Once upon a time Booktrope came along and changed everything…they offered me a publishing contract. With Booktrope we do what is termed ‘team publishing,’ in that we create a team consisting of author, editor, book manager, project manager, proof reader and cover designer, all working together to generate the best book possible before it goes to press. But today I’m not here to talk about the specifics of an individual project, I’m here to talk about the much larger possibilities that Booktrope offers its authors.
Booktrope itself is one large family, with everyone helping each other out and flagging up opportunities. Maybe what’s on offer is as simple as someone offering to buddy-up over a coffee (Or virtual coffee via Skype) because they work in a particular industry and have insider knowledge that will help you perfect a scene, or maybe it’s a chance for visual exposure to the industry, such as being asked if you’d like to share table space at the Montana Book Festival. On my own I would never have heard of, thought of, or even dreamt of having my novel Visiting Lilly represented at the prestigious Montana Book Festival. After all, I live in the UK, not America.
So, when Booktrope’s highly talented author Paula Marie Coomer sent round a message inviting fellow Tropers to take part in the Montana Book Festival, I was eager to be involved. My enthusiasm stemmed not from anticipated book sales, but a deep understanding that to display my novel to a wider audience offers traction to becoming a recognised author.
Here’s Paula’s excellent report.
First, I’d like to thank Guy Pace for joining me. We had such a fun time chatting back and forth and talking to all the wonderful folks who came past our table. Guy was relentless! He is a great front man who would not let people not talk to him. It was a wonderful thing to see. Also have to give a shout out to Barb Drozdowich Jae Carvel Massimo Marino Kandi J Wyatt Allan Ament Tess Thompson Toni Allen for providing books and swag. We didn’t sell too much, but we talked to lots of people about Booktrope, gave out most of the handouts about the Booktrope website, and talked to a number of authors looking for a literary home.
What events like this always remind me of is how much writing is being done out there, how many writers there are, how many ways of approaching the writing life and task of writing, how many different goals writers have, how many different types of books and publishers, and just how alive and well and buzzing the world of books is. I ached for those authors out there roaming the world looking for a publisher. We all remember what that was like.
It was also my first time to be on the vendor side of things. I have previously only attended writing and book conferences as an author or presenter. I’d never considered setting up a vendor table as an author. In this case, I registered as Booktrope since we had a number of BT authors represented. What I didn’t know is that the name and logo for Booktrope would be published far and wide. It got me thinking about name recognition and how setting up at festivals like this might be quite a boon for new book authors who are trying to get their work and name out there. One of the most interesting moments was talking to a physicist from New Mexico about Massimo Marino’s trilogy (Massimo is a physicist). The man didn’t buy a book, but I’m guessing he won’t forget the conversation he had with Guy about it. My point is, what are the chances of connecting with someone like that? If Massimo had been there, I’m sure the man would have purchased the book. (Hmm. Maybe having authors standing by on Skype or Facetime next time? Very 21st century.) We connected with him because of what he does for a living. It made me think about the fact that I have a book about a nurse, but have I ever reached out to the nursing community around it? No! Why is that? Why wouldn’t I think of doing that first?
It made me realize, once again, that hands-on selling may be expensive, in terms of what it takes to get us out there in the world, but it is an adjunct to online promotion and can, in fact, give new direction to our online promotions. Maybe we need to think more deeply about the populations represented in our books. Who are the outliers? Who else might we have missed? (I’m thinking in my first novel, also, of how much a part the natural world plays, yet it now dawns on me that I’ve never once thought to introduce the book to a group of naturalists interested in our well-studied geographical region.)
Also, what about groups you identify with? Guy has a passion for Harleys, so he’s been talking up his book to a Harley group he’s connected with online. How brilliant. A Harley rider who wrote a book. Anyone who rides Harleys or loves motorcycles might perk up an ear. It makes complete sense.
Guy also knew enough about the White Sands proving grounds to be able to take the conversation down that road a ways–engaging that physicist further. Who’s to say the man didn’t go right home and order Massimo’s book? In fact, several people wrote down names and titles of several books. Speaks also to the value of swag–bookmarks, handouts, drop cards–all of it serves a purpose. Getting yourself in front of people and making a memorable impression–it’s as old as marketing itself, but you can’t put a price on that human connection. One woman I talked to at the table reached out to me later and ended up telling me a huge piece of her life. I was able to say something that made her see that piece of herself differently. She started to cry. Came back to my table and bought a book. Humanness sells books twice as fast as tricks and flash and fast-talking. It comes down to making connection. None of this is new, but I was so impressed by this over and over again.
Lastly, the people selling the big numbers of books were the people selling and presenting, so you know I will be putting my proposal in for next year. I’ll also have a Booktrope table, too, however.
All of this is to say–when you see a call for proposals for a book festival or conference, don’t be shy. Get together with some other authors and share the cost of a table.