Atlanta Black Book Expo: A Bust or Room for Growth? by Joy Farrington

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:

  1. Pay the vending fee
  2. Buy the plane ticket or rent a car
  3. Book a hotel room
  4. 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

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.


44 responses »

  1. Wow, how did the NBCC get thrown into a “conversation” about the ABBExpo? I appreciate the mentions, but I would appreciate them more if they were accurate. I’m not going to scroll back up to directly quote who said what, but I will say two things and be gone:

    * For the record, the NBCC, for eight years, has been the foremost advocate for young and under-appreciated authors in the COUNTRY!!! Period. Of course, our author lineup is laden with “known” authors, which is by design: the ambition of the NBCC is to put readers in an intimate setting with some of their favorite authors that they, in many cases, might not ever meet. At the same time, ANYONE who has attended an NBCC can speak honestly about how I steadfastly encourage our readers through e-mails, e-newsletters and in person at the conference general sessions to get to know and to support authors they do not know because “they deserve your attention.” That’s a passion of mine that never will diminish.

    * There was ONE purse vendor at the NBCC, so cut it out with the other nonsense. Admittedly, I was not happy with the Author Pavilion set up this year or last. The constant exposure to the readers was not what I needed it to be. But that will be corrected!!! Each year we have “lesser known” authors as Featured Authors at the NBCC, and they do not just set up as vendors. They have real interaction with avid readers. They have book club meetings to discuss their work, serve on panel discussions, meet and greet potential new fans and even serve as presenters at our awards dinner.

    I spoke with Kelly about the ABBExpo as it approached and supported her fully, even encouraging her to bring information about the ABBExpo to the NBCC so I could deliver it to our readers (it occurred one week after the NBCC). Truth is, among our 400 attendees, only maybe 20, 25 are from Atlanta. The rest travel as far as the Virgin Islands, LA, Seattle, etc., top attend. So maybe this is an Atlanta complacency issue more than anything else.

    All in all, the goal of the ABBExpo is commendable and, with support and not hate, can be something special for Atlanta and dozens of authors. So, folks, let’s get off the spreading of misinformation and get into “dialogue” about making sure this event flourishes next year.

    Peace and blessings,
    Founder, National Book Club Conference.

  2. Wow! I think the original message in this blog post got lost in some of these comments. I didn’t think this post was negative at all. Joy was just telling what she’s experienced at this event and other events from an author’s point of view. Just because your experience is better than someone else’s doesn’t mean that another person’s is wrong. The main point that stuck out to me was the attendance factor. I’ve also been to book events that have had less than stellar attendance over the years and wondered what happened. I’m in Milwaukee, WI and we just started doing free book events last year and I know how much work it takes to put on a book event. Although we’ve been doing reviews online for 5 years, we’re still in the building stage of branding ourselves locally. Our 4 events have been successful thus far but we’re still building. I can imagine how hard that is in Atlanta. We have a street team that passes out postcards, we go to the libraries, poetry sets, concerts, plus we’re doing a commercial on a local R &B station that fits our demographic. Granted, ours is only a three hour book fair but there’s a lot to do. You never know how many people are going to come to a free book event.

    Organizers and authors have to work together to successfully promote their book events. Like someone said earlier, an author has to judge for themselves if a particular event is worth their time. With the way the publishing industry is right now, even authors who have major deals are doing extensive tours on their own. The publishers aren’t doing 10 city tours like they use to which means the authors are paying for some sort of expenses on their own. The $150 table fee for this event may seem reasonable to some people compared to other big city events. But for an independent up-and-coming author, this may be a hard pill to swallow if you only sell 1 or 2 books. Plus, you’re competing with 49 other authors for a reader’s dollar. It’s all in the way you look at it. I can’t speak to the specifics of AABE’s attendance but if the attendance was less than stellar, maybe it was because it was on the weekend right after the NBCC.

    • I’m noticing the tide turning towards “ABBE don’t have this event during the same time as NBCC.”

      Supporters of course but check this out: the dynamics of the NBCC & ABBE are different. NBCC tells bookclubs/booklovers “pay money to meet your favorite author & get a photo op” ABBE’s direction was bookclubs/booklovers come out to meet authors for FREE while at the same time providing a space for authors who normally would not under any circumstances get this type of opportunity. Like someone said on this blog most are selling books out their trunks. So let’s be real here all the authors at the NBCC were established, well known and famous. The 9 less popular authors were way in the back of hallway behind 10 purse vendors. The purse vendors sold more than those authors did. I was there, I witnessed it.

