First Fair

I’m slightly shy.

Depending on the context, I can clamp up or crawl out of my shell.  Therefore, sitting under a humid 6′ x 12′ tent, and watching book lovers pass by, is a situation I would usually avoid. “All the more reason,” I told myself before submitting an application to the Miami Book Fair International. I needed to push myself out of my comfort zone and I’m so glad I did.

This past Sunday was a “first” for me. I have had a few author events but nothing a kin to a book fair or convention. At my earlier book events, the host called attention to me and for me. In a book fair scenario, the author needs to be able to call attention to themselves.

Like many good things, it started in the microwave line at work. The rare book specialist at the museum asked if I would be in the Miami Book Fair. “No… But I want to,” I replied. After doing some brief research over a cappuccino, I signed up for a “Writers Row Author Booth.” It was both a financial and emotional commitment. More than that, I knew a book fair would be the type of venue that required me to be bold as well as offer the opportunity to engage with potential readers in a completely new way.

IMG-20141123-WA0008

Signing

The Miami Book Fair International has become part of the city’s cultural fabric as well as a venue for thousands of writers and readers to gather in downtown Miami. Throughout the weekend, over 250 publishers and booksellers exhibit their gems or favorite reads. The city blocks off several streets to allow more than 450 authors to lead readings, signings, theater pop-ups, lectures, round tables, and hands-on art making activities.

The last day of the book fair, I woke up feeling restless. I was a jumble of nerves trying to keep a positive outlook and redirect my uneasiness into excitement. Once I picked up my registration packet and chose my booth, I started to feel more relaxed. After about two hours of arranging a suitcase, books, postcards, chalkboards, and paper flowers, I tried to focus on what I needed to say to fairgoers.

The author next to me was decidedly more extroverted and assertive in her “sales pitch” than I was. As the first few people trickled in, they barely glanced at me. I realized that more than a cute set-up, I needed to give them information and let them know they did not need to talk to me if they too were shy. I erased one chalkboard and added some keywords about my book. Once the words  “Historical fiction,” “Leonardo,” “Art,” and “Florence” looked out on to the street, people began to slow down to read them and really look at Lost in the City of Flowers.

IMG-20141123-WA0002

Midday

I spent the rest of the eight hours trying to encapsulate my book’s plot into a sentence or two. The conversations usually started with readers taking a postcard and then asking, “So what’s your book about?” With measured passion, I would say, “It’s about a girl who time travels to the Renaissance, and becomes an apprentice in the same workshop as the young Leonardo da Vinci.” Usually, their brow would slightly raise when hearing Leonardo’s name.

What got me through the day, and made it so fun, wasn’t only talking with readers but the courage my friends and loved ones gave me. Several familiar faces came by just to say “Hi!” or to supply me with a constant flow of caffeine and encouragement. I am so grateful for those that came and sweated it out with me under my blue tent.  An extra big thank you to authors Autumn Doughton and Varian Wolf who passed on their wise words of wisdom.

IMG-20141123-WA0004

Grateful

The advice I can offer to other self-published authors that consider participating in an event like this is, presentation matters. Presenting your books in an appealing but informative way is integral to any interaction. Most importantly, present yourself in a way that is true to you. Only you can genuinely explain your passion, no one else can do it for you. The author next to me had a more assertive style that just was not me. Once I discovered my way, which was just to be welcoming and warm, conversation flowed naturally.

download_20141125_072713

Towards the End…

If you have any specific questions about my experience, don’t be shy! Feel free to ask away. I hope this inspires some of you to try something new and crawl a bit out of your shell.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Advertisements

KickstArt

The battle for perfection and a happy anniversary.

I wanted to write a book. More than that, I needed to write a book. This desire soon multiplied into a series of books… Before I could catch up with myself, I had more than half of the first book written with no way to fund it.

Some believe anyone can write a book. Whether that be true or not, an author’s attention to details mingles with their intention and expectation. This willingness to create a tailored work truly dictates the published outcome. Sure, I think anyone can write a manuscript. They can even publish it online through a variety of websites.

Wrapping Rewards

Wrapping Rewards

Even though I love the idea of making your work and ideas easily accessible, I still believe that self-published writers and aspiring novelists, need to do what they can to fight against the stereotype of “vanity writing.” Many people in the publishing industry, and sometimes even readers, see self-publishing as a way to “cut-the-line” and sneak past quality control. This is where being a perfectionist is helpful if not imperative.

When one writes a work and then skips the copy-editor, designer, or beta reader review process, it’s likely that the quality of the book will suffer. Each of these steps and consultants take time and usually cost money. The struggle to fund what are sometimes moments of inspiration can be difficult.

Cover Photo of Campaign

Cover Photo of Campaign

My case was no exception. There I was, living in Spain, with no money to get any of the services I needed to craft Lost in the City of Flowers into a finished, professional, and enjoyable historical fiction novel. Although I had heard of a few crowdfunding projects, I had never created a campaign, nor did I ever think I would. After a few weeks of deliberation and research, creating a Kickstarter campaign seemed like the only viable debt-free option for funding my “dream.” That same day, I spent the fall afternoon scavenging around my in-laws garden to create a cover image for my crowdfunding adventure.

Overall, I spent over a month putting the campaign page together. Just down the street from where we lived, was a family friend who had studied film. Pedro graciously helped me put the campaign video together. With only one morning to film, he directed me and my awkward ways around the medieval section of Barcelona. To tie off the project, I added a chapter from the Lost in the City of Flowers and a few pictures I had taken in Florence a few years ago.

Once the page was complete, I had to figure out the reward packages… This took the most time. My father-in-law, who was a banker, patiently listened as I tried to communicate my money woes and concerns for the campaign. In the Kickstarter, I needed to estimate how many books backers would buy, how much the book would cost to produce, the shipping materials, and the postage. All this was then added to the bare sum I needed to actually get the novel closer to my idea of perfection. None of this would be necessary, if my goals had been more modest. Alas, they were not. In fact, the goal was, and still is, to get as many people as possible to fall in love with art history. Although ambitious, it keeps me daydreaming. None of my books will ever be perfect but that doesn’t mean I can’t try. Just reaching high is enough for me.

All in all, I am happily celebrating the day my Kickstarter was successfully funded. This anniversary would not be possible without my backers. Several of which are dear friends, family, and colleagues. The Histories of Idan and their author truly adore your constant support, love, and inspiration. Although it’s unlikely I will do a crowdfunding campaign for my books again, it was a wonderful experience!

10531359_348397761989153_2462748882812440740_o

Vacation, Photo by Shaun Mendiola

If you’re thinking about designing a project using a crowdfunding approach, feel free to ask me any questions. I’d be happy to answer and help you in any way I can.