During the past year of COVID isolation, many Indie Authors – indeed, most Indie Authors – have been forced to cancel plans for fairs, festivals, and bookshop signing events. For those of you who are unfamiliar, these events are the best way for Indie Authors to meet new readers, make (what we hope will be) a lasting connection, and sell books. These events are not only for the readers, but for the authors, too. It is a way for Indie Authors to network with other authors, gain valuable insight into craft concepts, marketing tips, and simply build new friendships with people who “get it”. One who writes, after all, is a specialized brand of unique. We talk with our imaginary friends regularly, and they tell us some of the most fascinating stories, that we are then compelled to record and share. People who don’t engage in this process may not fully understand. But the other writers – oh yeah – they get it. So, events where we can connect with both the storytellers and the readers of the world are critical to our sanity. One fuels the process to continue, the other legitimizes it.
Over the past year, I’ve been privileged to host three very different Virtual Book Festivals. Why? Because I noticed that Indie Authors needed another option for outreach. Because I noticed that readers were complaining about a lack of new book discovery. Because I missed my tribe. And, because I live by the philosophy that says, “You don’t get to complain if you don’t take action.” So, I jumped in the deep end, and launched headlong into what has been, and might become, one of the most positive community engagement opportunities I’ve ever done.
That first Virtual Book Festival, back in June of 2020, was a bit shaky, to say the least. Zoom was new technology to me, and I didn’t have what I would call a solid outline. I’d hosted in-person festivals in the past, and even produced fifty-four episodes of a TV program spotlighting and interviewing Indie Authors, but those are vastly different from entering into a digital world, attempting to achieve the same ends. I designed a loose format of interviews and readings, hoping that it would all work out. That first Virtual Book Festival simply reinforced the fact that, creatively, I cannot survive as a Pantser! I enjoy the flexibility structure offers… and the back up plan when things don’t go so smoothly. So I tried again in October.
The Autumn Virtual Book Festival was similar in many ways, but different, too. In my very Plotter nature, I made a plan, devised a theme, and tried to build games and prizes that supported the idea. Some of it went well, some of it didn’t. It turns out that there is indeed such a thing as over-planning, and over committing to too many subplots. It was a fun festival, with nearly sixty-five separate events, each author getting two days of airtime… but it was difficult to convey the core of the message – extraordinary books and authors – to readers, and it was exhausting for me. So, I did what I do with my writing, I enlisted the help of editors and beta readers that I trust, and I killed my darlings. After that process of evaluation, I figured, what the heck, I’ll take what I’ve learned, and try again in February. After all, one doesn’t stop writing simply because one doesn’t sell thousands of books with the first two offerings. And, I wasn’t doing anything in the middle of winter, anyway.
So, I revamped my plan. I reduced the number of events, scaling back to just one per day (instead of two or three), combined authors in genre groups, rather than in individual segments, and added an element of fun and mystery with a Blind Date marketing platform. To create a greater level of security, and (I hoped) to create a more welcoming (and less intimidating) interaction, I limited the onscreen video to presenting authors and backstage crew. I added mini-workshops to support aspiring writers and authors with their craft, and changed the contest/prize schema to once per day, rather than once per week, with three fun bonus prizes, and a super bonus prize for the really courageous who chose to be silly along the way. Again, some aspects of this festival were more effective and engaging than others, and I learned a lot. The most important lesson… what is a creative marketing hook for me, is a decisive challenge for others, even after I explain my vision. Will I ever do a Blind Date event again… perhaps not. It was a tricky wicket for some. However, not to be deterred completely, and because plotting is certainly my strength, even before February was over, I began planning for the June 2021 Virtual Book Festival… in the event that there was interest to continue from the authors. It turns out, there was some interest… so, onward ho!
Now, as I’ve once again launched my skiff into an unknown sea, I find myself in the doldrums of self-doubt and continuous creative self-recrimination. Am I actually providing a thing – writing a Festival Story – that people want? I know that my motives are equal parts selfishness in my own discovery of new authors and their books, and a sincere desire to help those in my tribe to be more successful and thrive in this unusual preoccupation we share. Yet, in the dead air of day, with the tell-tails laying flat against the canvas… I begin to hallucinate mirages of mutiny on the horizon. Yes, I’ve got cabin fever, as do a lot of us… but is that reason enough... is another Virtual Book Festival solution enough... to outweigh the investment of my, and everyone else’s, time, attention, and money? The promise I made to myself was that I would continue until I was told to stop… as with my writing.
