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Friday, October 3, 2014

Being Remiss -- My week in Review

Oh Goodness!

In the attempt to keep up and not overwhelm readers with content, either, I have neglected this blog again. How tragic! Let me recap the last week:

I did publish a few book reviews on Wikinut. Two reviews were books by Margaret Peterson Haddix. One I liked; one I didn't care for. The third was an animal rescue plus dragons book by Chris D'Lacey.

I also posted about a new business venture in social media marketing. You can read more about that here.

Saturday I participated in the third annual Author Festival put on by the library in my area. I had prime placement on the front row between another children's author and a YA fantasy and science fiction writer. The author list was cut in half from the year before -- but whether that fewer people requested to come or if there was actually a bar people had to meet is unknown. The event was poorly attended, and I'm not sure why. The summer events for children that this library hosts fill three classroom areas and spill over into standing room only. Many times, there is no place to park on a Saturday -- which may mean that the neighboring park is full. So was it the date? The time? That the authors aren't giving books away free?

In addition, two authors I traded books with had work I did not feel was ready for publication. Which makes me wonder if I am the wheat or the chaff. And that's not a good place for my head to be after three years at this. (More positively, four authors I have met there had books I enjoyed, and one had a decent book that just wasn't my thing. I don't usually trade with Western writers, Christian writers, or poets -- and in my area there are a lot -- these are not my genres and unless those authors asked to trade me, I'll keep thinking my work won't appeal to them -- with no hard feelings.)

So at the end of it all, I'm taking away that I'm grateful for the free advertising, but my time also has value.

Three years I have done this event and in that time, I've sold three books. Not three each time. Three books. In three days over three years. Of those, ZERO reviews*. Goose egg. Nada. What's worse -- the library that host me at this event will not shelve my books, because I'm an indie author. So their patrons can't go the the library and check out my work beforehand. There isn't a place for me to leave my card or ordering information. They won't tell those who buy my books when I'll be around to sign them. But I can get a John Grisham (who was born in my state) novel from another library in their system with a couple of keystrokes. I know even he struggled like I did, but he wasn't a writer before.

So I think a clear message is not being sent. How difficult would it be to have a book club devoted to local authors? To establish a local beta reader group? To have a reading panel to determine which authors should be invited to the festival -- each author sponsored by someone familiar with the body of work that would speak positively of it (besides the author) at something called a "Festival." If it's a festival of locals, they shouldn't be authors meeting the staff and each other for the first time. Age differences aside, they should have grown up together, preferably in that library. Or they should be bringing their families to that library, if a job, school, or other Arkansas opportunities moved them here. And people in the community should be excited to rub elbows with this local talent before the talent takes some major deal that removes them from Arkansas and moves them to New York or California or Canada.

Three YEARS. I've been a participant for THREE YEARS, and yet the new (for a little over a year) head librarian did not know me. To what extent is that my fault? To what extent is that hers? This is the same library where I completed summer reading lists as a child.This was the place where I felt loved and was happy.

It is not the library's fault. They are doing the best they can with available resources. I check out a lot of books and DVDs that I don't have to buy.

Now the people who work there are people hired by an outside firm. They're generally new to the area. And maybe it's a sign of the times, but they don't know things. There are wonderful exceptions, of course, and I'm not saying any one of them is bad. They're all completely competent employees. But it's difficult to talk books with them. They smile and nod at me like they smiled and nodded at the book lover in front of me and like they'll smile and nod at the book lover behind me. The majority aren't secretly writing their own books when they think no one is looking. They don't have ten books each on the staff hold shelf waiting for them to have a spare second.The people employed as librarians are not by definition readers -- and I find that very sad.

I need an invitation elsewhere. I need a library or group that actually supports indie authors and holds them accountable for good quality work.  Bookstores are dying, but people are still reading. So authors need to be able to connect with them -- the way that John Grisham did years ago. It isn't safe to sell door-to-door, though I know some people do. Still, there ought to be a better way.

Clearly, I've been stewing about that. Thanks for bearing with me while I got that off my chest. Moving forward --

Sunday I rode along as my husband took our son fishing for the first time. We met some friends at the lake and made a day of it. Caught nothing, but that's OK. I did some world-building for Archer's Paintbrush and a prologue for CONfidence Woman. I solicited help for an awards database so I can start applying for things. Perhaps outside validation would help me reconcile ridiculous doubts and help me sell fiction.

Wednesday I was diagnosed with an ear infection -- Labyrinthitis. Thursday night I had a flat tire. 

I've got so many articles and fiction angles I'm working on that it's disgusting. If I could concentrate my focus on one project at a time, I'd complete a novel a month for the next year and a half (unlikely, but one can dream). And that's been my week in review.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on directions I should go -- anything I've done or mentioned that you want to hear more about? I write with the intention of feedback and a dialogue -- and that can't happen without your input.

*I have to take that back. No customer reviews. I did receive two reviews from other authors with whom I exchanged books at the second event. One of the authors I reviewed in return, and the other who's work was, in my generous opinion, not ready for publication. And I felt so guilty that the second author gave me a glowing review that I could not return a poor one. So I said nothing. At the first event, I exchanged books with a different author whose work was not up to par. And I did review that, but only after I had messaged the author privately asking if I could help. I received no reply.