No Indie Authors at National Book Festival

August 30, 2014
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As I write this post the 2014 National Book Festival is underway in

Official poster of the 2014 National Book Festival

Official poster of the 2014 National Book Festival

Washington, D.C.

According to the Festival’s webpage:

This year’s festival will feature authors, poets and illustrators in several pavilions well into the evening. Festival-goers can meet and hear firsthand from their favorite poets and authors, get books signed, enjoy special entertainment, and stay up late for special new graphic novel, poetry and film programs.

What visitors to the National Book Festival will not find inside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center (the new home of the Festival, which for thirteen years has been held on the National Mall) is any author not traditionally published.

According to the Festival’s FAQ,

Potential participating authors, illustrators and poets must be nominated by their respective publishers. Preferred candidates are usually popular, nationally known authors, illustrators and poets who have won book awards at the national level. They also should have published a significant book recently. More than 300 qualified authors, illustrators and poets are nominated each year to participate and about 100 individuals are selected to present.

I suppose, theoretically, if you are the publisher of your own book you could nominate yourself. Clearly many indie authors are “popular, nationally known authors” and a great many have “won book awards at the national level.”

So why not invite Chris Ryan and Garrett Addison? Both are indie authors who are popular and (inter)nationally known, and each has won The Bookcast’s “Book of Exceptional Quality” award.

This year’s roster at the National Book Festival is certainly impressive, including such heavyweights as Paul Auster, Claire Messud, Lisa See, and E.L. Doctorow.

But shouldn’t it also include, say, Amy Cross, Hugh Howey, and Beth Reekles?

I have not asked anyone at the Library of Congress why indie authors are excluded. I am not sure I would get any explanation beyond the FAQ anyway. But I sense that the LOC remains stuck in a mindless mindset rut, that assumes that only books that have been published by Big Five house are worthy of the kind of national attention the National Book Festival brings.

R.L. Stine with children at the 2008 National Book Festival

R.L. Stine with children at the 2008 National Book Festival.

Much of the emphasis at the National Book Festival is on children and encouraging them to become lifetime readers. It would be a shame to stoke the appetite for books, on the one hand, while curbing it on the other by limiting children’s access to those authors who have been deemed worthy of reading by the mere fact of hacing been published by a traditional house.

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3 Responses to No Indie Authors at National Book Festival

  1. August 31, 2014 at 10:16 am

    The lack of “indie” authors narrows the market of what is offered to readers. This is especially distressing in children’s literature because so much of what is offered to children (on TV, in movies, in theater, and in books) is linked to products and product placements.

    Adults can easily seek out alternative sources for entertainment, but kids are “fed” by the dominant players in all media. Too bad literature is in this camp, too.

    • August 31, 2014 at 3:53 pm

      Candy, you’re right about the commercialization/product placement nature of many children’s books. But even more sadly, I think, is that a “national” book festival that shuts out authors who are clearly popular enough to sell thousands — millions — of books leaves adults as well as children with the impression that you’re somehow now a “real” author if you’re not Big Five.

  2. Pam
    September 7, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Maybe not indie authors but at least some Indie Publishers were there, us included! We thought it was great that there was representation other than from the “Big 5.”

    Many of the great indie authors only release to ebooks. People don’t go to book festivals for ebooks, they want “real books” that they can hold, touch, feel, smell & have signed by the author.

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