And yet, one must consider the perspective that silence may also be the answer that should direct one’s action; at least until the voices are brave enough to deny and decry. After all, if it can happen to Dr. Suess, can’t it also happen to me? Is that a risk that’s worth taking in the promotion of myself? In my promotion of others? In my practice of writing?
I have set my sails, plotted my course, and made the commitment. Once more, I will cast my dock lines aside this June. Beyond that… the sea is a fickle mistress, and perhaps my time and energy as lighthouse keeper will become moot.
I'm madly in love with bookshops; big, small, big box, and Indie. I'm the person that, when you take me shopping at those large warehouse stores, I always seek out the book tables while you find the bags of bulk shrimp. I've been known to stop at garage sales, just to see if they're selling any books (far be it for me to abandon homeless books!), and I have been known to browse at a bookshop for up to five hours at a time (to the complete frustration of my husband); and come home with an armload of books. I read them all, eventually. And it doesn't matter how full my shelves are, I will always buy more. You can never have too many books. Books make the best gifts, no matter the celebration. They're great as birthday presents, holiday presents, and "please forgive me for being stupid" presents. Seriously, there's not an occasion in this world that a book doesn't perfectly fit and the perfect gift.
My favorite bookshops though, are the Indie Bookshops. These are wonderful escapes, carefully curated by souls who love books just as much as I do - perhaps even more - although that's doubtful. The moment you walk into these spaces, you know that someone with a severe love of the written word has created a place where kindred souls can easily find each other, no matter their profession, hobby interests, or age. Three of my favorite Indie Bookshops are right here, in Michigan. I love each of these for different reasons. And I recommend you visit them all!
Toadvine Books; Berkley, Michigan is owned and operated by Luke Janes. He's a wonderful man who brought his love of bookselling with him from Denver. He had a shop there, too. Luke is super-knowledgeable about books. He's has a special affinity for information about rare and unique titles. He carefully curates each box of books, to be sure that it fits his standards of excellence, and the literary dreams of his visitors. The shop is small and inviting; with gentle jazz or classical music playing on vinyl, from a real turntable! It's a very intimate place with beautiful wood shelving and floors, and high-back, comfy chairs placed strategically throughout. Toadvine Books offers a wonderful collection of used and new books, and they have a very special collection of rare and unusual books, as well. There is a large youth room at the back of the shop, filled with books for children, as well as a hearty collection of comic books and graphic novels. Luke also offers a prominent set of shelves near the front of the shop to showcase local Indie Authors. If you haven't been to Toadvine Books, I highly recommend the trip; you won't be disappointed. You can find Toadvine Books at 2783 Coolildge Highway, Berkley, Michigan 48072 The phone is 248-439-0409; and you can reach them at ToadvineBooks@gmail.com. The shop hours are Tuesday thru Saturday, 11am - 6pm; and Sunday, 1pm - 5pm. Luke offers curbside pick up and advance ordering via phone, Facebook, and email. Be sure to call him to learn about any COVID restrictions or changes in their bookselling processes.
Book Cottage, Jackson, Michigan is owned and operated by Nancy Lemler-Oakley. She's a wonderful woman, and a terrific author, in her own right. Book Cottage is an eclectic mix of both new and used books. There is a large shelf near the front door where Nancy displays books written by local Indie Authors, and she also has a large children's section with toys, games, and puzzles, including the Michigan Chillers series. As you walk through the shop, you're enticed by the overflowing shelves of books, all easily organized. But the extra gem here, is that Book Cottage also hosts a market area with consignment items. Here, you can find wonderful treasures from toys to glassware, clothing and tools. The fun thing is, you come in looking for books, and leave with books AND an unexpected extra treasure or two. Nancy hosts events throughout the year to showcase both local authors and local consigners... it's always a delightful surprise to discover something new at Book Cottage. You can find Book Cottage at 4500 Francis Street, Jackson, Michigan 49203. The phone is 517-768-8030 and you can reach them at BookCottage@gmail.com. The shop hours are Monday thru Thursday, 9am - 5pm; Friday 9am - 7pm; Saturday, 10am - 4pm, and Sunday, 12pm - 4pm. Nancy offers curbside pickup as well as advance ordering via phone, Facebook, and email. Be sure to call her ahead to learn about any COVID restrictions or changes in their bookselling processes.
