Midwest Booksellers Trade Show Revelations

Harry and I had our booth, as we always do, at the Midwest Booksellers Trade Show this past weekend. One of our authors signed her books and many booksellers and librarians talked with her about doing an event across the region. Expert Publishing doesn’t charge authors for the booth space, unlike many publishers, and we connected her with people who sell books. She keeps ALL the proceeds from sales. We don’t pretend to pay her royalties on books she’s already paid to publish. The books are hers and she gets to keep all the money when they sell.

While we’ve watched the show get smaller over the past few years, we were surprised to see how very much smaller it was this year.

Most of the major New York publishers weren’t there. Of those who came, some had booths the same modest size as ours. Others had booths half the size they had in years past.

Most notable to me was the absence of perennial exhibitors like Publishers Weekly magazine, Midwest Fiction Writers, and the University of Chicago (publishers of the Chicago Manual of Style, the book industry standard).

Of course, none of the puppy mill Internet presses were represented except Outskirts Press. There was one lady, an author who published with them, sitting there trying to sell her one book all day–it cost her almost $500.00 to be there (booth, association dues, parking,  etc.). I asked her about her experience with Outskirts Press and she said she paid for the book development, then whenever she sold a book, Outskirts paid her $1.00 a book. I said, “So, you’ll have to sell about 500 books to break even for being here today.” She lowered her eyes and shook her head “yes.”

I don’t understand why any author would pay to develop and print their book, then pay again every time a book is sold!

It was good to see so many of our author friends and our publishing colleagues–sort of like an “old home” weekend.  I boldly asked one of my royalty-published authors how sales were going on her children’s picture book and how her royalty publisher was helping in marketing.

“They don’t help at all,” she said. “I had to buy the books from them to show here today. I couldn’t even get a sell sheet from them. ” So I asked about her royalty and she responded, “My royalty is 36 cents a book.”

I read her story as a manuscript about four years ago. It took a year or so to find this publisher, then it took the publisher almost two years to get the book to the marketplace. The author’s willing to market it obviously, but can’t  get a sell sheet from the publisher to help her? Amazing.

I also have a success story to share. I’ve known Monica Ferris since the early 1990s. She wrote eleven royalty-published mysteries (under two other names) and never drew a royalty check (you have to pay back the advance first) before her agent sold Monica’s very successful needlework mystery series. Her latest, Blackwork, is also number thirteen in the series. It comes out in October in time for Halloween, but I got my signed copy Saturday!

Please forgive the long post. It’s important you know what’s going on in the book publishing industry if you want to be part of it. You get to decide how you want to participate–go with a royalty publisher, become a self-published author (which means YOU–Duh, “self”–own the publishing company), try a subsidy puppy mill Internet publisher, or work with an equity publisher. Choose wisely.

Happy writing!

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1 Response to “Midwest Booksellers Trade Show Revelations”


  1. 1 The Voice September 29, 2009 at 10:28 am

    I love seeing the sales process from every style of publication. Doesn’t make the choice any easier, but helps. I guess, no matter what, the answer if to promote yourself.


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