The day came and went. A day to celebrate indie and small press authors from around the Plainfield Illinois area held at the Plainfield Public Library. It was a terribly stormy day, raining in droves from the night before and carrying on through the day into the following night. It was a good day overall. In the time I was there I sold a single book, gained a few new friends, and learned a number of important lessons.
Let’s start with the first lesson: I should do these more often. Despite the lack of visitors and lousy weather, the former probably due to the latter, I found it a good exercise in pushing through my anxiety. Leading up to arriving, my heart was pounding and I was struggling not to turn around. As I got there, while others easily milled about chatting with the others there to take part in the day’s events, I found it difficult to get out from behind my table. Thanks to the other wonderful people there for helping to coax me out. Going, doing these events more often will certainly help.
Next lesson: have some giveaways. Having only done an event like this twice, the first a year and a half ago, I had no ideas on how to approach it. Aside from books and business cards, what do I do? Ideas abounded with the rest of the writers in the room. Many writers had candy. Some gave away pencils. There were only a very select few that didn’t have more than a business/info card. One writer even printed a chapter of their book to encourage a purchase. That same writer also raffled a gift basket. They are all wonderful ways to engage a potential reader.
Similar to the last point, I should have more information or pamphlets for my work. A few of the writers had bookmarks with information on a specific book of theirs. This is good for someone who is interested in buying a book, but might not be fully committed or lacked the cash. I only had a business card.
Having a nice talking piece, or display also would help. Nice graphics from the author, or some things to flare up the table. People had table cloths (thanks to Cindy Ervin Huff for sharing hers), or baskets to decorate. One held up all of her business cards in a book. I have an old Underwood typewriter that broke that would make a great talking piece, wouldn’t it?
Another good tip I learned? Bring the books in a carry-on bag or suitcase. Or use one of those wheely craft carriers. I slugged through the rain with two boxes while trying to also manage keys and an umbrella. It sucked.
Next, I need to get my damned email list done. I’ve been dragging my feet on this one. I could have added a few names to the distribution list if I only had one there for people to fill out. Even if I put a list out with a “coming soon,” it would have been better than nothing.
Finally, probably the most important lesson, the value of networking. Talking. Meeting peers and readers. I have got to get more comfortable with being open and engaging people. I really had trouble picking up on this, taking me half the day to warm up and then going through fits where I almost hid rather than talk to people. But despite my trepidations, I had some wonderful conversations with a number of other writers, and a great conversation about writing with vulnerability, what secrets drive us, and writing in diverse characters with a wonderful woman, Linda.
A single book sold is not a failure by any means. I walked away with a ton of new resources I didn’t have before and I will gain some great friends I hadn’t had before this event. If you are a writer, and particularly one like me who has been struggling with social and personal anxieties, and you are thinking about going to an event like this… go! It will be worth it. It was for me.