into a problem I hadn’t at least read about… Until yesterday.

So yesterday I get a call from my lovely, wonderful editor telling me that we have a problem. The book I’d just turned in, the second in my series, is about half again as long as my first book. I replied that I knew this would be a problem, and that I was going to work on shortening the second book. Oh no, she replied, that’s not what she meant. You see the problem isn’t  the length of book 2, it’s longer, but still perfectly in line with standard fantasy word counts. The problem is that the first book and the second book won’t look right sitting next to each other on the shelf if one is half again as big as the other.

Huh, I said, I’d never even thought about that. Learned something new! So, I asked, a little perplexed, what did she want me to do?

Turns out, she wants me to add about 40 pages to book one. This was around where my brain exploded.

Here was an editor asking me to make a book longer. And not just a little longer, but 40 pages longer. That’s about 10,000 words. Of course she had a good point about the relative lengths, and that book one was a trifle on the skinny side (Editors often have good points, this is one of the great blessings and infuriations of working with them), but… 40 pages! On a book that’s been done for months! Forget for a moment that I don’t even know where to begin adding pages, until this book I, as a writer, have never been asked to make anything longer. Keep it short, stupid, was the watch phrase! Even with my editor’s urging, it feels to deeply wrong to make something longer on purpose.

I’m going to try my best to do it, of course, but this just goes to show that I should never relax and think I know the publishing game, or the writing one, for that matter. It has a bad habit of proving me wrong.

10
Jul
09

Wait, I have to do what?

So I’m editing editing editing sleep eat dayjob editing crying editing right now, and sadly found myself without time to write the long post about villians I had slated for this week. (But strangely not without time to read Mark of the Demon, nom nom nom!!)

ANYWAY, instead, I thought I’d take the opportunity/copout to ask a question I’ve been quietly fretting over for some time and, as several of our Magic District denizens have had first hand experience with this of late, now seems to be a good time to ask. Namely, how does one go about marketing ones book?

I know Diana has a great ad up on Smart Bitches, and internet ads on sites full of people who would be interested in your book does seem pretty optimal, but I was wondering, what else is there? What else have my fellow authors tried, and of those, what worked the best? How do you even tell if advertising/promotionals work? What was the most fun to do?

I’ve read several articles on self promotion, but most of the advice doesn’t feel right for my book. If I had a romance, I think it would be easier. Romance reader have well known online hangouts. But my series is light action fantasy, all swordfights and magic mixed with comedy. I don’t  know where I should focus my efforts, and with a baby on the way and a day job freshly given notice, I don’t have the luxury of boucou bucks to experiment with lots of different approaches.

And so I turn to you, gentle, clever reader! If you ever saw something and thought “man, that’s an awesome way to promote a fantasy!” I’m all ears! If I try something, I’ll report back on how it works! If you read a good article, I’d love to see it, and if you tried something that you wish you hadn’t bothered with, then I’d really love to know. Even if you were just wandering around and saw something that made you want to buy a book, I want to know what and why. Nothing is too small to further my knowledge!  Thank you in advance, anything at all is greatly appreciated.

20
Jun
09

Shoutout!

by Diana 

Now that the release of my book in the counting-down-by-the hours phase (yes, I am. Shut up) I’m going to hijack this blog today to give a special shoutout. As most of the readers of this site are aware, in this day and time (and economy!) it’s usually up to the author to do the majority of the promotion for his/her book. We’re told to have a website, start a blog, get a Facebook page, get on Goodreads, start Twittering…  all of which are okay, but seldom do much to actually drive people to your website or generate interest in your book.

However, there’s a certain subsection of the internet that (IMO) has done amazing things for the book world, and made it possible for authors to reach thousands of potential readers.

Therefore, I’d like to give a big shoutout to blogger-reviewers–the ones who make the majority of online promotion possible. These are people who don’t get paid for writing reviews or conducting interviews or hosting online events. At best they get advance copies, and are instead driven by a pure love of books. Seriously, I’m completely impressed, and I can easily say that if not for these people, I doubt that more than a few dozen people would know about Mark of the Demon.

So, big thanks to all of you book lovers who take the time to pimp our books!