R&B Used Books; Grand Blanc, Michigan is owned and operated by Beth Dumity. This shop has been around for over fifteen years, and it keeps growing each year. Beth has organized her gargantuan collection of used books into eleven rooms, each one holding shelves full of one particular genre. You'll find both paperback and hardback books here, and she accepts books on trade for store credit. One of the most fascinating things about R&B Used Books is that Beth rescues books from donation sources - both private and organizations - and finds them new, forever homes. She has a non-profit organization that gives back to the community with the love of literature. Her goal is to provide books to anyone who wants to read, and she does a stellar job at it! R&B Used Books also has a generous space to support local Indie Authors, and, something extra-special; Indie Author, Boyd Craven is the author in residence at the shop. Much like a shop cat, you may find him on any given day, sequestered in his writing space, crafting his next book. The wonderment of having a resident author is that occasionally, when Boyd comes up for air, you can ask him questions about his books, his writing process, and when you're hooked - and you will be, quickly - he will gladly sign books for you. His entire catalogue us hosted at the shop, of course. Make sure you visit R&B Used Books... but plan on spending a few hours. There are literally THOUSANDS of books at amazing pricing! You can find R&B Used Books at 12830 Saginaw Road, Suite F, Grand Blanc, Michigan 48439. The phone is 810-695-7762 and you can reach them at Beth@RandBUsedBooks.com. The shop hours are Monday, by appointment only; Tuesday thru Saturday, 11am - 5pm; Thursday, 11am - 7pm, and Sunday, 1pm - 5pm. Beth offers curbside pickup as well as advance ordering via phone, Facebook, and email. Be sure to call her ahead to learn about any COVID restrictions or changes in their bookselling process.
I had a good time at this year's Women Who Write Book Festival. It was an interesting change to be surrounded by other women authors. The festival was held in Grand Rapids, at the Salvation Army Center there, and organized by a group called "Hook A Sista Up", a group in Grand Rapids, that fosters writing and other entrepreneurial pursuits of women.
The center was a great space to hold an event like this. The room was large, and the tables were laid out to make easy travel for lots of people. There were large windows which let in great light, which is a bonus when books are involved.
I was thrilled to not only showcase my books, but also share books written by Andy Lockwood and Donald Levin. One of the pure joys I have, being an author advocate, is getting exposure for authors where they wouldn't normally find readers. Participating in events like this make that possible. It was a great day, and each one of us sold books!
I had only two disappointments with the day; slow traffic and too short a day. I was expecting many more people to be at the event, given how much pre-advertising was done by this group through social media. I was surprised to see so few people. However, one thing I did notice was the poor on-site marketing. I've noticed this with many events... not enough signs on the street, in front of the building, or in the lobby so passersby who aren't on social media can discover the event. Also, I think that because the day was so short - it ended at 3pm, fewer people were able to find us and attend. Perhaps a longer day next year might go over better. It was a two and a half hour drive for me... which made it a bit frustrating that I didn't have a greater opportunity to reach more readers. I think if the event were to be extended, either starting earlier or ending later, might help with foot traffic. Other than that, it was a great day!
The bonus to the day... My table sat next to the spectacular Peggy Christie and I bought her latest collection of short stories; (book review coming soon.) I look forward to the opportunity to try this event again next year!
A special thank you goes out to Bailey Lockwood for helping me discover this event. I appreciate you, muchly!
This is an event that I look forward to every year. It is spectacularly well organized, in an fantastic location, and partnered with the SterlingFest event... all things that make this a super-fun day. The Sterling Heights Library is the sponsor of this event that brings together 70 Michigan Authors of nearly every genre known to literature. The tables are nicely spaced under the portico in front of the library, extending toward the Police Station, and overlooking the Arts & Craft show. The number of people who walk through this event every year is staggering! This event is so well-trafficked that the city provides for parking lots in outlying areas, and has shuttle buses to bring people in. There are food vendors, musical acts playing throughout the day, and so many friendly faces, it's hard NOT to have a good day at this festival.
My favorite part of the day, aside from the new readers I get to talk with, is the time I get to spend sharing the day with my tribe. I'm thrilled to say that out of the 70 authors that were in attendance, I am friends with about 75% of them already! I was able to catch up with my friends and have a great day in the sunshine, surrounded by books. I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday!
My husband, amateur photographer, Dave Plopa, took some photos, posted here... and he caught me and some of my friends having fun on video, too. A huge thank you goes out to him for all his love and support!
