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I have yet to give you a full account of speaking and signing at the Baltimore Book Festival this past September. I got involved with the event after signing at DC’s Awesomecon in April 2014. So it goes to show that the cons and other book signing events are great for networking.
The Baltimore Book Festival was three days long, and as I flew in from Seattle for the event, I only stayed for two days so I could see friends from back home and attend a baby shower the third day I was in town. At the book festival I did a short reading of Elected, participated in a science fiction fans/authors meet and greet, spoke on a panel about YA books, and did a panel about the use of science fiction books for kids’ education. I got to see some great writer friends: Marissa Meyer, Diana Peterfreund, and my publisher Ron Garner. Ron gave me my first royalty check from Elected’s sales at the event, so that was a bonus too!
A few takeaways from the event/lessons learned:
1) The festival took place on the expanse of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, but the coordinators put all of the speaking tents toward the very back of the exhibits (maybe to lure all guests through the sales tents on their way to see authors speak…) It was hard to find us, and I had to go so far as to walk through the inner harbor handing out promo material, telling festival go’ers when I was going to speak and where. It felt a bit like prostituting my book, and I tell you, that was the hardest thing I did all weekend. Walking up to random people and thrusting (nicely) your book info into their hand takes some chutspa and extrovertedness that was even a stretch for me. But…it did attract more people to my book reading than would have otherwise come. And my sales numbers on Amazon shot up the following day. It even encouraged a group of six African-American teenage boys to my reading. That was particularly inspiring for me because I felt like by me walking up to them randomly near one of the food tents and telling them I was specifically inviting them to my reading, it helped make them feel more welcome at the festival. And maybe it even encouraged them to read more or have a good feeling about books/reading. Reaching out to those kids was one of my favorite parts of the festival, and when they actually showed up at my reading, I couldn’t stop smiling.
2) Speaking on a panel, even if it’s not about your book specifically, is beneficial. No matter what, you’ll somehow be asked about your novel during the panel, so it’s a good promotional venue even if the panel’s topic is on something like homeschooling, as was mine. It was mostly after these panels that people wanted to buy my book and have it signed. I think being on a writers’ panel with others is easier than doing a reading.
3) It was hot! And the VIP author tent was reserved just for key note speakers at the event. It’s good to be friends with one of these people, as I got to use the tent anyway. But seriously, without that, I would have gotten heat exhaustion in the 90 degree weather for two days in a row. So while the event proved to be good publicity, it does take a toll on the body. My advice for any authors doing an outdoor book festival: make sure you eat and drink! It’s too easy to get wrapped up into the commotion of the event and talking to readers, not wanting to miss a single potential customer, but energy and enthusiasm can only go so far.
Here are a couple more pictures from the event. One was a random woman I saw reading my book, and the other is a young, new fan posing for a picture with me.
A fun experience all around!
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