Earlier today, Susan wrote about Book Expo America adding a celebrity author convention this year. I find this interesting, but I wonder what they’re trying to prove here. Not many of those celebs are known for being writers; they’re celebs who are also writers. (Martin Short? Angelica Huston? Really?) And even the ones who are writers, like Grisham and Stan Lee (who didn’t even write for a book publisher to begin with), became so famous for their writing that now they’re more famous for being famous. Why don’t they just drop all pretense and get Snooki in there, too?
But then, BEA has always been about the Big Publishers. It’s their biggest party of the year, after all. Everything you see there, everything they do, is going to be colored the particular shade of those rose-colored glasses through which they look at the world. And if there’s a better demonstration of how the big publishers are all about the big celebrity names and big blockbusters and they don’t care very much about anyone else, I’m not sure what it is.
Compare and contrast their approach to that of GenCon here in Indianapolis, a by-and-large gaming convention which also has a writer programming track big enough that, if the rest of GenCon weren’t there, it would make a pretty good-sized genre literature con all by itself. (Jim Butcher of the "Dresden Files" is going to be a guest of honor there this year.)
It attracts enough self-promoting writers, mostly self-pub or small-press, that it has a whole section of its main room set aside for them. (I should get around to transcribing and posting more of the interviews I did there last year.)
BEA might be flashy, but as far as substance goes the big publishers are losing the plot. Hugh Howey’s “Author Earnings” stats show that indie writers are making up a bigger and bigger percentage of overall book sales these days. If you want to make contact with them, and find out what they’re doing to succeed, you need to take a look at what BEA is doing and then turn yourself around and go in the exact opposite direction. Go to GenCon.
(And let me know you’ll be in town, we could meet for lunch or something!)
For that matter, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the various ComicCons, DragonCon, and other big gaming, media, and genre conventions also had big indie author turnouts. The indie authors know who their fans are and where to find them. Meanwhile, the big publishers continue trying to hitch their wagons to stars. Do they have no sense of self-awareness at all, I wonder?