      Also, there are 4 million people in Metro Atlanta. The city of Atlanta is heavily populated with African Americans and there are a lot who live in the suburbs. If you live here, you know those people rarely come out of the suburbs into the city. The event date/time does not need to be moved. Get an advertising budget to market to people who will come and who will support. The two events are very different and there’s enough people in this city alone to support them and more. There are some other things that need to be done as it relates to demographics but I will send it to ABBE’s inbox for FREE.

      See, myself and a couple others made it a point to come to these events. We received sponsorship requests from both of these. I’m disappointed to see the turnout/behind the scenes bickering. This blog is being passed around on Facebook. There’s a definite undercurrent of discontent from what appears to be the NBCC camp/followers/supporters. Whoever you may be, this article was biased and in no way helped the black literary community at all.

      • I agree there’s enough people here for hairshow’s, concerts, clubs, expo’s and anything else on the same weekend. Nobody can handle 4 million people at one event anyways. That’s what makes Atlanta fun so there should be choices. Coming from Phoenix, AZ I welcome this. We used to have to almost protest to have a concert with a black headliner. I’m loving all of the choices.

      • Okay, I was at NBCC and I don’t remember seeing 10 purse vendors there. Regardless if someone chooses to pay for an event or go for free doesn’t matter to a lot of book lovers at the end of the day. They will patronize whichever event that they are drawn to. Not only did ATL host the NBCC but there were other literary events that readers were able to purchase books at early on in the summer. But not only is ABBE going up against other literary events, but all literary events throughout the summer in various cities. Looking to see what other events surrounding your event is really important. Although there is always going to be other events going on, you have to take that into consideration while planning it. I just think had this event been placed in another part of the year, it could have been better received. Most readers are only going to purchase so many books in a certain time span regardless of whatever event they attend. Knowing how often readers and book clubs are willing to purchase books and how many they are willing to purchase is important. Planning the event where there weren’t so many literary events going on could have helped this issue.

        I think the concept for ABBE is really great but readers, especially book clubs, will choose which events they are planning to attend well in advance and will see whatever value there is this and any other literary event and decide to attend. Most book clubs/readers already have their events chosen for next summer already. Promoting in the neighboring cities and states, where book clubs and readers can get to ATL in a few hours, can also help to increase participation.

        I say to the ABBE staff keep doing what you’re doing. I think you’re on to something big and it’ll get better throughout the years. But as you can tell, these events take time to grow, but you’ll reap the benefits soon enough for all of your hard effort.

  3. I do believe that everyone is definitely entitled to their own opinion. I think one of the problems with this particular article, is the article itself. I think that the article would have been much better if Joy would have either mentioned all of the events that she had attended that she felt didn’t live up to her expectations or did not list any of the events at all and just talked in general about her concerns with literary events as a whole. She was truly on both sides of the fence with the article, which I believe sparked up a lot of mixed responses. That is truly what set off all of these responses in the first place and could have possibly made some people feel personally attacked in some cases.

    The truth is any time you coordinate an event, no matter how much you promote it, there’s a chance that you may have 1000 people show up or 10! I would imagine if you’re coordinating an event that has free admission it would be hard to tell how successful the event is…until the event occurs, especially the first go around.

    It looks like ABBE will grow stronger as the years go by and to be quite honest it’s better to have an event that you’ll be able to work out the bugs early on than to be hit by so many people right out the gate and everything goes wrong, in which the event may not ever recover.

    Also, I feel that not only is it the event coordinators responsibility to promote the event but it’s the job of the authors attending these events to also promote their appearances. With all of the online social networks that everyone has access to, it’s also the authors responsibility to make sure that their fans know where they are appearing at all times. I live on facebook and I only saw a handful of authors promoting their appearances at ABBE. I would imagine that if the authors were from out of town that they probably arrived the day before, for the most part. How about hitting the malls and other areas and hand out fliers and just basically promoting yourself, which would have in turn helped to promote the event? Unfortunately, online promoting methods are only a small percentage of it; you have to get out where the people are and promote yourself in every city that you go to!

    I’m curious to know how much do authors help to promote themselves along with any event that they appear at before and also while you’re in the city that you are appearing? I think it’s also a key element along with the coordinators promoting the event. I just thought the question should be brought up in this conversation.

    • Good post RT19! Now that is the question what did the authors do? I live on Facebook too and saw them promoting that they had BEEN there but nothing before. What was the organizer supposed to do, rent a bus a go round up people too?

      I heard about this post last night, I read some of the comments and finished up this morning. I agree with Kelly, we should talk about it but not in this manner. I think the “Dee” person is a farce and it was evident “she” was not pure in her intentions. Her posts were about her not being acknowledged nothing more.

      Per Joy’s post, I spoke with other authors too, I was a participant. We all agreed for a first it was good and we will be back. We didn’t pack up and go to the hair show, we didn’t feel it was a waste of our time, we went to eat! My point is there are many sides to this but ultimately you have to be responsible for promoting yourself that’s all. For example, the author next to us (I will not give her name) sat the whole time and didn’t talk to anyone. She didn’t sell anything either.

