“Why aren’t you going to BEA? “
If I hear the question one more time, I’m going to channel my Carrie Bradshaw and buy those really expensive pair of Ghost boots I’ve been eyeing, just so I can feel better about the fact that no, my publisher is not sending me to BEA.
It goes something like this:
“But, you’re a Random House author. You got a significant advance (PW parlance). And I saw that Random House has four booths and their authors will be signing their ARCs at these booths.”
Yes, that’s all true. And to be honest, my agent and I did lobby to get me there. I’ve never been to a BEA before. I would have paid my own way. But promoting an author at BEA, even if they pay for their airfare and hotel, still costs money and these days, as you know (unless you’ve been living under a rock or are disconnected from publishing entirely) money for debut authors is in short supply.
“But it’s a great way to promote. Don’t authors need to get out there and find their readers?”
Uh, yes. But I’ve heard from new authors who’ve had the good fortune to be sent to a BEA that it can also be exhausting and you can sit for hours wondering if this is a portent of your upcoming career : huge crowds and no one seems very interested in your book, unless of course they’re getting ARCs of it for free. Lots and lots of ARCs. I don’t think I had lots of ARCs printed. I don’t think many debut authors get lots of ARCs printed. ARCs are expensive, and while my publisher clearly loves my book, it’s unproven ground right now. I’ll just have to get out there and promote in other, less crowded ways.
“But you live in California and BEA this year is in Los Angeles!”
Many writers live in California. I’m willing to bet, hundreds of writers, many of whom are far better known than me. I don’t think they’re all going to BEA. In fact, if you look at the author roster for BEA, you will see famous bestselling names on panels and some debut names whose books their publishers have decided, for a variety of reasons which I’m too tired to explain here, are strong contenders for the bestseller list. Clearly, there can only be so many of these stars and I’m not one at this time. Not yet.
“But you write historical fiction. It’s such a hot genre!”
Yes, well, it’s far more popular than it used to be, that’s for sure. And the genre is represented at BEA by the anointed ‘Queen of Historical Fiction’ herself, Philippa Gregory. There might be a few other historical fiction authors there, too, but by and large, while the genre is definitely on the upswing, we still don’t sell the number of copies that say, a thriller or children’s fantasy do. It’s relative. If you have x amount of money (see above) to spend, and you have x authors you want to send to BEA, which are you going to invest in? The historical who sold a respectable 30,000 copies or the thriller that sold over 3 million. This is not rocket science. It’s marketing 101.
“But I thought you said you were in a great place with your publisher!”
I am. They’re expending time and effort and money on me in a variety of other ways. They have their limitations and I understand. Would I have loved to go to BEA and flaunt my stuff as the next hot thing in historical fiction? Hello, do I look humble to you? Am I disappointed I can’t go and therefore must endure difficult questions from bewildered friends and some snarky acquaintances eager to sniff a whiff of defeat in my sale to Random House? Oh, god, yes. Am I going to let it wreck my joy? Absolutely not. I know I’m fortunate. Very fortunate. And appreciative. Out of the thousands of perfectly worthy manuscripts that made the rounds and were rejected, two of mine were acquired. I was well compensated, too. And my agent just sold Serbian rights, for crying out loud. So, BEA or no BEA, I’ve already beaten some serious odds.
“Well, I thought you were going. It just seems like everyone who matters will be there.”
Okay. How much are those shoes again?