19
Jun
09

The one that worked

Back when I was searching for an agent, there was nothing I obsessed over quite as single mindedly as my query letter. I wasn’t alone in this, everyone who had a book they wanted to get into an agent’s hands was freaking out over the things. They were the first test, the first blood on the sand, and, as someone who has great troubles with brevity, a personal agony that had to be conquered.

Of course, there are tons of sites for working on queries. I enjoyed Evil Editor and the late, much lamented Miss Snark in particular. But those sites particularly focused on what is wrong with a specific letter, so I thought I’d take a break from pontificating about writerly things and post my query letter as an example of a not-so-perfect missive that actually worked.

So here it is, the query for The Spirit Thief that got me my agent:

Dear ,

In a world where everything has a soul, and an opinion, Eli is a wizard with an uncanny knack for getting inanimate objects to do what he wants. He’s also the age’s most famous thief, with a price on his head large enough to fund a small war. But that’s not nearly enough for Eli, he has a higher goal: earn a bounty of one million gold or die trying. Of course, “die trying” is exactly what Miranda Lyonet, the wizardess in charge of catching Eli before he ruins the reputation of wizards everywhere, would prefer he did. The Spirit Thief, complete at 80,000 words, is about what happens when magic, money, and a royal kidnapping gone wrong change the rules in the old game of cat and cat.

When Eli breaks out of jail by literally charming a door off its hinges and kidnaps the king of Mellinor, a country that has forbidden magic since its founding, there’s nothing the nobles can do. Fortunately for them, Miranda is right on Eli’s trail. But things get complicated when the kidnapped king’s older brother, Renaud, himself a wizard banished by Mellinor’s law, takes advantage of the confusion to make his triumphant return. But Miranda is suspicious, would a banished prince really stick his neck out for the younger brother who took his throne?

She gets her answer when Renaud sabotages the king’s rescue, cheating Eli out of his ransom and framing Miranda for the real king’s death. To clear her name, Miranda must take on the traitorous prince, and for that she’ll need help. Unfortunately, “help” means swallowing her pride and teaming up with the thief who started this whole mess.

I’ve included the first four pages and a synopsis of the entire work below. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Sincerely,
Rachel Aaron
(contact info)

Man, that doesn’t sound NEARLY as good as I used to think it did.  Just goes to show, the proof is in the pages!

03
Jun
09

In which I steal an old post

I’m in the midst of both copyedits and event planning, and my blogging has suffered. As a result, I’m going to go back and rehash an old post of Diana’s, way back in February.  While Diana talks about the whole process after the sale, I’d like to concentrate on just one aspect: edits to the manuscript itself.  (This way, I can look like I had a whole new topic, while secretly cribbing off my fellow Magic District authors!  Woo!)

When I first sold Spiral Hunt, I had only a vague idea of how much more work would need to be done. I knew there would be changes; I didn’t think my editor would decide that every word was a work of genius and would never need to be even questioned, let alone changed, and that a team of designers and copyeditors would rush forward to handle the precious, precious prose while I lounged on a divan eating caramels and saying “good work, chaps” now and then.

Okay, so maybe I thought that a little. But never seriously. I don’t even have a divan, after all.

So here’s a quick run-down of the stages of edits Spiral Hunt went through (and that Wild Hunt is currently going through). Standard disclaimers apply: your mileage may vary, not every author has the same experience, I may have my terms wrong, not all plates increase in value, sea monkeys may not build castles but are nicely crunchy when prepared properly, etc. Continue reading ‘In which I steal an old post’

30
Apr
09

The Art and Science of Book Covers

Apologies in advance to people who heard about this first on my blog; yeah, I’m still psyched about it. Sorry.

So at last I’ve reached the first of hopefully many psychological milestones in my career as a pro writer: seeing my book’s cover art. But wait, you say. (Go along with me, here.) How is that your first psychological milestone? Shouldn’t it be, oh, learning to deal with rejection? Your first conversation with your editor? Your first reading? Your first look at a book contract, with all the promise and peril that it entailed?

Pshaw — all that stuff is business. This is personal.