      From a business perspective, ABBE’s job was to put the event on they can’t guarantee sales or force people to purchase anything. As it is with any event low sales and low turnout is not the organizer’s fault. One thing I might add is that I do hope to see next year’s event more publicized and advertised.

  4. Ok…well I guess I’m going to have to take back the “thank you for staying positive” comment.
    When I wrote this post, I honestly didn’t expect so many comments. And I definitely didn’t expect it to turn into a forum, although I’m so glad it did. I agree with Kelly, this has indeed turned into a hot topic and to repeat the phase that’s been circulating around all day; this was just my “two cents”. It was never my intention to browbeat or condemn anyone from ABBE. The work you guys put in was self evident in the sponsors you lined up, the size of the venue, the many authors who jumped on board, and the reasonable price you set up for the vending fee.

    But honestly and truly there seems to be an epidemic going on in regards to low readers turnout at events. One person on my Facebook page commented that there should have been more “big name” authors on board. Someone else commented on the location. On this site, many people cited their own opinions on how to make next year’s event bigger and better. And that the whole point of the discussion, we all believe in ABBE’s goal and we all want to support it to make it better. Bottom line.

    To the team of ABBE, please see the opinions for what they are- opinions. Nothing more. And yes, for self published authors it can get very frustrating to put high hopes in an event and the turnout is not what you and, even the organizer, expected. The questions I posted in the blog were my attempt to figure out what is the problem in the black book world in regards to lit events. And although the center theme of the blog was about the ABBE, to be honest, I was venting my frustration on all events that have a high author/low reader ratio. If 80+ authors can find out about an event, pay 150, 250, or 350 for a table, and pay for the traveling expenses to get there, why can we get the readers at an event for free? And again, I’m using the word “we” because I truly believe this is a collective effort.

    My blog was from my POV, but not bias. I was at the Expo for a while, introduced myself to nearly everyone in attendance, and spoke to many who voiced their thoughts about the attendance on their own accord. Yes, I saw a couple of book clubs there as well as readers coming and going throughout the day and yes they were buying books- never said they weren’t. But you can’t ignore the fact that authors were packing up and leaving to attend an HAIR SHOW because it had a better turn out than a BOOK EXPO- hello! What really going on lit people? Something is not right when an author will leave a book event to attend another event in a completely different industry. When two different authors offered me their tables because they decided it’s better to cut their losses and go home- something not right. And when an author tells me she would rather be in the gym or running errands because she feels like she wasting her time at the event- something’s not right. So yeah, I guess I did ask the wrong questions. I should’ve have asked the reader what happen because it was an event catered to their love of books and I’m sure they’re kicking themselves now for not attending.

    As a book club president, self published author, event organizer, and CEO of a literary company, I wear many hats in the lit world so I can and do see all points of view. So to the ABBE who chimed in, thank you. Thank you for commenting, thank you for putting on the event, and thank you for responding to our comments in an overall positive nature and if anyone from ABBE would like to do a follow-up blog post voicing their standpoint, please email it to me at and I’ll put it on the site. To those that had negative things to say, and the he said- she said, back and forth…I’m not your mama. You guys are grown and can speak for yourselves. Just keep in mind that just because you never heard someone’s name before, doesn’t mean they are brand new to the scene. I’m sure you never knew my name til this post either and I’ve been around for a while now. To the other comments on here, I’m just going to leave them alone because…well…damn! So with that in mind- be easy y’all. This was just a blog for goodness sake 🙂

    • Honestly, I think that authors have to be selective on where they decide to appear and what they are willing to pay for vendor tables. I’m not sure what a fair price is for a vendor table at a free event, but like most vendor/author tables, it depends on the expenses of the event and other elements. Even if there were 1000+ people it doesn’t mean that any or all of the authors would be able to sell 1 book, it just means that there’s more potential to sell books with a larger crowd. The point is that authors need to learn to be more selective on where they appear. This was the first year for ABBE. I’m sure this event will catch the eye of readers and they will add more readers as the years go by. You’re not going to hit every book club and reader, even if it was in the newspaper, on tv and online.

      With all of the literary events that has taken place already in Atlanta ove the summer, maybe it would be more logical to move the event to a time of year when ATL is not so saturated with other literary events. Just a thought. It’s just my experience that most readers may not take a strong interest in attending one event right after another one,even if they didn’t have to travel to that particular city. But possibly having an October event, where people are beginning to think about Christmas gifts are stocking up on books for the winter may be a better option.

