Posting 3. Working at a Book Event, Part One
It took some time for us, years ago, to get used to the simple fact that actually completing a book manuscript is only the first step, among a list that will start to feel longer and even endless, of getting folks to actually read our work. Let that sink in for a moment… you’ve gone from the “great story idea,” to making some notes, to mentioning it (or not) to others, to actually starting to write on your own. On our end, Dale admits that the creative process, while essential, has to be rethought and reorganized, so that a writer can mentally shift from completing the dream novel to understanding that, for all the work and toil and vulnerability of exposing one’s intimate thoughts becoming more public, to perceiving that (finally!) finished book as a product. And products have to be marketed and distributed and ultimately sold if they are to do any more than occupy space on shelves or, worse, in boxes.
In the meantime, there are the additional details, and sometime we may have to offer a blog post about what not to do in order to publish, including self-publishing. And we’ll definitely have to have a future blog post about the various steps: whether to copyright and to create a brand name, for instance. And even without these, there’s the editing (editor Ed has a published uncle who once told him that professional writing is less about writing and much more about re-writing!) And after that, there’s the question of submitting, whether to seek an agent, and then the fascinating, if sometimes intimidating, list of tasks involved in self-publishing (possible copyrighting, cover art, editing, formatting, finding a printer, ordering ISBNs (international standard book numbers), whether to create a publishing name and then whether to register it as an actual company…). The pro: staying in control and keeping whatever you earn; the con: not having the backing of an existing company to help, though the types and amounts of such help vary widely. Sales staff may not wish to represent your work or your interests; the company may declare the book out-of-print far earlier than you’d ever guessed; you may not like the chosen cover art or editorial decisions…
Anyway, that leaves the question of having a finished product, or maybe more than one, and actually showing up at an event to do signings or selling or both. Sometimes this is relatively easy. We’ve done a number of “shows” now, which can be like regular trade shows (meaning everyone who attends is really interested in books of all sorts of genres, and are ready to buy, while all the vendors are writers or editors or artists or all three). They can also be locales in which authors stand out somehow, like fairs or holiday marketplaces or seasonal events. These latter “shows” feature the creative works of a far wider group, as with Editor Ed’s recent revisiting the Holiday Market in Salem Oregon. Yummy treats could sometimes be smelled from the Stone Ring Press booth, and several musical acts made regular forays into the commercial buildings of the Oregon State Fairgrounds (indeed, Ed was stationed in the same building that the Oregon Authors use during the State Fair!) Other Oregon writers once again attended to sell their high quality wares, though we were all spread out through the buildings, not collected together like we might be for book-specific events. Still, folks seemed ready to wisely invest in good books as holiday gifts, and a holiday events like this truly offers a different feel from events that either don’t entail holidays, or focus on the publishing business itself.