Well, this post has been a very tough call for me. Do I write it and possibly burn a bridge? Do I not write it, and feel like I got dumped on prom night? (Sorry just watched final DVD in S.4 of Gossip Girl.) How does a professional handle a situation like this?
What situation you ask? Well, it’s like this… (Please keep in mind that I do get positive at the end of this post. 🙂 )
Several years ago, nine to be exact, I made my first trip to Printers Row Book Festival in Chicago. It was small (our showing) and it was very scary. I had never been to such a huge festival. Long story short, we have gone every year since, even the year I had heart surgery, and yes, I was there too. Each year, our showing has increased and our sales have increased. It is (was) our best book festival of the year.
So this year, I send in my registration and $2100, yes it is quite pricey to stand on the street in direct competition with many other booksellers and authors. But it has always been worth it. So this year, I waited, and waited, and waited, and waited to be notified of our tent location at the festival. I had been in contact with the organizers for months, reminding them that for the last two years we did not get the FULL tent (8 tables) we requested, and yet we kept coming back.
So at some point in late May (very late, like the last week), I was informed after I asked again) that we had been given a half tent on the side street off the beaten path. To say I was disappointed would be understating dramtically. With 9 years seniority, we should have at least earned a half tent on the main drag, perhaps the same half tent we had last year, but no.
So, I suck it up and inform my 16 authors from all over the country (CA, IN, SC, NY, OR, MN, TN, PA, MD and of course our four local authors) that we will not each have the half table I promised, they will in fact get a third of a table and be very limited in their room to set up displays. They all took it admirably (for this I thank each and every one of them).
So I get to the festival and discover that a certain organization that has been attending for only 3 years has been graced with not one tent space, but 2, yes, TWO tent spaces. I then discover that Accura, yes a car dealership, has been given a tent space and room to showcase 2, yes TWO cars. Slightly off to the side of them is a tent for Value City Furniture. A little ways toward the middle of the main drag (Dearborn Street) I discover a Comfort Zone, which is a glorified bed tent. Yes, 2, TWO beds and a row of recliners. I could barely stand it.
My AUTHORS were squished into a half tent while someone advertised BEDS, FURNITURE, and CARS at a BOOK FESTIVAL. So why am I so mad? Simple, with nine years seniority we should have at the very least received better placement, even if they did not give us the full tent, which last years organizers assured me we would get because we in fact did have seniority. But what happened is at some point, I am guessing local politics came into play and we were cast aside for things that had nothing to do with books. How odd, considering it IS a book festival.
I am saddened to say that it isn’t me who suffers for this, it is my authors who had to deal with a lousy location, cramped quarters, and sales that were literally 50% what they were last year. This goes beyond anger, it just feels wrong, and I feel as though I have let my authors down and that on top of everything, my word is not good.
For this I would like to publicly apologize to my authors for not having the power or the means to make this right for them.
However, may I just say that I have the BEST authors ever. It rains every year for Printers Row, and yet they stood out in the chilly rain with smiles on their faces selling books to everyone they could. Those squished up and wet authors sold nearly 700 books. I could not be more proud of them. I am truly blessed to have such committed and enthusiastic authors who simply refuse to be pushed aside.
They do whatever they must to sell their books and brings smiles to as many readers’ faces as they can. For this I offer them my sincere gratitude.
I will be spending some time rethinking whether or not I want to continue to support an event that so blatantly disrespects my authors. I hate being mad at Printers Row as they have helped Echelon Press get to where we are by allowing us to sell books at their event, but I simply can’t ignore this one. My authors truly deserve better than to be cast aside for furniture sales.
I would also like to thank Penny and her gang at Trattoria Caterina on Dearborn in downtown Chicago. For the last several years we have gone there for dinner on Saturday evening after the festival and htey are the most tremendous group I know. If you are ever downtown and find yourself looking for exceptional Italian food, please stop in and eat. tell Penny Karen @ Echelon Press sent you and we love her! That is where the picture up top was taken of all of us.
Any thoughts on which festival we should make our new Spotlight event?