Daily Posts, Events

Aftermath: Printers Row

The World’s GREATEST Authors!
Sam Morton (BETRAYED) and Anne Carter (CAPE SEDUCTION)

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.

Kieryn Nicolas (RAIN) and mom, Mara!

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.

Nick Valentino (THOMAS RILEY)

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).

Norm Cowie (FANG FACE)

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?



8 thoughts on “Aftermath: Printers Row

  1. I was looking forward to being one of the squishy authors next year! If you go back in 2011, I hope you’ll let me come. My little ones and zeros won’t take up much room…!

  2. As one of those slightly damp, sardined authors, I will be blogging about this myself shortly. However, I want to comment on Karen’s take on the event.

    First, I agree with most of what Karen says. Fortunately, we are a very generous, gregarious group of authors with a strong respect for one another and all Echelon books. That said, the competition between us was enhanced to uncomfortable proportions by being forced to stand shoulder to shoulder as we beckoned to passers-by. Kinda like when you pull into your local car dealer and seven salesmen start forward like turkey vultures. If I’d been a visitor, I would have been intimidated. Several times we found ourselves simultaneous calling out, only to shirk back to let the one who spoke a millisecond sooner complete the solicitation.

    This practice forces another level of protocol between us. In the bowling alley or on the golf course, you don’t step up or begin your swing if another is setting up their shot. We had to be constantly aware if someone was already engaging a reader. I know sales were lost because buyers’ sympathies prevented them from choosing one book over another in such close proximity.

    Secondly, Karen mentions that the good folks at Printers Row have helped us by “by allowing us to sell books at their event” — I don’t call that “allowing”; a tidy sum of money changed hands for the privilege. Our money is as good as Acura’s or the bed people’s money. We had readers coming to the tent that visit us every year. You can’t tell me people came to Printers Row because they wanted to see a car or a mattress.

    Clearly, we can’t expect the Trib to play favorites–at least not in our favor. But we should be able to expect fair treatment, and I applaud Karen for speaking up on behalf her dynamic house of courteous and talented authors.

    I can’t afford to travel from Los Angeles to Chicago every year. I went this year because I was debuting my brand new release, and I spent precious marketing budget dollars. My success was affected by the decisions Karen mentions above. Will I go again? Sadly, probably not, when we can’t trust the organizers to do right by our publisher.

    Pam Ripling
    aka Anne Carter

  3. First off none of us think your word isn’t good and in no way did you let us down. It was an amazing event even with the obstacles. I’d go back in a heartbeat. Actually, I’m ready to go back this weekend! Too soon? Ok… We’re a tough bunch and we can take a lot so don’t think anyone is upset. Well, they better not be. This was an amazing opportunity and I definitely think we should go back next year. What’s wrong with have two spotlight events a year? Or three? Or four? I’m in as always. Thank you Karen for being so good to us and leading us into a winning battle no matter what comes up. The opportunities you give us are amazing and we love you for everything!

  4. Thanks to Karen for handling it so well. Her leadership qualities made it work. I’d go back, even with the wet and squishy conditions. I’d love to see us have a tent at the KY Book Fair in Frankfort in November.

    1. I’d love for us to be at the KBF, but they don’t open it up to pubs like us (or any pubs, as far as they tell me) and they don’t let you keep your money. I am all for supporting charities, but I gotta make a living too.


  5. That’s just not fair (and I’m with you — CAR dealerships? MATTRESS stores? Getting booths over BOOKSELLERS?!?). 😦 So sorry you all had to deal with such lousy lodgings, but what a way to go in the selling dept. — 700 books! Hooray! 🙂

    Maybe one of these days I can gather enough pennies together to join y’all at one of these events…

  6. Thank you for sharing your experience. It is only a result of coming across your post am I now aware of what occurred.

    I would like the opportunity to make it right. Please contact me at at your earliest convenience so we can discuss this thoroughly. I will personally see that your concerns are presented to the events coordination team in order to ensure a positive experience for both Echelon and other book sellers next year.

    My sincere best,
    Amy Guth
    Digital News Editor, Books
    Chicago Tribune

  7. Don’t know if this helps, but we’ve noticed a 50% decrease in sales across the board at all (except one) events this year. Some places we’ve had an 80% decrease in sales. It’s abysmal.

    No good that you were put in a crappy spot, no doubt that contributed to the downturn in sales, but things are down everywhere. Perhaps that’s why this event let in car dealers, etc. They had to for the income.

    If this event has been good to you for the past 8 years, chalk it up to an anomaly. Blame the economy. It’s making everyone nuts.

    The important thing is that if your readers expect you to be there, you will be really missed next year.

    I’m with Nick! Have 2 Spotlight events!

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