Thieves at RWA

This begins a series of short posts from me about my RWA impressions. I didn’t attend the seminars, the lunches, the GH/RITAs, but I did hang out and chatted with a lot of folks. Me not being a romance writer makes me feel a bit awkward at an conference dedicated to writing romances, but I got over the feeling quickly. I was there to help document what was going on and assist and help market some of our clients.

The rant I was getting ready to vent about was already expressed this morning over at Romancing The Blog by NYTimes bestselling author Allison Brennan. [link]

So my mom noticed something odd at the first signing. There were four people, one of whom had a bookseller badge, always the first in line. They had a bellhop cart and boxes. Empty boxes. Lots of them. When the doors opened, three of them ran inside and started grabbing books off every table. Most of the books they didn’t even want signed. Often, they took two or three of EACH book. Then they went back to the guy at the cart, dropped off the books, and went back for MORE.

There were eight publishers, if I remember correctly, including Harlequin who had more than three times as many authors as the other pubs. At an average of fifteen signing authors per publisher, plus Harlequin, that’s roughly 150 participating authors. With three people grabbing two books each (and often more), that’s 900 books. Most of the books were mass market, but there were a substantial number of trade and a few hardcovers as well, so I figured the average cost was about $7 per book.

That means they nabbed over $6,300 in books. And that’s a conservative estimate.
[Romancing The Blog]

I saw it too. One guy and at least two young henchwomen. They’d fill up a box and one would cart it off while the other two would tag team the booksigning, making a beeline for any unoccupied tables with boxes of books ready for the author.

Even though this happened as part of the RWA Conference, each event should be controlled by the respective publisher and their representatives.

If the author was late to the signing, as was Kimberly Raye, the author had no books to give away — they had been stolen.

Yes, stolen. Once the author sits down to the table to giveaway books, I could see whatever happens at that point is up to the author. Up until that point, the books belong to the publisher. So the author can give away two, three, or more copies of their books as the case requires. Before that time, however, an open box of books nicely stacked is an invitation for abuse bordering on the criminal.

One last thought for now on the topic. It appears that the people observed making off with these books weren’t unscrupulous authors but were booksellers. (Bookseller awards are handed out to certain booksellers at the RWA Conference, hopefully not to these thieves.) It seems they planned their trip to the conference on the idea that the conference expenses would be paid for in part by their heist.

6 thoughts on “Thieves at RWA”

  1. I saw your link on the RTB blog, and I can only second what you’ve said. Kimberly Raye is a wonderful, charming woman. I didn’t realize ALL her books were stolen. I thought it was a box. (Not that this justifies it in any way, shape or form.) I was also at the same signing since we write for the same house. When I saw no books on her table, I thought she couldn’t make it at the last minute. I had no idea they’d been stolen.

    In Ballantine’s defense, they only had one representative at the signing and it was her first RWA event. She had no idea what to expect. Suzanne Brockmann had a wonderfully long line, but that also meant that a lot of the tables in the back were not easily observed.

    Last year, there was NOTHING like this going on that I witnessed. My mom felt that the booksellers in question were local because the cost of shipping the books would have been too large to justify the theft.

    And I did take home lots of books. Three big boxes between my mom and me. Most were for my mom, and she reads them all then gives them to her library unless it was signed to her. The only duplicates were the books on the luncheon chairs and one author we both wanted our own copy of.

  2. OMG, someone just walked out with a whole box of her books?

    That’s freakin’ shocking.

    The key to getting away with it was the hustle, doing it several books at a time. They didn’t take the box — they merely emptied it a few at a time.

    The male ringleader could pass for Kevin Smith’s younger brother; portly, beard, backwards baseball cap. I probably have some video of him.

  3. You might check online selling venues such as ebay or Amazon to see what dealer in the Texas area might have a glut of books by Kimberley Raye. It won’t be a smoking gun, but it will be a place to start…

  4. As a bookstore owner what you are describing makes me sick. It’s bad enough people act like that at book-sales but to have some schmucks act like that at an industry event is reprehensible.

    Those are not booksellers, they are thieves and opportunists.

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