Except it’s business too. A book’s cover art is probably its most effective marketing tool, short of the author’s name once that name becomes a known brand. A good cover must convey many things simultaneously — whether the book will appeal to its target audience, some hint of the book’s plot or theme, and enough mystery to intrigue readers into pulling it off the shelf. Most covers actually convey quite a bit more than that, including subliminal messages. For example, I’ve been told by folks in the publishing industry that the reason we see so many “faceless” (e.g., back turned towards the viewer, head cut off, or silhouetted) female characters on a certain kind of urban fantasy novel is so that the reader can “project” herself onto the character more easily. These tend to be urban fantasies featuring the “kick-ass” heroine archetype, and they’re meant to appeal to women readers of SF/F who’ve been starved for agency and empowerment in their entertainment. By encouraging reader projection, these book covers send the message: “Read this and you’ll feel more powerful.” And given the popularity of this subset of urban fantasy, the message must be working.

Thing is, this kind of messaging can go both ways, inadvertently discouraging readers if the cover is cliched, tasteless, or makes incorrect assumptions about the book’s audience. A great example of the latter is the infamous practice of “whitewashing” (usage best-known from Ursula LeGuin’s reference to television, but applies to books too), in which cover art depicts a character as white when the character is actually some other race. I’m told that in the bad old days, a similar phenomenon happened to female protagonists too; they got sex changes on the cover, or the cover art was arranged in such a way as to put male characters — even minor ones — at the forefront. The message inherent in these kinds of covers is a little less friendly, at least beyond the target audience: “Hey, white males, come check out this book! And if you’re not white and male, you know you want to be, so come enjoy the vicarious experience of being a white guy, as if you don’t already get that experience every time you open a book!”

So, since the protagonist of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a non-white non-man, you can imagine I was a little anxious about my cover art.

Worse, my book doesn’t fit so neatly into the existing subgenres of SF/F. It’s a “big” story, full of world-changing politics and religion, so I guess that makes it epic fantasy. We’ve seen what epic fantasy covers usually look like: sweeping vistas, one or several characters doing “dramatic” things, maybe some monsters. But wait! There’s a prominent love story in my book too, including a couple of (if I may say so myself) steamy scenes. And the story takes place in a palace so huge that it’s a city in its own right. That means it might appeal to urban fantasy and paranormal romance readers too. And we know what those covers tend to look like: the aforementioned faceless woman in a sexy outfit or pose, or a handsome man baring his arms, chest, belly, etc. Maybe a vampire/werewolf/demon hanging out nearby, and maybe a cityscape in the background. There’s more! The story includes a Plot-Critical Magical Object, which the characters are all vying to control. So it’s also got some quest fantasy elements, and those look like… heck, they’re all over the place.

All marketing considerations aside, though, this still is my baby we’re talking about — the story that I poured several years of my life into, wrote twice in fact, had dreams about, spent vacations working on, annoyed my friends babbling about. So although I tried to keep my expectations open for the cover art… y’know, in secret? I was a nervous wreck. I even had a nightmares about it. In one, the cover art featured a dog in a tutu, racing up a mountain. (No, I hadn’t been drinking. That’s a stereotype, you know.)

Anyway, last week, finally, the wait was over.
Continue reading ‘The Art and Science of Book Covers’

29
Apr
09

Editing, or, Do I have spinach in my teeth?

I went home to Indiana for a few days recently, flying out and back so quickly that it already feels unreal.  I was there for a number of reasons — library talk, awesome alumni visit, showing off the resident organist and saying “I got me a good one!” — so writing wasn’t the main point of the visit.  But it did come up several times, in a social context, and one exchange stayed with me.  I was talking with several friends of the family, and I mentioned the changes that my agent and my editor had requested, and how many stages the book had gone through to get to its finished state.  And one of the gentlemen there patted me on the shoulder and told me that next time they ask for changes, I ought to stick to my guns and say no.

My first thought was well, no, that’s not how it works.  And my second thought was hang on, what makes me say that? Continue reading ‘Editing, or, Do I have spinach in my teeth?’

26
Apr
09

Time to throw open the doors

by Diana

I’m at the Romantic Times Booklover’s Convention this week, and I had this grand plan of doing quickie interviews of some of the urban fantasy authors here for today’s post (sort of like a “5 questions” format.) Unfortunately, it was harder than I expected to pin down authors when they weren’t busy/eating/inebriated, so in the end I decided instead to talk about the convention itself.