  5. Whew!

    I wanted to add from my earlier comment that I’m sure there were a lot of new authors at the expo, so this was their first time signing books. I think ABBE is a positive in that they were able to network and meet other established authors who could help them in the long run.

    At the L.A. Black Book Expo, we had a group of writers who were just tossing this idea around and before you know it, they formed a group called the New Image Writers. We were fortunate to have one bestselling author join us on the day long bus tour around L.A., spreading the positive messages in our books, while reaching to new readers. You name it, we went to a beauty salon, two bookstores and a library and even another book festival in L.A. This wouldn’t have happened unless these authors came together at an event and networked together. So depending on your expectations of this first ABBE, we have to understand that this business is a daily grind, all the time. Some events are successful than others but I’ve attended major book events like the Festival of Books on the UCLA campus and didn’t make enough as I thought I would. Believe me, the tent rental fees were much higher than the $150 asked for.

    So I hope we look at this as a plus, rather than a minus. Over time if ABBE doesn’t grow from this, then it should get the criticism it deserves. Until then, let’s come up with some positive constructive ideas to make all of our book festivals and fairs grow. I’ve just wasted the last of my two cents 🙂

    • I agree, Charles. Georgia’s Writers Organization and the GA Center of the Book gives grant monies to book events that service the literary community. There are black members in each of these organization, that want to support black book events.

      Moreover, coupling the event with a bookstore will legitimize the event and bring book buyers to the event. Recently, we worked with the GA Tech Barnes & Noble for an offline event. They will handle bringing in books for free, which would in turn get the event published authors, who don’t vend at events, but will come out and sign books. Also working with the county public library center, which is sponsored by GA Center of the Book will garner free PR and PSAs the Atlanta Press Club, especially NPR will gladly distribute.

      I believe this is a great step, to moving forward to make this event better than ever.

      • Hey Dee!

        Out here in California, we have three out of the four literary events either partnered up with or hosted by independent bookstores. Eso Won is a partner with the Leimert Park Book Fair while Dr. Rosie Milligan is the founder of Black Writers on Tour and until recently owned Express Yourself Books in L.A. We’re partnered up with Smiley’s Books and they’ve been part of the expo before so it helps to cross promote in that way, plus the suggestions you offered I’m sure will help ABBE for next year.

        I agree this is a great step and come next year we’ll all sit back laughing about this 🙂

  6. Dee showed her motive on this one – U wanted to be recognized huh? U wanted some credit I guess? So it is really true about how black people treat each other – wow! This whole post may have had good intentions but its really sad.

  7. by the way who is DEE she has never contacted us or our Media PR person. and I do not have anything in my email for her has she stated. but neither here or their it do not matter ABBE is not going anywhere and we will continue to grow. To Atty S we know we did not have to respond but we wanted everyone to know we care about their concerns and to be open about the truth.

  8. Is Dee related to Hank Stewart? Could it be that she is a hating competitor? lol, I’m just sayin’ Per Atty S comment that was kind of foul dang, lol over a book expo? really Dee?

  9. Hello Joy,

    I was not going to comment on this matter, but I feel the wrong questions are being ask. I wonder if you or other Authors know the Organizers feel. Here it is, we step up to bring something positive to our community, we reached out to so many and guess what the door was not answered for whatever reason. It seem to me everyone is always trying to get to the man and sit with the man instead of trying to be their OWN Man. See if you look at this thing it is nothing but room for growth. All the other book expo’s or festivals that have taken place did not start off being a blast and surely the cost was not as resonable as ours.

    My question is why when we as blacks try to bring something greater to our community we are shot down? Why do I have to go outside my community for help and/or support? Why are we so greedy, won’t give our support to one another? I understand how you self published might feel, but do you know I feel to put my money on the line and get no return? To have your community to shun you cause you won’t sell out or let them in by greasing their palm for a dream no guarantee’s?

    Surely the market is their and we are going to continue to tap into it, but I also think this article put the wrong focus in the wrong place. where is the question that book that were in town rather pay $350.00 to get their books sign by the Author instead of supporting an Author. Where is the question why we are the biggest consumer and only support the fashion, the strip clubs and our hero JAIL BIRD Rappers that show our childrens how to go to jail. Better still our media & school systems that will not shine no light on the positive in our community, without wanting something in return, our politicians that only show up when that need your vote. But you say you want to know where to point the finger lets start with the man in the MIRROR. We are our worst enemy, we have so much to say but no one stands up or speak out, we look for Oprah to do it and chase after her as countless others. But let it be said The Atlanta Black Book Expo is here to stay…We are putting our money where our mouth is, We will not sell out & we will continue to make it all about the Authors, and our community. Its one Place thats all about you and your product is ABBE no more selling out the TRUNK of your car here. We will do our part you have to do yours, build your brand cause we are building ours besides what anyone think or say. We will get better & we WILL OWN ATL BOOK WORLD. What I do know behind the scene we shook things up and everyone in ATLANTA that do these kinds of events are tighting their game up. They Know we put our own money up and out and for $150 for a booth is unheard of in Atlanta check the history books…How we do it?

