They say a prophet is never welcome in his hometown.
Okay, I’m not Jesus.
But the book festival I attended last month was in my hometown. That’s the main reason I went.
That, and the fact that I’m a fan of the woman who organized the York Book Expo. For all the times that Demi has lifted up me and my writing, I couldn’t not go the Book Expo.
As an author, promotion is unavoidable. But there is a cost not only to your pocketbook, but to your time and family and happiness. I’m still figuring out which events are a good investment, which are necessary evils, and which waste my resources and time. I do think it’s important to evaluate your promotional efforts and learn from them. Hence, these posts I’m foisting upon you, hoping you’re learning from my experiences.
This was the third time I’ve attended The York Book Expo, which is well-organized and professionally run. The past two years it has felt very worth my while. It’s been fun to talk to other writers, put faces to names from Facebook, and I’ve even sold enough books to ‘make my table’ even if I didn’t make any real profit.
This year was different, though. There was a different venue that really didn’t seem to pull in the same crowd it did in previous years. Instead of all being together, this year there were so many authors that we were divided up between two floors. The vibe for me was decidedly different. Or maybe it was the beautiful day. Giving up a spectacular autumn day to spend it inside a dreary, dark ballroom may have colored my experience.
At any rate, sitting behind my table, wondering and worrying, dragged my soul down a bit. I’m a writer, I’ve long ago accepted that there is an inherent risk in publishing and if you can’t handle that risk, there’s no point in pursuing a publishing career. And yet, the competition and judgment bore down on me pretty hard that day.
I perched on my stool, trying to catch the eye of readers who passed by, hoping they might stop and pick up one of my books, read the back cover, talk to me about books or their love of reading or about how they like to write and might one day try to publish. That’s the best part of a book festival – talking to readers and writers.
Only on this day, I didn’t talk to many people at all, despite my lovely display and my free chocolates.
Most of the people who stopped by my table were rushed, expectant, pausing only for a few moments or walking by avoiding eye contact. They waited for me to sell them on my books. I bumbled through a few sales pitches, before giving up and resorting to handing out the mini-chocolate versions of my books. It wasn’t the way I want to share my writing. I don’t want to push it on people. But there were so many authors to see, not many people had time to linger. I felt myself getting smaller and smaller and more discouraged as the day went on. And I didn’t like that.
I have a few theories on why this experience was so different, not just from the last two years attending, but from the festivals I attended in the weeks before and after it.
Almost all of the 115 authors attending the Expo were local to south-central Pennsylvania, and the majority were self-published. And it is many times hard for us to accept that someone we know could possibly have written a real book.
Maybe people think, I know all these folks, they’re just like me. I want to meet a real author.
And then there are those people who believe that self-published isn’t really published.
I’m quick to be sure people know that, with the exception of my first book, all of my books are traditionally published (see? I’m doing it right now!). There’s a certain level of skepticism built-in when it comes to self-published books.
This might explain the attitude of so many of the Expo attendees. But I do think there is something to that prophet in her own hometown jibe.
I make it sound like I had an awful experience. In reality, there were many bright spots.
I met a few people who I’d only ever interacted with on Facebook, who came to the Expo to meet me and get one of my books. I was delighted to put faces to names and connect in person. There were also a few friends who stopped by to get a book or to just say hello. Again, a treat.
The writer who was assigned the table beside me is a writer I very much admire and I got to chat with her throughout the day. If you haven’t read Amy Impellizzeri’s books, you’re missing out. I purchased her novel, Secrets of Worry Dolls and had it signed. I’m taking it with me on a little vacation this weekend and can’t wait to gobble it up.
Another bright spot was seeing a writer I’d met a year ago when I spoke about writer platform at Indie Author Day at Hereford Library in Baltimore County, MD. I had the pleasure of hearing Donna Bertling read from her work in progress. When she was finished, I sought her out to tell her how much I loved her writing and to encourage her to press on with her publication dreams. She’d opted to go the self-published route and so Runaway Fire book had just come out the week before the festival. I purchased her book also, and look forward to reading it.
Will I attend the York Book Expo again?
I’ll be there next year, but more than likely I’ll be cruising the aisles as a reader, not a writer, and doing my best to be a bright spot in a few author’s days.
Have you attended a Book Festival this fall as a reader or writer? I’d love to hear about how that went for you!
Thanks for reading!
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