Writing isn't for wimps, especially if your aim is to send it out into the world for others to read.
There is nothing wrong, of course, in writing for therapy or writing for your own amusement or for the benefit of a select group of friends and family or indeed an audience for One. Such aims are noble and worthwhile. Yet we can also be called or constrained to take our work further afield, and that too is a worthy aim.
As I mentioned in an earlier post (here), writing for a wider public could be considered a triathlon: writing the book (or other work), getting the book published (traditional or Indie), and then helping readers aware of your book (marketing and promotion). Each stage has it's joys and struggles. Not one of them is easy.
Today, I'll like to focus on connecting with readers. No, not another post on social media, but on some face-to-face ways of bringing your opus to the attention of readers who would enjoy and appreciate it.
It seems to me that there might be four ways of bringing a reader's attention to a book
1) Through a distribution network, which includes having the book in catalogues and/or on the shelves of bookstores or libraries or airports.
2) Online availability and promotions (listing the book with online retailers like Amazon, Kobo, I-Books etc), and promoting social media, and advertising.
3) Word of Mouth - through reviews and the recommendation by enthusiastic readers to other readers.
4) Author-Reader events - such as book launches, author signings at bookshops, conventions, book fairs or having a stall at a fete, author visits and talks.
Traditional publishers often favour the first option, Indie publishers the second, but the truth is, that barring miracles (which surely can happen), whether your book is published by a traditional publisher or Indie published, you as the author will need to be proactive in promoting your books if you want them to be seen. And as most authors (though by no means all) are introverts, that can be a daunting prospect.
Unlike my husband, I have to make an effort to put myself out to strangers. On social media, at least I get to think about what I'm going to say, to edit and retype messages. It doesn't feel as confronting as talking to people in the flesh. Yet, I have to say, that eye to eye contact can be a lot of fun. If you haven't done it, maybe it's worth considering.
As yet, I haven't arranged a print book launch, author visits to libraries and schools or book signings at a bricks and mortar bookshops, though I know a number of our members have been quite proactive in this area. What I have done is fetes, a book fair, and conventions.
Over the last two years, two other authors - Lynne Stringer and Adele Jones - and I have teamed up to go to both OzComicCon and Supernova. Not only has it been a lot of fun, we've connected with our crowd (fantasy and science-fiction geeks), spoken to lots of potential readers, meet some interesting authors, sold books and even had enthusiastic fans seeking us out at the next event.
By combining as a team, we've been able to share expenses and support each other over the long days of the convention. We have also each signed up to Square (there are other systems as well) which is a seamless way of accepting credit cards as well as cash for sales. Also, posters, banners and - in our case - cosplay (dressing up as characters in our books) helps with presentation. Having a bit of bling or swag often attracts attention (though there may be restrictions on what you can give away.)
Overall, it has been a great experience and has been incredibly encouraging to find people who are interested in what we have to offer them.
For a couple years now, I've had a table at our church's Christmas Twilight Markets. This too has been a great experience. Expenses were minimal and I have made some sales and connections. On the whole though, despite a few enthusiastic book readers, the attenders have not been as interested in buying books or in my particular genre (fantasy and science fiction).
Fetes (school fetes, street markets, car boot sales, handmade markets etc) would have potential to connection with readers, though it would depend a lot on the market (people going to a Farmer's Market may be far more interested in fresh vegetable than buying books).
Over the last three years, I've been part of organising the Omega Writers Book Fair in Brisbane. We've run the Book Fair in September 2016, March 2018 and the third one is coming up on 16 March 2019. (We changed from September to March as there were so many writers' events occurring between August to October, it was hard to choose a date that didn't clash with something else).
The Book Fair runs from 10am to 2:30pm. Authors, editors, illustrators and others pay a smallish fee for a table to help cover venue costs, advertising, lunches etc. We have display bags, a scavenger hunt (for signatures from each table), door prizes, author readings and workshops. Actual attendance for readers is free (or gold coin donation), and workshops have a nominal price.
Each year we have had an enthusiastic response from local Christian authors - with most returning for a second or third year. Despite efforts of spreading the word about the Fair, it has been harder to entice readers, but we did see a upturn at the second Fair and hope to see even more attend this year. A radio interview with Anne Hamilton will be aired on Vision Radio in the first week or so of March this year. And libraries, schools, local papers etc have been contacted. Hopefully too, each author will promote to their network, encouraging them to attend. We also have a Facebook Page (check here) and Event Page (here) where we can promote our authors and keep people up to date with developments.
Our current venue works well with respect to undercover spaces and a separate room for workshops. It is relatively central (though on the northside of Brisbane). It's main drawback is a lack of visibility from the main street. This year we have a banner and signs to draw people in.
Certainly many authors have had good or at least some sales and contacts with interested readers. Last year, a home-schooling dad was enthusiastic about seeing so many authors with quality children's books suitable for his son.
It is a lot of hard work on the part of the organisers and it takes time to establish an event like this, so that it gets known and appreciated. Despite this, I think it's been a worthwhile endeavour, not just because of sales and connections, but hopefully also because it raises the profile of our writing community. I get the feeling that many readers are unaware of Australian Christian writers and having an annual Book Fair is one way of alerting potential readers that there are many quality books that might not grace the shelves of a bookstore and are worth their time and interest.
No doubt there are other legitimate ways of connecting with readers in person. What have your tried? What would you be willing to try? Let us know in the comments below.
And, if you are in South-East Queensland on Saturday, 16th March - or at the Gold Coast on 22-24th April, we'd love for you to drop in to see us either at the Omega Writers Book Fair - or at Supernova Gold Coast.
She has published numerous short stories, poems, four novellas in the Under the Mountain series, her debut novel, Akrad's Children and Ruhanna's Flight and other stories.
Her latest release is Shadow Crystals, the penultimate novella in the Under the Mountain series with Caverns of the Deep due in April/May.
Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and a Master of Arts (Writing). She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.
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