    Philip A. Dawkins

    Holla at me anytime my brothers & sisters

  10. Taking the time to talk about how the ABBE can be improved on for next year is not wrong or negative. Even Kelly and Mechell said the same thing. Dee is indeed a professional and a 10 year veteran of planning these events, she was being very helpful and her advice should be duly noted. For us to be concerned about the ABBE future outcome is not wrong, it is a good thing. Coming together to plan a better turn out is necessary in my opinion.
    Thank you Joy Farrington for writing this article about the ABBE. Dee keep doing your thing, you are highly appreciated…
    It is so much better to be positive than negative and judgemental toward each other. I can’t wait for next years ABBE! 😉

  11. Wow! The feedback is amazing. Thank you everyone, for putting in you’re “two cents.” I also want to thank everyone for staying positive in your responses. Yes us lit folks can all agree to disagree without it getting ugly and you guys proved that here today. I posted this blog because I was really bothered by the turnout of the event. At one point, I looked around and said to myself “now this is a shame.” Why? Because the Expo itself was a great idea and from my standpoint executed well. But to see so many talented people in a room and knowing that there were so many book lovers who would have enjoyed attending the expo really bothered me. And that were the majority of my frustration ls stemed from.
    I’ve been to a few events this summer that had be wondering over and over again, where are the readers. And to witness it at the ABBE was really the breaking point for me.
    I really don’t know what can be done guys and your opinions are helpful. Maybe when we have events like these we ALL need to get in the phone and bug the media to support it.
    Maybe we should collectively send out blasts to our mailing list, whether we are attending or not. The way I see it, we’re all in this together so let do our best to support each other endeavors.

    Thank you Kelly, for joining the discussion. I really appreciate the hard work you put in putting this together and I look fwd to next year’s ABBE.

  12. I thought the article was good but asked the wrong questions. Then to my surprise it turned into a slam the ABBE team post but then some of you are saying its really not? Hum…

    Since giving two cents is the common theme here allow me to give mine: Kelly – you did a good job – stay focused and keep doing your thing – this advice is FREE don’t respond to posts like these ever again. Its petty and Dee, if you are indeed a professional, I think it was foul of you to call her out for not responding to you like you thought she should have – wow!

    Get it together people – that’s why this time of thing is hands off for a lot of us. I commend her for even wanting to be bothered. Don’t make someone not want to promote within the community.

    • thanks for your response, atty. i will take your words into consideration in the future. my attempt was not to appear foul. I apologize if that is what you felt or members of the ABBE group felt. that was not my intention. i answered joy’s questioned and buttressed it with my account, because i believe we need to have real conversations. i didn’t go online or talk to my peers about not receiving email the entire this event was coming together or happened. nor did i advise my peers(both press and vendors) not to come. i explained why i didn’t.

      what i had hoped was to start a real dialogue about this issue of low author turnout at book events. unfortunately, it appears that we don’t want to really have that conversation. we want to keep trying to reinvent the wheel; we want to insult those who had enough sense to share–what is indeed an unpopular opinion, but an opinion with merit.

      thanks, joy, for the forum to do that. i really appreciate it.

      • Dee here’s the deal: your post looks like “why didn’t somebody ask me if they could have a book expo in the A?” You don’t realize how silly this all looks do you? And you’re a professional? For how long? I don’t know the ABBE people but I will keep it real I would have told them not to do it, black people don’t appreciate stuff like this, and Lord forbid if you mess up black people are unforgiving and will run your name in the ground for the rest of your life, I would have told them to go partner with someone else. Let me say this, I was there and I was at the NBCC too, it was enough people there, both were successful, this whole post is misleading. Stop trying to make an impression like someone needs you. Its not a crime because somebody didn’t return your call gosh! Now you are all over the post explaining yourself. The facts are plain: you are or either you represent another organization who feels they have to compete. Hats off to the ABBE team and this proves they did do a good job because they’ve all left the page and you’re still on here geez!!!! I’m exiting now too, I spent the last of my change hours ago on this. I couldn’t let it slide however because its typical of the black folks here in Atlanta.

  13. As a book lover, a supporter of black authors, and a member of the planning team for the inaugural ABBExpo, our goal in putting together this event was to start laying the foundation for which Atlanta could ultimately become known as one of the top cities where up-and-coming authors can thrive and successfully showcase their work. And we accomplished that. Maybe not at the grandiose level that some had hoped for; but we indeed laid a foundation and planted a seed from which there WILL be much growth – as long as there is support from the black literary community and not unconstructive criticism.

