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Thursday, September 17, 2015

What's in a Book Festival?

Book festivals are exhausting. So much to pack up - and I have a Prius, so packing that little sucker is like playing a high-stakes game of Tetris - so much to not forget, so many details to iron out, so few opportunities to eat or use the bathroom (who needs to use the bathroom, anyhow?), so much talking and smiling and talking and smiling and talking and smiling..., so much worry over selling enough books to make the venture profitable, so much hoping the person you're assuring will like your book will actually like your book, so much work. But I never question if going to book festivals is worth it, because my readership is what makes my writing possible.

Authors are a rather anchoritic bunch by nature. That is to say, we like to be alone, and we can tend to treat our art as a sort of religious practice. It's spiritually fulfilling, in a way, to close oneself off from the real world and sub-create a new world in the form of a story. I think most of us would prefer to write our stories in seclusion, submit them for editing and publishing, and then set them loose (for sale) in the magical world of the internet and let the readers come to us. No direct selling, please. No self-promotion, thank you very much. The Art should speak for itself.

The problem with this is, even in a perfect world, I don't believe this is ever the way it should be. Art always has a personal source. We, the authors, are part of our written works, and our readers deserve a chance to get to know us, and us them. To set a story loose on the world is to enter into a relationship with the people consuming the story. Hopefully that relationship will be a good one, but as with most relationships, it will not thrive without communication and effort on both parts.

One way devoted readers who have entered into a relationship with authors through their books can help that relationship thrive is by writing reviews on places such as Amazon and Goodreads, telling their friends about the author's books, and generally spreading the word! But how can the author foster a good relationship with his or her readers?

I think one way (besides the obvious way of continuing to write books) is to remain engaged and active in book festivals, and that is why I attend as many as I am able to attend. I can blog, I can Facebook and Tweet every day, I can post to Pinterest, but it's not the same as getting on the ground in the real world and meeting new (and old) readers. Meeting people in person - shaking hands and signing books, and placing my stories directly into their possession - is something that will never go out of style. It keeps me grounded and puts names and faces to my readers. It encourages me, too. I hope that, no matter where my books take me in the future, I will always have opportunities to attend book festivals and greet my readers in person. The moment you lose that personal connection to your readers is the moment you fail in your half of the author/reader relationship.

My next book festival, if you live anywhere in the vicinity and would care to join me, is the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, TN on Oct. 9-11. Come, grab a couple copies of The Gateway Chronicles or BREEDER, and build a relationship with me!

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