I grew up in SF/F fandom, and have been to more SF/F cons than I can count. In the last decade I’ve mostly limited myself to the “big” ones, i.e. World Fantasy and Worldcon, mostly because, as an up-and-coming author, I figured that those would be the most useful to me in networking, meeting new and fun people, and general enjoyment.

It wasn’t until last year that I learned about the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention, or “RT” as everyone calls it. RT is far more than what the name implies. First off, yes, it’s very heavily populated by people who love reading. And, yes, it’s very heavily slanted toward romance. After all, it’s sponsored by Romantic Times Book Reviews magazine.  However, much like the magazine, it has a reach far beyond just that of the romance field. The magazine reviews mostly romance books of every possible shade, but it also carries reviews of science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, thriller, mystery, mainstream, and so on.

That diversity is represented by the authors in attendance here as well. Barry Eisler, F. Paul Wilson, Piers Anthony are just a few of the non-romance authors here. And there are absolute scads of urban fantasy authors in attendance (as well as numerous panels devoted to the differences and similarities between urban fantasy and paranormal romance.)

As loyal as I am to my science fiction and fantasy roots, I have to say that for the aspiring author hoping to get a leg up, or for the published author hoping to reach out to fans and new readers, RT kicks some serious ass, and I really and truly hope that SF/F can take a tip or two from how RT operates, because I think that it can only benefit the genre.

First off, the member badges not only have the member’s name on it, but also a designation, i.e. Published Author, Aspiring Author, Reader, Bookseller, Librarian, Press, etc. My first reaction to that was a bit of a mental wince at what seemed like segregation, but as the week progressed I realized that it was incredibly useful for everyone involved when it came to networking and promotion and discovering new writers. Moreover, I never caught a single whiff of snobbery concerning the published vs. aspiring status.

Second, there’s “Promo Alley”: a long row of tables where authors can pay a token fee to rent a portion of a table to display promotional swag. Again, my first reaction to this was that there was just too much swag and too many authors and that the “signal to noise” ratio was way too high. But then I started seeing huge numbers of readers stopping and looking at all of this swag, and picking up the bookmarks, and taking–and wearing–the buttons and stickers, etc. Each member of the convention walked past all of these items several times a day, which, if nothing else, guaranteed that there would later be a flicker of recognition for an author’s name or a book cover. It was well done and nicely organized, as opposed to the one measly swag table at most SF/F cons where people can shove a pile of bookmarks into any empty space they can find.

Third, and this is the number one absolute biggie super duper way that RT kicks the absolute living ass of SF/F cons, especially World Fantasy and Worldcon:  The mass author signing is open to members for free, and open to the general public for a nominal fee (I think it was $5 this year.)

I can’t stress enough how much I believe this is a fantastic idea and one that World Fantasy and Worldcon needs to adopt.  RT partners with a bookseller (this year it was Barnes & Noble) who procures stacks of books for every author in attendance. Attendees can also bring in their own books to be signed (though they have to be marked with a special sticker before entering to avoid confusion and later problems.) Readers and fans have several hours to wander the hall, chat with authors, get books signed, discover new authors, and then can purchase their signed books at the exit where B&N has several registers set up. It’s a huge win-win scenario for everyone involved, and it has the advantage of reaching out to numerous readers who either have no interest in attending the entire event, or don’t have the financial means to do so.

I’ve heard that there’s resistance to this concept in SF/F because convention organizers want people to purchase memberships, and are afraid that if they throw signing events open to the public then there won’t be incentive for people to buy a membership to the whole thing. But I think that’s a terribly flawed supposition. The readers and fans who want to meet the authors and interact with them beyond the few seconds of face time in a signing will still pay for a membership. (After all, a membership for RT is over $400. And attendance at RT is usually well over a thousand strong, and in times of stronger economy I’ve been told that it’s closer to three thousand.)

Science Fiction and Fantasy needs to reach beyond the walls of its ghetto, and needs to give deep consideration to adopting this methodology as a way to reach out to new readers. By throwing the signing events open to the public, it will increase the opportunity to educate people about what the genre has to offer, as well as give up and coming authors a chance to interact with people who might never consider attending a convention.