I'm excited to attend this fun event next year!
Photos and Video provided by Dave Plopa Photography
So much of life (and book festivals) is throwing noodles at the wall to see what sticks. What slides down the wall to the floor, you let the dogs eat. What sticks, teaches you that you got something right, and then you reproduce the steps you took, and enjoy the fact that you get to eat more great pasta than you let the dogs eat. There are so many factors involved in this experiment, it can be challenging. The definitive recipe book for this has yet to be written.
Which Pasta Company Makes The Best Noodles?
Do I have the right brand of pasta at the start? This is a tough one. You want to choose a brand that you think people will notice, one they are familiar with, one they've experienced before. I really thought I covered this detail well. The brand I chose was well-known, and large enough to be seen from all four directions... but I guess it wasn't familiar to enough people, because some still had trouble noticing it. So, perhaps not the right brand of pasta. Not a terrific start to dinner.
Are there obstructions between the pantry where you keep the pasta and the stove where you eventually will cook the pasta? Do you need to step over things like trucks, piles of sand, broken pieces of flooring? This is difficult to predict. Of course, if when you make plans for pasta night, and you know you're renovating the kitchen the same day, you probably don't want to cook pasta that night, and maybe do burgers on the grill, in the back yard instead. But, if you made plans for pasta dinner in advance, and the ceiling falls in, damaging the floor in the process... well, there's not much you can do about that. Unforeseen issues may arise, stuff you can't plan for, but you go ahead with your pasta dinner anyway, because you promised people you'd make pasta. So you dodge the cracks in the floor and the piles of drywall, navigating carefully around them to get to the stove, working hard not to spill the huge pot of water. Stuff happens that we can't control sometimes; but we make the best of it.
So, you've got a really nice pasta dinner planned, and you've told everyone you know. You sent out colorful, nifty invitations. You've told them about the kind of sauce you'll be using, the mountains of cheese that will be available, and you've even offered meat or meatless options. You tell every one of your friends, and you invite them to tell their friends, because after all, a pasta dinner is so much fun, you want to share it with as many people as you possibly can. You spend time posting flyers at local meeting places around town, places that don't usually serve pasta (and some that do), you send out several emails and redundant social media postings about the snazzy dinner you're hosting, and you send letters to the local media to let them know how cool your pasta dinner will be... you can only hope everyone will tell the world, or at least everyone within a twenty mile drive.
Pasta Dinner Day
So, you've got your pot of boiling water filled with noodles on the stove, and you add a bit of salt, just to make sure the pasta will cook evenly. You make sure there's plenty of garlic bread, and extra cheese... just in case. You set out the tables and chairs, and make sure that everyone has easy access to the bathrooms... again, just in case. You put out six large signs on the roads to direct people to the kitchen, and another just inside the door, hoping people will see them and make their way to your table in droves. You grab the camera, and get ready for some fun pasta dinner hi-jinks because, let's face it, your friends are the BEST at having a good time when they get to share pasta and talk about EVERYTHING they love about noodles.
Your Friends Arrive Hungry, But...
This is a good thing. You've cooked the pasta and thrown it against that wall. Most of it sticks, but there are a few pieces that fall to the floor. But, with a golden retriever and a little terrier, there's no worry of ants ruining dinner. So you press on. All is going well, you're all set up around the table, ready to share a splendiferous meal with a crowd of pasta enthralled people... but no one shows up. Well, okay, a few trickle in here and there... but not nearly as many as you had planned on, or hoped for. You're disappointed, of course, everyone is. You had really hoped that your friends would scream about this pasta dinner from the rooftops, but it appears that they didn't tell anyone. Or maybe your friends don't have any friends who like pasta, or at least, not this particular brand. You hoped that the local media would scream about it, too, but... crickets. So, everyone packs up and goes home, frustrated and feeling let down because you promised them a remarkable pasta dinner with tons of people, and it just didn't work out that way. You feel a little like a fraud and a lot like a failure.
The Next Day
After contemplating the pasta dinner over a cup of cocoa, and going over where things went wrong, you come to a few conclusions.
First, you should have anticipated that not everyone likes your brand of pasta. They're not used to seeing the green box, and so they didn't really notice the trouble you went to in buying the best brand you could find... while staying within your budget. You probably should have thought this through and asked people ahead of time what brand of pasta they preferred. That may have enticed more people to come to dinner.
