By Aaron Michael Ritchey
So this year at the Romantic Times Booklovers conference in New Orleans, during the big Saturday signing, the traditionally published people were put in one room, and the Independently published were shuffled off to another, smaller, lesser room. Independently published ranged from self-pubbed all the way up to fairly large small presses.
As you can imagine there was the screaming and the crying and the gnashing of the teeth.
For me it was a tad disappointing. The year before, I sat between Beth Revis, bestselling author of the YA Sci-Fi adventure, Across the Universe and Carrie Ryan, bestselling author of the YA zombie gotcha, The Forests of Hands and Teeth. I cherry-picked their fans like them readers were bings and I was lookin’ to make a pie. I sold a lot of books.
This year, I didn’t get the traffic, but I did sell some books, and all in all, I had a good time. YA Alley was in the big room and I called our little table in the small room, the YA Back Alley. Where the bad kids hang out.
As y’all know, I like to handsell. I spent a lot of years travelling, and in the third world marketplace, it’s all about touting your goods, making a connection, moving product.
In those dusty marketplaces, you’ll hear, “My friend, where are you from?” When I'm handselling your book, I ask, “My friend, what kind of books do you like to read?” And then if you are well read, you talk about books, and then when it comes around to it, you pitch your novel. They either say yes or no. Boom. And that is handselling. I teach a class. It’s fun.
Do you know why I wasn’t as upset as I should be? Yes, if you Google around, the Indie-pubbed room was referred to as “aspiring writers” even though Liliana Hart has made gazillions of dollars and Kendall Grey has hundreds upon hundreds of Amazon reviews. So yeah, it was insulting, but this year, I did my angst early, so by Saturday, I was feeling good.
I enjoyed the RT sales fiasco because I like readers, I like writers, and it always feels good having people buy my book. Because I can see them buy it. Online, when I promote, when I market, when people buy my ebooks, I can’t see it. And it doesn’t seem real. But in person, right there, it’s reality, baby. It’s ink on paper in my hands and then into their hands.
I like the physicality of the event. I’M PHYSICALLY DOING SOMETHING TO SELL MY BOOKS. Not blogging, not Facebooking, not spending thousands of dollars on swag and advertising and blah, blah, blah, but I’m doing something. Moving product.
At RT, I started selling so many books, the woman sitting next to me got kind of mad. So I switched to selling her books. I walked up and down our little table, got all the genres, so if someone said, “I like reading really sweet romances” I could steer them over to my friend Ciara Knight. She also writes fantasy, yo. So we all win.
Was it fair for RT to divide us, the pristine traditionally published and the ritually unclean Indie pubbed? I don’t know. But it will give me pause signing up for the convention next year, and I’m sad about that. I loved my first few RT Booklover Conventions even though I often go there, see all the big name authors with movie deals and millions of fans and agents and editors and big publishing contract deals, and I pine, I worry, I fret.
What about me? When will it be my turn?
The truth? I might never play pro ball. But more and more, that means less and less.
I’m a warrior. My job is to fight to get words down, get my books out there, and sell those books. What the generals do back in their cushy tents on the beach is none of my concern.
My words are weapons. If my weapons are strong, and if I aim well, and if I’m lucky, I will pierce the heart of the dragon and then we’ll see about riches, fame, all of that.
At the end of the day, I’m not sure it really is all that wonderful. E.L. James showed up an hour late to the signing. Does she appreciate her success, riches, and fame?
It’s not for me to say.
It’s my job to keep my swords sharp, my arrows straight, my bows taunt. And to keep on fighting.
And that’s why I liked that Saturday. I was fighting.
About the Author: Aaron Michael Ritchey’s first novel, The Never Prayer, was published in March of 2012 to a fanfare of sparkling reviews including an almost win in the RMFW Gold contest. Since then he’s been paid to write steampunk, cyberpunk, and sci-fi western short stories, and his story, “The Dirges of Percival Lewand” has been nominated for a Hugo award. His next novel, Long Live the Suicide King, is currently giving hope to the masses. Kirkus Reveiws calls it a “a compelling tale of teenage depression handled with humor and sensitivity.” As a former story addict and television connoisseur, he lives in Colorado with two rockstar daughters and a moviestar wife.
For more about him, his books, and how to overcome artistic angst, visit www.aaronmritchey.com. He’s on Facebook as Aaron Michael Ritchey and he tweets - @aaronmritchey. .