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.