Second, you should have checked more than six months in advance to see if any demolition work was planned for that section of the kitchen before you chose the date for your dinner. And in fact, you did, but either the renovations that took place wren't planned, or the workmen didn't bother to tell you... it's hard to nail down the truth on that one because contractors can be so unpredictable.
Third, you realize that you should have had more signs, more cheese, more bathrooms, and more time to take photos. Perhaps a clown or pony rides would have helped, too. But, you had a limited budget based on what your friends were willing to kick in for this awesome dinner, and there wasn't anything left for fun frills like that... so, dinner wasn't all that much fun. None of your friends offered to help, either, and you felt rude and awkward at the idea of delegating or asking for more money. A couple people even left the dinner early. Disheartened, you pack up your leftover pasta, and go home. The leftover pasta, and cheese, and garlic bread are all spoiled now, and you've lost a ton of money, and there's nothing left to give to charity. At this point, even the dogs aren't interested in cleaning up what's left.
Out of desperation, you write a note to all your friends. You tell them that you had planned to host another pasta dinner party in a few months, but after the utter failure you just experienced, you just aren't sure that's such a good idea. So, you ask for their feedback. You ask them to hide their identities so they can feel at ease in being brutally honest. After all, false feedback doesn't help anyone make a better pasta party. What you get back is indeed, brutally honest. But it's not incredibly helpful. There's a lot of critique, but not many specific suggestions on how to improve. Frustration looms large.
Finally, after much thought, a review of the financials, and a conversation with the dogs about their lack of interest in pasta, you make the decision NOT to host another pasta party. Although it's a lot of fun, it's too much work for just one person. And let's face it, you're not as young as you used to be. You contemplate that perhaps the dinner would have been more fun if you had spent more money on things like a balloon animal guy, a marching band, and a gigantic full-page ad in every newspaper in town, but you didn't want to ask your friends to pay more than the pasta dinner was actually worth; 'cus you know, that's all sorts of fun once, but then who wants to spend that kind of money on another pasta dinner party, like EVER?
There's a lot of sadness when you stare at the leftover noodles the next day, and even two days later when they're stinking up the kitchen, and realize that perhaps no matter what you try, people will NEVER like your pasta. So, you accept it and move on. Thinking that perhaps making chocolate chip cookies and only sharing them with your closest friends is a better idea.
I've always believed in the idea of doing what works and not doing what doesn't work... so, no more pasta dinner parties for me. But... I still like pasta. If you're hosting a pasta dinner party someday, I'd love it if you would include me on the guest list - and you can be sure, I'll tell the world!
Translation: Although fun for me, The Summer Indie Author Book Festival 2019 was a complete and utter failure. Pages Promotions will not be hosting another Indie Book Festival. If you already reserved a table for future planned events, your refund will be processed shortly. We appreciate your patience. Thank you.
This was a fun day shared with some of my favorite Indie Authors. We had hoped it to be a full weekend, but alas, the storm clouds had other plans for Sunday. Books and Rain are not good friends, so we chose to make it Saturday only, and avoid any unpleasant arguments between the two. And still, we had a great day!
It's a treat to spend festival time with other authors. Working together, we get to offer a greater variety of books to readers, reach out to people who perhaps wouldn't have discovered us or our books, share time "talking shop", and simply having fun hanging out.
Rochester puts on a fun festival, and I plan to return again next year. There were lots of fun events for families, chain saw carving, Irish Step Dancers, Civil War Re-enactors, classic cars, pony rides, and so much more. The event was well organized. They were super-nice people, and very accommodating. The staff made it easy to find the event space, with plenty of signs. We got to pull right up and unload at our space. That's always a bonus. Books can be heavy, and it's nice to avoid the long walks from parking lots with boxes. They did a good job publicizing the event in local media and on social media. Foot traffic was good, despite the disparaging weather.
We met some wonderful people, and sold some books. Meeting readers is something I think every writer enjoys. We get to learn about what they like to read, and perhaps get some new ideas for an upcoming project. The young readers are so cute. Their faces light up when they see a cover that catches their attention. They encourage us to continue on our literary paths. It's nice to imagine these new readers as adults one day, surrounded by books.
Lessons learned from my first "in the wild" festival:
1. Wear water-proof shoes, just in case it rains.
2. Make sure the canopy has well-anchored sides to reduce wind effects.
3. Bring extra cash for the AMAZING french fries you might encounter.
4. Always bring good friends to share the day!
A Huge THANK YOU to Donald Levin, Brenda Hasse, and Charles Stern for making it a fantastic day!
