This weekend I had the privilege of attending the READ! Local Author Fair, hosted by the St Joseph County Public Library in downtown South Bend.
Me in my element?
I had no idea what to expect when I stepped foot into the recesses of the library basement. The only thing I knew for sure was that I was early, as only two of nearly thirty authors had already arrived. My wife and I worked swiftly to setup the booth, my anxiety steadily building as we unpacked the myriad of materials we had created on Vistaprint.
Would you buy my book?
Satisfied after only fifteen minutes, we checked the time: three hours until the start of the show. Come again!? Why did setup start so early? Yet I (and the two others) were the only ones to actually show up when setup began, so perhaps the pamphlet had properly explained that the full three-and-a-half hours of setup were not required.
Still, my anxieties eased as my wife and I took a stroll down Michigan Street in South Bend, choosing to fill our grumbling bellies with Jimmy John's unwiches, a delicacy I could enjoy every day if I so chose. At some point, we realized we lacked a permanent marker - how would I sign books without that? After a trip to the Dollar General, we hurried back to the library dungeon.
By now, the rest of the authors had arrived. I took the time to meet several - a husband/wife team who co-author fantasy was a pleasant conversation, plus a Culver high school student who is certainly snatching a head-start on all of us. Oh, and I met up with my Spell Bowl coach from high school! I met an author of children's novels, and my neighbor to the left was a twenty-five year veteran who wrote historical fiction. I tried looking her up on Amazon, but the global giant had never heard of her; yet she boasted over a dozen books that spoke to her experience.
The time finally arrived - in fact, it had passed nearly twenty minutes prior by the time I stopped my interactions with the other authors. It seemed the public was hardly lined up at the door in anticipation of this event, though a few had trickled in. Over the next three hours, I was privileged to meet many readers of all kinds of genres - sort of, I suppose, as it seemed they were most interested in non-fiction and historical fiction. "Well, my series is young-adult fantasy!" I would boisterously inform my patron, upon which he or she would politely invite me to explain the plot to my novel. I sold three books - thank goodness I bought that Sharpee! - and added the same number of readers to my email list. It was a modest return by most any count.
So, was it worth it? I would offer a thousand yeses, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I got to be surrounded by many fellow authors who share the same county address as me, and I learned so much that I truly felt honored to even be in the presence of such wisdom. And besides, how often do I get to talk about my book for three hours straight?
I will certainly be on the lookout for more such events, and I hope to attend next year's READ! Local Author Fair. When I do, I hope you'll join me - just don't ask if I write historical fiction.