    We too hoped for more attendees and more news media coverage prior to the event. But it was not for a lack of reaching out. For example, all the major news outlets in Atlanta were contacted and some even confirmed to attend and cover the event including CNN, WSB, WXIA-11 Alive just to name a few. However, during this process, we built some solid relationships with the media which can only serve as a benefit for next year.

    We definitely learned a lot and absolutely know there are areas for improvement for next year. Every inaugural event experiences this. Even authors can improve and learn how to get better after writing their first book.

    This event was a labor of love and done in support of the black literary community. So much so, that exhibit space was only $150. And the location was chosen in part for convenience to the authors being that the GICC is near the airport. Lots of great community events are held at this venue.

    And Dee, as for the “public relations specialist” not getting back to you, we sincerely apologize if there was an oversight. It was definitely not our intention to overlook emails. However, as an extra precaution to missing emails, on each press release and throughout the website, there were two phone numbers listed for any inquiries about sponsorships, media, etc. And I know that phones calls were returned. We took responding to those who reached out to us very seriously. Wish you had called since you were so interested in finding out more info.

    But as an industry insider, we thank you for all your great feedback. And as someone who I am sure wants to advance the mission of literary events like this, we hope that you will consider actually being present at next year’s expo so that you can see first-hand that it was a quality event for both authors and book lovers.

    We are more appreciative than you know to all the authors who exhibited their work and to the attendees who came out to support them. Stay tuned for next year!


    • Mechell, I called you March 23rd, the same day I sent the second email. I can understand, if you missed an email from me. But I did call you.

      And again I feel confident you will continue to grow. If you need my assistance, I will gladly do it for free, as I always do.

  14. To answer the question:

    The Atlanta Black Book Expo has room for growth. It was their first ever presentation so I would have to say let’s give it some time. I’m positive the ABBE will improve over time and it will be another literary event we’ll be proud of.

    Just my two cents 🙂

  15. Hi Joy!

    Wow, this certainly is a hot post today! Thanks for writing this article. This dialogue is important because it provides objective points of view from your standpoint as well as the others who have posted.

    My team and I did a lot to pull this off and get this out the the public. We made some great partnerships with The AABJ, Uptown Magazine, LVofA, The Ludacris Foundation, WAOK AM, and The Marcel Radio Show to name a few. We were honored to host Shelia Moses & Kendra Norman Bellamy as well all of the other authors.

    To Tamika’s point, we aren’t valued and none of the literary events are given priority in my opinion. In fact, just this past weekend I saw a tiny 1/4 page ad in the in the lower corner of the AJC for the Decatur Book Festival and the AJC sponsors them – I thought it was interesting that they didn’t have a full page spread. If someone can, help with that one and let me know what that’s all about.

    We were able to reach out to as many media outlets by email, mail, and phone – and to Tamika’s point again there was not going to be a lot of commitment from them unless you were talking about some serious dollars. The one comment was funny about how we should just get “put on Good Day Atlanta” or whatever show that was – like its that easy, lol. That being said I will also note that with events such as these some things get missed and I apologize that we can’t return every phone call, it was not our intent to ignore anyone. We welcomed all of the support we received. All of it has been and still is a learning process. I went into this knowing not everyone would be satisfied. I am very aware of how some writers can get a bit creative and bash something that someone put a lot of effort into for the community and call it “feedback.” I want us all to progress and be successful so I have no “disses” for anyone.

    This was my 1st solo event and I am very, very proud of it and proud of the team I assembled – no matter what anyone says. I plan to take all of the “feedback” and move forward and yes, let’s brand more – writing, reading and making books a priority!

    We made some great strides and I’m looking forward to The Atlanta Black Book Expo 2011. Hope to see you there.

    Take care,
    Kelly Johnson

    • Hi, Kelly.

      I’m glad you chimed in.

      My response about getting exposure on Good Day Atlanta and/or Atlanta & Company was not a slight, “feedback” or Monday morning quarterbacking your event, but a response from an industry professional. It is a challenge getting booked on the top tier Atlanta shows, but it is doable. And you’re right it costs.

      Authors, bookstores, publishers, book event planners, book club presidents and writer’s organizations know these pangs.

      I stated that I did not attend nor book my clients, because I didn’t get the response that you have given on here back in April when I contacted you. I do not speak for others. I speak for myself. I speak from over ten years of book event planning and being a part of the Atlanta reading and writing community. I did not speak ill of this event when you all were pulling it together. In fact, I shared the event with my peers when you first announced it.

      And let’s be clear I’m not the end all of book events in Atlanta. I’m not that powerful.

      However, I am resourceful. However, I was and am still available to support you.

