Bouchercon Bookroom by Reed Farrel Coleman
This is a piece Reed wrote for Crimespree last year. It was good advice then and it still is now.
If you are an author going to Bouchercon…. read ahead.
Several issues ago I discussed complaints some colleagues had shared with me about the stock carried by booksellers at recent Bouchercons. One incident was particularly egregious. A bookseller at a B’con in an author’s hometown, a store at which this author had done very successful launch parties, had only a handful of this author’s books for sale. While an extreme example, it was representative of what I considered a disturbing trend. The tendency for booksellers at B’con to focus almost exclusively on “big name” authors and the guests of honor.
To be fair, in my earlier piece, I made it clear that I understood the reasons behind this trend. That booksellers weren’t necessarily discriminating against local or midlist—we have to replace this term—authors, but were making choices based on the best information they had and on the economics of the situation. We have to keep in mind that it’s an expensive proposition to be a bookseller at B’con and that even the largest vendors have limited space. I want to reiterate, I was not attacking the book vendors then nor am I now.
What I did was to go to Mike Bursaw, better known to most of us as Mystery Mike, to see if there wasn’t a way to solve the problem in such a way as to take everyone’s concerns into account. Mike has often run the bookroom at Bouchercon and is almost always well-represented at Bouchercon. We had a long conversation during which I explained what I saw as the inherent danger to the future of B’con itself if the trend continued. Briefly, why would authors keep attending B’con if, after fighting to get on a panel, there were no books of theirs for sale in the bookroom? And if authors refused to come to B’con, then what would be the point? Mike explained to me the booksellers’ point of view. What we did was problem solve. There was no strum und drang, no name calling, no fits of pique. Mike said he would take up the issue with his fellow booksellers and the B’con organizers.
About a month ago, Mike called me up to thank me for bringing this to his attention and to tell me that a fair solution had been agreed upon, one that addressed the concerns of all involved. Is it a perfect solution? No, but what solution is? Will it make all authors, traditionally published or otherwise happy? Probably not, but is it ever possible to make everyone happy? What the solution does do is open a channel of communication between authors and the booksellers at all future Bouchercons. The channel has always existed, but it was never before official and it should help alleviate some of the distress and hard feelings.
-Go to Bouchercon2016.com (or www.bouchercon.info/ for future Bouchercons)
-Click on Book Room
-See the booksellers’ contact info below
Basically the ball is now in the individual author’s court. If you want to try to insure your books will be available at B’con, contact the booksellers and negotiate. As the statement makes clear, this is especially important for self-pubbed writers and other non-traditionally published writers.
My sense is that it would be a good idea for most authors interested in having their books for sale to contact the B’con booksellers as listed, especially authors at smaller houses. Authors from the larger houses may also want their reps to contact the booksellers in order to get some notion of the stock that will be available in the bookroom.
None of this is to say that the individual negotiations will end with a mutually satisfactory result. I suspect many won’t. Still, I hope this is at least a good first step in solving the problem. I think most of us want Bouchercon to thrive and anything that drives authors to attend is a good thing. It is also my hope that this sets some sort of example for dealing with thorny issues without taking to social media and ripping one side or the other.