Contracts should always be an exchange for any transaction in the literary industry.
During the course of the past few weeks with events going on for authors, we have seen many people's true colors come forth. I've always been the type of person to give someone the benefit of the doubt however, in business it is no longer an idea of "your word is bond." Many new authors have yet to learn the concepts of being an entrepreneur. They jump into an idea of thinking their novel will be, or is, the "next best thing." In the site of your family's eyes and close friends, this may be true. But there is a large group of authors out here that see their work as also being the next big thing. With the event that recently happened in Atlanta, we found a slew of authors blasting out the event planner and how it was a flop. Without going into details of the event that did not happen, I began thinking about where everyone from each side went wrong. I sought the advice of a Facebook friend, fellow author, and event planner for the National Black Book Expo that happens annually in Houston, Texas.
For over six years, Gwen Richardson has been finding ways to highlight what she felt was missing within the mainstream literary world. She gives insight for those who have thought about putting an event together on such a large scale.
Shani Fenderson (Yahoo! Shine Contributor): I know you have put on many events. What would be your suggestion for those who lost money on the event in Atlanta?
G. Richardson: "We are committed to the event and have absorbed the losses, depleted savings, asked for grace and favor. We have all of our information in writing. I had 25 years of putting on events before doing this one, so I had a lot of experience. I still have a lot of things that I have learned along the way regarding the Festival.
When some people put on their first event and then they figure out that the cost is much greater than they anticipated, embarrassment sinks in. They are too ashamed to let people know and instead will basically "go dark" and not communicate. I've seen this happen many times in the past. It's not the way I approach things, but it happens.
I would admonish the authors to follow the motto "let the buyer beware." Check out the organization and the people who are putting on the event before making a commitment and paying money. Do they have a web site, sponsors, and a presence via social media? There is really not much people can do after the fact except complain."
What she said made so much sense and then led me to asking if people did have contracts. Much to no avail, many had no contracts whatsoever. They went through sending out money blindly in hopes of being the next big thing. Here is where I began being frustrated. Not at the event planner, but at the authors. True the planner needed contracts or information added to receipts under terms of condition, but my focus is on new authors seeking to make millions.
In the literary field, there are but a handful of authors who are millionaires. They have reached this point because they not only have the gift for gab, but they have a team of people in their corner. No, not a team of family members and good friends, but an actual team in which they pay to help make things happen. Those authors have agents, a literary agent, a publicist, a manager, an account, and attorney to help assist them in making the best deals. Contracts are not only made, but also reviewed by all. It's about protecting the assets of the author, not just the book. Being an author is like having a business corner store or mall. You, the author, are now considered a legal entity in which you should register within your state. There's a bunch of people who can type 50,000 or more words a day, but that isn't the only invest an author has.
I spoke to one author who I shall keep nameless about their take on this entire thing.
Shani Fenderson (Yahoo! Shine Contributor): What's your take on what happened from an author's point of view?
Anonymous: "I'm a full-time author so I don't play with the money I make from my book sales. If I had a regular job to fall back on, I'd probably take more risks (and going out-of-state to any event is a risk) but I can't afford to make mistakes like that."
Shani Fenderson (Yahoo! Shine Contributor): For new authors, even seasoned authors, do you think it is wise to put so much money out there so soon?
Anonymous: "To be honest, Shani, a lot of authors are lazy. Point blank, period. I know how events go. In a sea of people doing the same thing as you, you would have to sell about 75 books just to break even...depending on what your books cost you wholesale. (They never factor in the money that the books cost them to print and ship). If the event isn't wildly successful, with tons of readers in attendance, that's difficult to do. A lot of authors expect more than the effort they put forth. You can have incredible books out BUT...you still have to push them and do all of the dirty work. For example....I wouldn't go to an event in Atlanta unless I had spent months, prior to the event, building an audience IN ATL that I was SURE would show up to meet me and purchase books. That's just common sense. A lot of rookies' perceptions are all wrong about what it takes. As with every industry, this one is competitive. No one is really playing nice in the sandbox, even if they smile and pretend as if they do. The problem is that a lot of times, unprofessional behavior runs rampant. They don't know how to separate feelings from business."
He answered what I think was really bothering me. We tend to place emotions in the forefront of doing business and when our emotions are shattered, we wish to crush the very people who hurt them by any means necessary. We want them to hurt just as much and more than we did. The video floating around on YouTube is proof of that. But still, there are so many factors that people missed. Protect your assets; your name. If you don't have enough money to do so, research or even ask me questions. I am always working on consulting businesses and helping them be the best entrepreneur they can be. Authors are business owners, and their names will be with them for the rest of their lives. Do they wish to throw it all down the drain because of not protecting themselves and living only off of emotions? Who knows. What I do know is, start utilizing contracts and begin building a team that has your best interest at heart…….. You.
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For more information on the National Black Book Festival and Gwen Richardson, visit: http://www.nationalblackbookfestival.com/