I recently flew back to Atlanta to attend the first Atlanta Black Book Expo which was held at the Georgia International Convention Center on August 7th. I arrived at the ABBE in full Lit Diva mode fully intending to network with new authors and reconnect with old favorites. And, even though I was there as a participant and not an attending author, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of people in attendance. Once again I was witnessing an event which was reported to bring in a large crowd and yet the numbers were disappointing. No, I wasn’t standing at the door with a counter. So, I can’t tell you how many people were there. But I can tell you that just by looking around the room it looked like there were more authors than readers at any given time.
This was not the first event I attended that seemed to be marketed more to authors than the actual people who would buy books. And as an author who sat through a couple of events like this, hoping that someone-anyone- would just walk by your table, I can’t help but feel… well frustrated.
Attending the ABBE brought back memories of other events that didn’t quite live up to its expectations and you know what, I honestly don’t know what the problem was. The ABBE seemed organized and I know that the event was promoted online and there was even some media coverage prior to and even during the Expo but yet and still- no people.
So what was the problem?
Should it have been better promoted?
Is online advertisement enough?
Was the fact that the Bronner Bros Hair Show was the same weekend and the only thing people in Atlanta were talking about?
Was it because people don’t support black authors?
Neh- I refused to believe the last one. The few people who did attend the Expo were a nice mixed of men and women who seemed genuinely interested in the authors work.
So, maybe black people don’t read after all.
Neh- I don’t believe that one either.
And I’m not knocking down the organizers of this or any other event. I can imagine how hard it is to put something like this together and I commend them for the hard work and dedication involved. But as an author, it’s difficult for us to keep attending event after event and constantly losing money as a result of no shows.
For example, in order for an author to be an exhibitor at a book event, they have to:
- Pay the vending fee
- Buy the plane ticket or rent a car
- Book a hotel room
- Order a shipment of books and promotional materials
So to attend an event, only to sit mindlessly for hours praying to sell just 1 book just doesn’t add up.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking. That it’s not just about selling your books it’s really about meeting your audience in person. Okay, that true. But how many times can an author spend at least $500 to attend an event and not even break even? So yes, I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated for the authors and I’m frustrated for the avid readers who aren’t even aware of Expos such as this right in their own backyard. And when you have the authors at the expos packing up to attend the Bronner Bros Hair Show hoping to recuperate some of their expenses from the weekend, you know something has to be wrong.
The ABBE is an event with great potential which I’m hoping will continue to grow in the upcoming years. And we need to have more organized events like these as a vehicle for authors to meet new readers. I only wish there were more people in attendance to showcase their works to. So who fault was it? Someone please point them out so we can have some words cause this Lit Diva would really like to know how we can get these readers to these great events.
Meet the Blogger
Joy Farrington is CEO of Lit Diva, Inc. a non-profit organization that supports, promotes, and empowers African-American book clubs and authors. In 2010, Joy Farrington published A Literary Diva’s Guide to Hosting a Fab Book Club Meeting which is being hailed as the blueprint for book clubs. She is the host of Between the Sheets, a weekly teleconference which features top name African-American authors and give readers the opportunity to ask them a variety of questions. Her most noted interview to date was with acclaimed author, poet and activist, Nikki Giovanni.
Currently, Joy Farrington is working on several local workshops and teleseminars to help guide book clubs in hosting meetings, literary events, inviting authors to their meeting and how to turn your book club into a business. She lives in Miami, Fl.