      As you said, that event was your first. You’re commenting to someone who has planned and promoted many. My response is not to belittle ABBE, but to enlighten, so that not only can ABBE be better, but other book events be better.

      We need book events to stay vital in our community. Moreover, we need to be a part of the Atlanta writing and reading community to get that knowledge. Some of the pitfalls you faced you wouldn’t have. I personally Kendra. She is great. She hosted Hanks Literary Cafe at the White Linen. She is also a great book event planner, someone I’m sure you are communicating with more about your next event.

      There are many others here who would like to help you. But we can’t after the fact and definitely when you don’t respond when contacted.

      I’m sure this event met the objectives that you had sought and am sure that it will be better the next time you do it. Again I am reaching you to begin a conversation about ABBE.

  16. Dee im not sure of the details but ABBE sat n spoke with those you speak of, I know for fact cause I set up some interviews for them. AJC is a major sponsor to the Decatur Book they gave a small article to ABBE in the living section, never put it in the Peach Buzz like they said they would.. The fact is ABBE did not seek out no headliners or big name Authors so others did not want to gamble on knowns. Shelia Moses & Kendra Bellamy showed their support with no strings attach. They believe in the cause and showed it

    But maybe Dee you should see where the breakdown happen, But I am a friend and I love the Organizers to death they are great people that put their own money where their mouth is. They did not care if they made a profit or not, to give someone else a chance. Who do that in the times we live in?

    • Paul, I need you in my corner, a cheerleader for DeeGospel PR. You are a great supporter of ABBE. I have nothing against them. I’m answering this question, because like Joy, Tamika and Martin I have seen it often. Also I have created Atlanta book events here for free for both the author and the reader on my dime, so I do know the challenge. I have created free events for both Borders at StoneCrest and B & N at CampCreek. I have worked with many event planners outside of this state that helps promote AA author. I do this for free, so I do not know why they didn’t answer my questions or reply with a response to me.

      That is why I didn’t attend.

  17. 1. The Founder is a member of the ABJJ
    2. The Decatur Book Fest is not just for African Americans
    3. The Nastional Book Club Conference & Hank Stewart have more vendors than book Authors and they don’t support up & coming Authors this year they had 5 did i say 5 authors behind all the purse & jewelry vendors. And can I say my opinion I would not pay $350 to go here a famous author that already a got their check in the bank. I rather look for an event like ABBE to support the up and coming Author.
    4. So many people that have the power or can make things happen want their palms grease in Atlanta and even though its suppose to be Black Mecca in Atl you better know its every man for themselves. We as blacks just have to do better in so many areas.

    So my point is if ABBE step up to answer a call and need to give a platform to up and coming Authors we all have the responsibility to help make it better if we believe in this. I hope they keep going and i hope they build it into something great, im a friend and they have my support. But I am asking those who knew about this cause and event why they felt they could not support or even show their face at the event…

  18. Well for me to know the organizers and all the hard work they done, the fact is they reached out to every corner of the Atl press maybe we should contact NBC, FOX 5 & Cnn and see why they didn’t think it was news worthy. To do what they did is amazing, yes Bonner Brothers was in town so what; what that have to do with us reading? And for the location well Atl is kind of short in this department, and to be downtown surely would have cost the vendor more money, ABBE wanted to keep it affordable & free to the public. So it seem to me you can not please everyone all the time

    • Paul, I reached out to them and didn’t get a response. Tonight NBC will be on #journchat to share how they like to be approached. Every year they do this for free at least three times a month. The AJC & Atlanta Press Club sponsors the Decatur Book Festival and other events in associated with the GA Center for the Book. Moreover, there are grants available to event planners in Ga via the Georgia Writers Guild. There are many places and people that would have supported the event, myself included. Yet, as I look through my inboxes again I see no response from them. Moreover, I am not the only one who would have passed on information to help them get the placements they needed.

  19. Great post, Joy.

    I did not attend and did not book any of my clients to vend, because of I never received a response from the organizer or the public relations specialist for the event about three questions I ask any new book event. However, I did not discredit ABBE nor advised others peers not to participate. As an industry insider, who has clients that expect certain results from me, I took my position and stand by it until my questions are answered, if they choose to do this again next year.

    As to your questions, here are my answers:

    So what was the problem?

    Many. Some I will answer in the other questions. The biggest challenges were timing, location & relevance. If the Atlanta reading community doesn’t believe that this is the must attend event for the weekend then they will not support it.

    Should it have been better promoted?

    Yes. I live in Atlanta. I am a member of the Atlanta reading community and the Atlanta Press Club, I receive every newsfeed related to Atlanta literary events. Yet, not only did I find little info about this event, but it’s public relations specialist didn’t reach out to me, so that I could share the event with my readership and clients. My editor was interested in sponsoring. Yet, no one responded to me when I reached out to them concerning the ad and the event.