This was my second "running with the Penguins" and I had a blast!
Last year, I participated as a speaker on several panel discussions, read from my short story collection (okay, DRAKE's short story collection) and volunteered in the bookshop a little bit. It was a whirlwind of a weekend, and I came home tired... good tired.
This year, I took a different approach... I didn't participate on any panels, and focused on experiencing the Con as a writer instead. I still volunteered at the bookshop... I'll always do that... but this year, it was nice to get out to some of the panels and sit with the "regular" people rather than present. It's a different type of exposure to an event that has so much to offer. I enjoyed having this different perspective. It was fun.
I took part in a panel on pitching your MS to whomever... this was a great way to be reminded that a pitch, whether in an elevator or at a festival, is NOT necessarily your back cover blurb. I knew this already, but of course, who among us doesn't need an occasional refresher course?
I attended a panel that discussed the wonderful writing of Ray Bradbury and how he influenced other writers of that genre. I also attended a session devoted to the mechanics of writing a "Choose Your Own Adventure" novel. I loved this session because this is something that's on my list of writing projects. I've toyed with it for several years, but couldn't quite grasp the nuts and bolts of the build. This session was extremely helpful in showing me an effective flow process. Now, that project is again closer to the front burner... not like I don't have enough irons in my creative mind's fire already!
There was a lively discussion about Tropes. This session was particularly helpful for me... not because I'm confused with what tropes are or how to use them, but because I'm planning a major collaboration project that focuses on using tropes as a momentum vehicle for the story's progression. I'm being cagey about this right now because it's a great idea, and I'm still working on the specifics with a team of outstanding writers. But, stay tuned, because more details will be leaking out shortly. Tease? Me? Never!
There was also a very supportive discussion about attaining your MFA on your own terms... DYI. Hearing about the positive aspects of designing your own degree program was a great reminder that the writer doesn't necessarily need a "credited" program to learn more about craft and thrive as an author. There are a lot of accelerated workshops and low residency retreats that can fuel the writing flames just as effectively, without the long-term commitment or cost of a degree program. The information given to us regarding programs and pricing was helpful, as were the tips and tricks of how to choose the best program for your style of writing.
The discussion group I enjoyed the most, I think, was the panel on Subversive Fairy Tales. This was a delicious romp through the world of what is and isn't a fairy tale, and the history behind them. So many people equate these stories with a Disney-esq approach, and it was refreshing to hear that other writers loved the original, darker tales, as I do. The Grimms Brothers didn't have talking animals in their stories, and they frequently didn't end happily ever after - regardless of how strong the orphan was at the end of the story. This conversation stimulated yet another story idea... and this is exactly why I enjoy Cons so much. You never know where your next story idea may come from, but you're certainly to locate many of them at a Con, if you sit, listen, and watch for a while.
Rounding out the event was time spent with fabulous authors, hearing them read, discussing craft, marketing approaches, and books, in general. I was honored to hear many authors read their work, including Michael W. Lucas, David Erik Nelson, Mary Lynne Gibbs, Jean Davis, G.S. Scott, Brigham Vaughn, and Clif Flynt. Cons are wonderful for networking and making new friends. I even got to play with baby Kit throughout the weekend!
The staff at The Westin in Southfield were exemplary, as usual. Kindness and cleanliness permeated the weekend. The staff got involved by collecting ribbons to show their support, and every one of them had a smile and a "hope you're having a great day" to add to the experience. This truly is a wonderful venue to hold a Con, and I can see why the organizers of Penguicon keep coming back.
Authors, Books, and a Baby... a great way to spend a weekend... even considering the wee bout of ConCrud that came home with me. Will I do it again next year? You Betcha!
I enjoyed my time at this event. The event was well planned-out, super-affordable, with a nice diversity of vendors. There were three book tables (mine and two others), spaced well throughout the room, which worked to everyone's benefit, I think. There was plenty of space for people to walk about without feeling claustrophobic, and nice table neighbors. An added bonus, there was the opportunity for families to bring their children to have photos taken with the Easter Bunny. This event had everything going for it, except there was one major problem... a lack of marketing common sense.
The only place I saw any promotion at all was on Facebook, and there wasn't very much of it. I shared whenever I could, but the organizers should have done more. I'm a member of LOTS of online resources to list events in Michigan, and I didn't see this event listed anywhere.
