by Karen Ball
Good thoughts and discussion on last week’s blog. Thanks for your honest input. Before we continue, I want to clear up what seems to be a misunderstanding of the purpose behind my blog last week. I’m not expressing my opinion of ICRS or of its value for authors. One only has to look at what is being offered there (explained so well by Curtis Riskey, president of CBA, in the comment section of last week’s blog) to know it benefits those authors who attend. And as Mary DeMuth stated, the serendipitous meetings that can take place at this show are irreplaceable.
But these blogs aren’t about whether or not an author should attend ICRS. Rather, they’re about addressing questions authors struggle with every year:
- Is it an offense if my publisher doesn’t invite me to go to ICRS?
- Should I be hurt or feel neglected if I’ve let my publisher know I’m going on my own dime, but they won’t even let me do a booksigning?
So this week, let’s take a look at the second reason your publisher hasn’t invited you to ICRS: The timing’s not right.
For the most part, publishers love getting together with their authors. Most of the editors I talked with about this whole issue agreed they enjoyed meeting with their authors at ICRS. But to actually offer to take an author to the show, the timing has to be right. Which means said author needs to have a new book release close to the time of the show. Because that makes any events the author participates in effective for marketing and promotion.
Admittedly, a number of authors attend the show on their own dime. And it only makes sense for them to ask their publishers if they can be involved in any events, such as a booksigning. But when I asked about this, the answers were pretty much the same: because of logistics, available opportunities (there are a limited number of booksigning slots, especially in the booth), and expense (the cost of shipping and handling alone increases every year), publishers tend to focus booksignings on those authors who are either well known or whose releases coincide with the show. So if your book releases in late Spring or early Summer, then it may indeed make sense for you to do a signing at the show. For releases outside that window of time, it’s not as likely. (For books that release after the show you may only be able to sign Advance Reader Copies or ARCs.)
Something else to keep in mind about signings in your publisher’s booth: The booths are intended to be selling venues for all of a publisher’s books. But one professional said that signings have a tendency to limit or shut down the other functions of the booth, especially when floor space in said booth is limited. While CBA is careful to prevent problems and deal with crowd control, if there is a long line for the signing that form in front of the displays other attendees may walk by without stopping. Or that line may interfere with the neighboring booth and their customers.
So if you can’t do a booksigning, at least you can have a meeting with the folks at your publishing house. Well, again, it’s about timing. If you let the publisher know far enough in advance, then you run far better odds of having a productive, enjoyable meeting with them. But realize that folks in-house are scheduling meetings months in advance of the show. I used to start getting meeting requests from agents and other editors as early as January! And folks’ schedules fill up fast because they’re not just having meetings, they’re also helping man the booth, host/oversee events, chaperoning authors, and on and on. These folks hit the ground running on the first day and seldom get a break until after the booth is torn down. So if your publisher can’t meet with you, don’t be hurt. They can only do so much with the time they’ve got.
Of course, there are other ways for authors to connect with interested buyers at ICRS, such as any of a number of events being hosted by groups like ACFW. So if you’re planning to take yourself to the show, be sure to let your publisher know as far in advance as you can. That way they can let you know what they can and can’t do for and with you. And don’t be hurt if they can’t do much. As one editor put it, “This isn’t personal. We don’t book signings or events because we like that author more than we like you. It’s a business decision based what takes the most advantage of the timing of releases and events. About what’s most beneficial for author, publisher, buyers, and the show.”