    Media Outreach works two ways. There should be someone communicating the brand messaging of this event and someone responding to media requests outside of handing out press passes.

    Is online advertisement enough?

    No. We have to remember that the ideal client for this event is an African American Book Buyer, not book renter, not book swapper, but book buyer. To reach that psychographic ABBE or any book event planner for that matter needed to market to that group, which participates online mostly in different activities than Facebook updates. Online advertisement wasn’t placed in key spots where these buyers gravitate. Also as Martin stated, getting placed on Good Day Atlanta would have been very helpful.

    Was the fact that the Bronner Bros Hair Show was the same weekend and the only thing people in Atlanta were talking about?

    No, many Black Atlantas do not care to attend that event. Also its apples and oranges. Book buyers attend book events.

    Was it because people don’t support black authors?

    No. Here in Atlanta we had in June the Faith and Fiction Retreat and The Black Writers Reunion & Conference. IN July we had Hank Stewart’s White Linen Literary Cafe and NBCC. Next month we have the Decatur’s Book Festival, which is the largest book festival in the country. Black authors perhaps could be spoiled in Atlanta, if we took advantage of all the opportunities. Today Tony Dungy is at Borders at StoneCrest and B & N at Campcreek. It has been the talk on radio and television all day. We support Black Authors.

  20. I thought it should have been promoted better, and it was to far outside the city. I went and i met a lot of great Authors and bought some great books.

  21. This is a good article and I am in your shoes and on the other end. Every year I put on the AAMBC National Conference and trust it aint easy. But it just isnt this event that isnt highly populated. There needs to be more of a headline when it comes to black books in general. Think about it. Do consumers go out and seek these events, NO. Maybe concert tickets or stage plays or music fest but not book festivals. WHY??? Society doesnt brand us to be that important. We’re underated. So to help change the game and the outcome of these events, lets start branding our industry as a whole. Lets do TV commecials, billboards, street signs, radio ads. Magazine ads. ETC. Lets help society see we too are the top dog. 🙂 Just my two cents

  22. Someone just emailed me this blog and I had to get in on it…..seems a bit biased to me but my two cents is this – ever heard of put up or shut up? Well basically if you aren’t putting up your wallet you shouldn’t have anything to say….from an organizer point of view….those authors got vending space for $150….are you seriously saying it may be the fault of the organizer & quoting what one has to spend for participating? I’m in next year and for $150 I am confident I can make that back if what I’m hearing in terms of turnout is correct. Good job I say! Keep up the good work!

  23. I remember going the 1st Harlem Book Fair – there were 10 vendors and I think 20 people showed up. The 1st one in TX didn’t have as many people…for the looks of things there were more than 10 and there were more than 20 that came out to visit, see what was going on & buy books. I thought it was great and if they keep it up it will get better. Atlanta definitely needed it and for their 1st one? Well it was better than others I’ve seen on their first time.

    • no way i was at the first Harlem Book Fair even as vendor. there were 200 people in the first hour. It was central located on 125th in front of the State Office Building. Our family owns the oldest bookstore in Harlem. Its a challenge always but there this a conversation for improvement.

  24. I have to somewhat disagree with you on this one because I heard some very negative things about the NBCC but I was at the EXPO. I stayed almost the whole time because I too was a bit curious about how this was going to turn out. At the height of the ABBE there were about 500 people there including the authors YES. The potential was in the room. The little girl (author from Chicago) sold 50 books, Kenny Blue sold 35, and other authors DID ACTUALLY sell. Heck if you do 10 (sales) at an event like this count it a success. There were lots of onlookers like myself and I think we need to give these people (ABBE) a break – they stepped up to the plate (NOBODY, not even the CHURCH) was doing this, it was affordable, it was organized, and well thought out. Are there opportunities for improvement SURE…GROWTH SURE, but I would rather see articles that encourage this group rather than bad mouth them. There are a lot of people in Atlanta – hey some like hair some would rather read a book – its enough out there for all of us.

    • i dont think by pointing out the improvements is being negative or not giving them a break we are talking about what needs to be done from a marketing standpoint to bring even more people to the event so even more can buy and sell books.

  25. I believe that the venue was not in the best location also that weekend was the weekend of Bonner Bros. Hair Show. I agree that the event has potential but it needs better media partners, central DownTown location, also it needs to be promoted on Atlanta N Company – NBC and MyFOXATL-5 EVEN if you cant go on those 2 shows they both have calendars online. i was downtown 2 weekends ago for the National BookClub Conference at Starbucks, CNN Center, and McDonalds i asked families if they knew about the ABBE They said what is the ABBExpo?

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