The event was held at a very nice German Community Club, the facilities were wonderful, clean, warm, with food available and lots of parking... but not one sign out front to let people driving by know that there was something exciting happening inside. The club is situated in Sterling Heights, off Utica Road, with lots of free parking, and plenty of traffic going by, but no one was turning in because no one knew that we were there! There was an "A" frame sign out front advertising the club's Friday Fish Fry, but no sign advertising this event. The event organizers put a hand-written sign on the front door - but no one could see that from the road.
The fact that it was the day before Easter, and a particularly rainy day, didn't help the declining visitors... but certainly, there would have been more people visiting had they known the event was happening. Many vendors were frustrated and went home early - which is never a good sign.
I sold some books, some people signed up for my newsletter, and I had a lovely conversation with my table neighbor... but I'm not sure I will attend this event if they host it next year. At least, not unless they promise to do some more promotion. It has lovely potential, but potential doesn't become real without marketing.
This is a book festival I always look forward to attending. Wonderful people, beautiful surroundings, and supporting a charity that serves literacy... what's not to love? Karen is an amazing organizer. She is truly a kind soul, and understands the importance of books and authors - most especially - local authors. We always have a warm welcome in her shop.
I had a fabulous day. The atmosphere at Leon & Lulu is calm and exciting, simultaneously. The energy of the place makes it easy to have conversations with readers and other authors, making for comfortable connectivity. The areas they give us are like miniature living rooms. Super comfy couches, exquisite tables, and enough space in between to get up and stretch. The environment is so comfortable, I feel more like I'm visiting with friends than working a festival.
This time, they offered readings from authors every fifteen minutes throughout the day. My reading time was at 12:30pm, which was perfect. For those of you who know me, afternoons are more brain-friendly for me. :-) I read from Drake's collection of short stories, "A Duck Quacks". It was fun to share his work with visitors. It was also wonderful that the reading space was so close to my table that I could support other authors when my time slot was over.
Spending the day hanging out with author friends, meeting readers, selling and signing books, and spending my day in such an energetically artistic place... The day was comfortable and easy going. I just love being a part of this festival. I look forward to attending again in Autumn.
This was my first time attending one of the Shipshewana On The Road events, either as a vendor or a guest. Its was an interestingly fun weekend.
For those seeking out a variety of stuff to buy, this is certainly the place. Vendors had everything from "as seen on TV" stuff, to hand-crafted wood and leather, to LOTS of food! Curiously enough, one of the most prevalent items I saw walking by in the hands of visitors was a "magic" mop... promised to pick up dog hair from nearly any surface - several people had two. The most curious item... the Sugar Gliders. Super cute, super soft, and completely irresistible. I didn't bring one home, though because... Charlie has no self-control yet.
I was there as a vendor, selling my books, sharing booth space with four other spectacular Indie Authors... Jordan J. Scavone, R.A. Andrade, Brenda Hasse, and Wendy Sura Thomson. After a slight learning curve for booth set up - it's always a challenge to find just the right configuration, we got right at it. The show ran both Saturday and Sunday, and we didn't need to breakdown and set up each day - the venue was locked and guarded at night. This, in itself, is a bonus.
Saturday saw more traffic and sales than Sunday, yet I met a lot of interesting people both days. I kibitzed with the other authors that the little microcosm of humanity that this show held provided a wealth of characters for my next twelve books! LOTS of interesting people! The booths were 10' x 10', and had pipe & drape back walls. The facility was well heated (a necessity, as some of us learned at a recent event), and the bathrooms were clean and safe. There was a very engaging security person who kept us entertained each time he made his rounds, and I think he enjoyed our antics as much as we enjoyed his. The aisles were wide, with plenty of room for the throng that walked them throughout the weekend. Standing at my table, engaging with readers, I never felt that the venue was too tight for the number of visitors.
There was only one other bookseller booth in the entire venue, which was nice. It made for very little competition for sales. The booth cost was affordable, split between us... but might be cost prohibitive for a single author. The sponsors had everything well in hand, were friendly, helpful, and well organized. The event seemed to be well-publicized, based on the number of visitors, and they had the event running on the marquee facing I-75 to draw in traffic.
You'll find some interesting stuff here... some Op Eds, some Information, Book Reviews, and More. Poke around the categories and see what ruffles your feathers... in a good way!