Fun and Games at the BEA

Yesterday I spent six hours at the Book Expo America, wandering around the gargantuan DC Convention Center. I had been to the convention before, back when it was still the American Booksellers Association, known as the ABA. I remembered enough from my previous time there to bring a tote bag.

One tote bag wasn’t enough. By the time I staggered out of there, when it closed at 6:00 PM, I had acquired another, larger, violently purple tote bag, and had filled it to the brim.

I will have to look over my largesse at some point, and I suspect some of that stuff will wind up being donated to the library sale, or finding its way to the round file.

In addition to visiting the “booths” (huge, carpeted areas with tables and chairs, even the occasional sofa or bar) of my publishers, especially HarperCollins, I also wandered by several places where I suspect the fact that I was wearing my navy Writer Beware polo shirt made them uncomfortable. (evil grin)

Cynthia Sterling of SterlingHouse publishing (and she also owns and runs Lee Shore Literary Agency, which holds the honorable mention No. 21 spot on Writer Beware’s list of Agents to AVOID) was there, with quite a fancy layout, including free beer and pretzels as one of her lucky (ahem!) authors autographed his book. They didn’t see me coming in time to put anything in my beer, but the whole time I was listening to the persuasive (yeah, right!) spiel of the fresh-faced young fella who was trying to sell me on becoming a SterlingHouse author (totally oblivious to the “HarperCollins” appellation on my badge), none of upper management (Cynthia, her head editor, and a “Mr. Sterling” who was probably her hubby) cracked a smile.

I was a very good girl, listening politely to the spiel, leafing through what they called a “book marketing catalogue” while drinking the beer the bartender handed me, and nibbling a pretzel.

Then, before I could be construed to be a nuisance, I ambled off again, after thanking the (still oblivious) nice young man.

My next stop on the “Let’s just rattle ’em a bit” tour was good old Royal Fireworks. This publisher will also make the soon to be released Writer Beware’s 10 Worst Publishers to AVOID list. They acquire books for no advance, pay a pittance for royalties, and THEY MAKE THE AUTHOR SIGN OVER HIS OR HER COPYRIGHT TO THEM.

Need I say more?

The proprietor of the Royal Fireworks booth and his wife both watched me as I ambled in, put down my tote bags with a sigh, and proceeded to take about 20 books off their display shelves, flip them open to the copyright page, nod slightly, and then put the book back and go on to the next. By the time I had done this for about 20 books, (and the old gentleman watched me like a polar bear watches a plump seal baby the whole time) I think my point had been made — and all without saying a single word.

I know he remembered me. We had an exchange of words some years ago when he scammed an elderly SFWA member. (Scamming the elderly is particularly loathesome, isn’t it?)

Except for the big bestsellers, authors are kind of the lowest of the low at the BEA. Really. There aren’t many editors there, just the occasional publisher and tons of marketing salespeople. I did manage to meet a couple of the HC people responsible for selling my book, and talk to them about the trilogy, the next book, etc.

Let’s hope they remember, and it does some good when Winds of Vengeance comes out.

Next year the BEA will be held in New York and I’ve already discussed signing at the Meisha Merlin booth. They are a small press that has acquired my StarBridge backlist (7 books) and bought 2 new books in the series.

If the first release is out by that time, it would be fun to be able to sign at next year’s BEA. I haven’t signed books at one of those shindigs since V came out, in 1984.

Have a good week, boys and girls!

-Ann C. Crispin


  1. Cynthia Sterling read my manuscript called Danit Grack Detective, in which one of the main characters was a Chinese siren, the term, siren itself, was featured throughout the narrative. About two to six months later, and after she'd returned my manuscript one of her female authors had written a book called Siren.

    I believe she found out my manuscript had been registered with the Library of Congress and well the term siren is not considered plagiarism, in and of itself, so she decided to forego any possible scheme she might have had planned. Strangely, she's never accepted another manuscript of mine.

    I always make it a habit of registering my unpublished manuscripts with the Library of Congress to double the protection.

    Wesley McCants

  2. can i please get some help here? Royal Fireworks has had my manuscript for over 4 years now. They keep telling me they are publishing it. YOu can imagine my pain in knowing i poured myself into that work adn now they will probably not publish it, or else keep me hanging on until they decide to do something…any comments? please, i need advice.
    Jerry Mullinax
    83 Sinclair Lane
    Hendersonville, NC 28739

  3. No Robert Fletcher, Jim. No PublishAmerica.

    Both have attended in years before, but I suspect they’re aware now that they’re just too infamous, and want to avoid any potentially loaded encounters with scammed writers.

  4. BEA sounds just amazing. Free books…*sigh*
    Good for you for keeping us informed. A list of publishers to be avoided would be great.

  5. Sorry I had not known about Royal Firework’s record before I signed contract in March of ’05, giving away copyright (I’m a novice as you can tell). After many, many phone calls & hearing that many promises as to ‘proofs in mail’ I now realize they are a third-rate publisher preying on the unsuspecting.

  6. I am so envious. I loved going to BEA back when it was ABA (showing my age here…) except it was sort of like touring a chocolate factory with your jaws wired shut. Had I known you were going, I would have told you to stop by the Hopkins Press booth to harrass Mike Walsh.

    I’m glad you scared the scam agents. You’re doing excellent work here.

  7. You should make more of those Writer Beware shirts. Send them to all the writers you know. That way, whenever a scammer sets up a booth at a convention, they’ll start shaking in their shoes when they see a huge army of savvy writers displaying their Writer Beware shirts and walking close enough to them to give the crook The Eye. Or walk up to the scammers as a big group and just stare at each other and give them the We-Know-What-You-Really-Are look.

  8. I’m so jealous. All the cool people were there this weekend. Heck, even George Noory was there. Did you get to see him?

  9. michaelc, I suspect they’re trying to catch unpublished authors who think that BEA is a place where you can pitch to publishers. Most legit publishers and agents don’t want to have you pitching books to them there, so they may be the only ones who listen.

    I can’t wait to hear the 10 worst publishers list!

  10. There are going to be more Starbridge books? My heart’s desire! You have just made my day! ::very big grin::

  11. I’m curious about the motivation for vanity presses to shell out for an expensive booth at the BEA. They’re not going to fool any distributors or bookstores into carrying their books, right? Is it all an elaborate sham to convince their authors they’re legit, are they enjoying rubbing shoulders with real publishers, or what?

  12. Good on you. I hate copywrite thieves. Educational publishing is one of the worst offenders. They steal copyright from illustrators who are visual authors. I don’t think anyone should ever sign over copyright. In Australia the copyright owner receives government remuneration for educational lending rights AND another for the Public Lending rights in libraries. If the publisher has stolen the copyright the publisher gets it all.
    Unfortunately there are always too many authors who go along with feeding the greed of these publishers. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump from actual vanity press.

    I think that authors need also to be made aware of the pitfalls of electronic publishing clauses in their contracts too.

    Keep up the good fight.

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