I went to a literary festival this weekend! Specifically, the Rocket City Lit Fest in Huntsville, AL. I write fantasy/sci-fi and my friend who writes Romance was with me. We were sponges, figuratively speaking, there to soak up as much information about every aspect of the craft of writing as we could. We attended some informative panel discussions and enjoyed talking to the authors who were there as vendors. I discovered it was also a great venue to learn something about the business side of the publishing industry.
One highlight of the day for me was getting to chat with Homer Hickam while he signed my copy of Carrying Albert Home, his latest memoir. You may recall that he wrote Rocket Boys, the basis for the gorgeous 1999 movie October Sky starring Jake Gyllenhaal. I met him (Homer, not Jake – that’s a very different story) many years ago so I’m always telling people “yes, I know Homer Hickam!” Now that I’ve had at least a solid four minutes of face-to-face, one-on-one time with him, I’ll be telling people he’s my dear friend. A brilliant fellow writer and inspiration. Check out his lovely website here: http://homerhickam.com/
My Romance-writing friend and I talked to lots of authors who haven’t yet become as famous as my good buddy Homer. Of course they were there to sell their books, so it was easy to strike up conversations about what they had written. I was interested in finding out what route they had taken to publication, whether they were self-published, had been discovered by a small/boutique press, or had gone the traditional route with an agent and contracts and a big publisher. Guess what? Most of them were self-published. Most of them attend events like this all the time to sell their books because they probably aren’t in bookstores, even if they are available as an e-book. When do they have time to write?
Can you spot the three Muggle-borns in the photo above?
It was easy to see that even the authors who were not self-published were accustomed to attending these events. The business of selling books has placed more marketing responsibility on the shoulders of authors. And that means – freebies! Among all the giveaways, the Romance writers had the most imaginative. A six-inch wooden ruler with the book title in a sexy red font is something that will put a smile on my face every time I use it. I didn’t win any of the drawings for gift cards or free books, but I have two fistfuls of brand-new bookmarks. The best ones carry the theme of the book’s cover art (some beautiful, others less so and even embarrassing), include the jacket copy blurb, and tell me where I can order online, but most importantly they have the author’s contact information. I will set aside time to look up these fellow writers and bookmark their blogs, follow them on Twitter, and subscribe to their newsletters.
The other highlight of my day at the lit fest was making the acquaintance of an author who runs a small publishing house. Since I’m not interested in self-publishing my manuscript, we have lots to talk about. Regardless of when or how I decide to publish my book, I know I need to learn more about the business of marketing and selling what I write. I may have to consider writing Romance because a lot of those gals actually make a decent living with their writing. There’s a much bigger market for Romance than sci-fi, plus the freebies are awesome!