I do horrible things to my characters. In the first chapter of The Wedding Date, Kate’s phone plays a raunchy ring tone in an elevator full of her stuffy, uptight lawyer coworkers. She also recounts a story where her dog locked her out of her car while it was running. (This happened to me). Oh, and there’s a disaster with a wine glass, and a falling apart dress at a wedding, but I won’t spoil those for you.
I write these things because they happen to real people all the time. And I make them funny because I’d rather laugh than cry. Also, I like to laugh.
So what happens when something shitty happens and you can’t make it funny? If you’re me, and the co-survivors of Richmond’s Readers Rehab #RRRsurvivor, you try harder. Oh, and you share your story so it doesn’t happen to someone else. Which brings me to the following.
Back in September I attended a great Richmond author event organized by Danielle Allen, author of The One, and her PA Geisha Indie Services. It was fantastic. In the middle of a hurricane all of these authors came together and had a blast with their readers. I left knowing I want to be that kind of author: the kind who is warm and welcoming, who has fun, and who connects with her readers. So when I saw a sign up for Richmond Readers Rehab, I was all over it. The event was scheduled a few weeks after my first book released and it was in my town, so it all seemed like fate.
Who knows. Maybe it was. Maybe I’m in this group of screwed over authors for a reason. I hope so.
In the Fall one of the organizers pulled out stating a family medical issue. The remaining organizer still planned to go forward with the event. In February she sent a panicked email that reader tickets were low and she owed the hotel money. A few other authors in my agency stepped up to organize things like promo, raffle baskets, swag bags, etc. At that time she told us she had a $5,000 food and beverage minimum at the hotel. She had paid the $1,000 deposit to hold the space. The flyer announced over 60 authors signed up and the minimum registration fee was $85. I know others who paid significantly more, including a sponsor who contributed $500.
A little over a week ago the organizer sent a panicked email threatening to cancel the attend for low attendance. She’d told us she was locked into the hotel contract and wouldn’t be able to refund table fees unless people were “patient”, so again, several of us rallied to promote the event. We arranged ticket giveaways with a few local radio stations and posted flyers at all the local book stores.
I began privately messaging her trying to figure out how much she owed and to whom. My main concern was that if she cancelled, she had to refund table fees. I didn’t want her to fall further into the hole and lose a lot of money on the event. She told me she had paid the hotel food and beverage minimum in full and the charges “have been hitting my debit card”. We called the hotel to make sure we could still hold the event and they informed us she’d never paid anything beyond the $1,000 deposit.
What follows is a cluster of epic proportions. I’ve committed to publicly only stating facts I know and letting others draw their own conclusions.
- I messaged her that she needed to tell me immediately where the table fees had gone. At this point she was only responding to messages (emails, Facebook) sporadically.
- Approximately two hours later she sent out an email stating the event was being cancelled because someone had been sending nasty emails threatening her, her family, her children, the event, and other authors attending. She said the police had advised her to cancel the event and she’d filed a report.
- No one has heard from her since.
- One of the original organizers sent me screenshots from the Paypal account for the event. The records show that the cancelling organizer had been using the Paypal account for personal expenses for a period of several months. It does not show any money other than table fees being deposited in the account.
- I have reached out to multiple police departments and have been unable to confirm that the cancelling organizer filed a police report for harassment or threats.
Apparently this is not uncommon in the author world. I’ve gotten dozens of emails and messages from people who say they’ve fallen victim to similar scenarios. I genuinely hope she pays everyone back before the schedule event, but I’m not holding my breath. According to the hotel, if she cancels the event and violates the contract she owes them about $20,000. I don’t know how anyone comes back from that, in terms of finances or in terms of their professional reputation.
Meanwhile, the rest of us got together, secured a space and have decided to hold a free event for romance readers. It will be awesome and I will post it on my blog, but for now, I think this post should stand alone. I hope it will help someone avoid the same situation these fifty authors and I found ourselves in. I’ll keep you posted in terms of how it plays out.