I took part in my first ever in-person author event on December 10th at my local church hall in Hampshire, England. With Christmas looming, it seemed like good timing for their first ever book festival celebrating local authors in the area.
After my initial excitement during the lead up to the event, I was nervous on the day; my novel was published in 2019, so not exactly a newbie. Up to this point, I'd been using social media sites, like Twitter and Facebook, exclusively to market my book. I always found that my novel brought an interesting debate to those platforms, and the response had been generally encouraging.
I tried to keep an open mind as I arrived at the crowded church hall. I brought with me two boxes of my book, "Trust Me On this One, Emily,"
business cards, and a small tub of Quality Street chocolates. I quickly got to work decorating the brown veneer table with my treasures. For my first attempt, I didn’t do too bad. The pink covers of my novel, confetti of cards, and sweets would at least attract attention!
The room soon filled up with other writers setting out their wares. It felt noisy and bright, thanks to the garish Christmas tinsel strung across the ceiling. Only the gentle lull of the guitar playing soothed my fraught senses. I spotted a couple of writers who i'm familiar
with from my local writing group and I started to relax.
One of the writers approached me with hellos. She happily flicked through my book giving me the praise I needed to dispel those pesky butterflies in my stomach. We took a moment to catch up on our lives since we last saw each other months ago at our writing group. Life had definitely got in the way of me attending such groups this year with health issues and surgeries. as well as querying my new manuscript, which led to an unexpected, but exciting book deal. 2022 has been a roller coaster of ups and downs both as a writer and personally too.
Attending the book festival felt a turn in a hopefully positive direction.
The church hall was cold, so it was certainly a coat on event. I was
seated next to a writer I hadn’t met before the event. We chatted. She writes mostly children’s books. She was aware of the thalidomide scandal, the theme of my novel, having lived through the time of the 1950s and early 1960s when the drug was available on the global market. It was prescribed routinely, but not exclusively to pregnant women for morning sickness. It was later withdrawn from the market after it emerged that the drug, if taken during early pregnancy, could cause birth defects.
She told me she had done festivals with her books before, and as an indie writer she seemed to have developed a laid back approach to these events. She showed me her relaxed approach by offering me a much needed cup of tea and some advice not to worry too much
about in-person events. "what will be, will be", seemed to be her motto.
After a brief introduction by the local Councillor, a self-published children’s writer, the festival began. One of the early customers who passed by my table, smiling, and showing interest in my novel, returned back a short while later and purchased a copy. I made a sale! We chatted
about the writing and publishing process. I told her about my next book. a little shameless self-promotion can’t do any harm, can it?
My nerves returned as I did the obligatory book signing act, worrying about spelling her name correctly and signing my name. The tangles of butterflies never fail. A stream of customers entered the hall and came to my table. The vast majority were positive, reading my blurb, smiling, and nodding. Business cards were taken, sweets were declined. There were
some passes on my book, but some marketing advice too about contacting the relevant charities to publicise my book.
I pushed aside my disappointment at having only sold one copy by reminding myself that the competition was high that day. I needed to develop a thicker skin to survive the industry.
What I most took away from the experience was never assume sales, but expect to talk about my book and writing journey to a captive audience. These events are a great way to make new writer friends. Bring a box of business cards, but leave the chocolates at home. Smile, and take pride in My table of books with my name printed on them, because that is
Kathryn Barnett lives in Hampshire, England. She is a qualified homeopath with a degree in homeopathy from Middlesex University, which she weaves into her historical fiction.
Her first novel, Trust Me On This One, Emily, about the thalidomide scandal was published by Cactus Rain Publishing in 2019. Her second novel, Three Sisters, about sisters, suffragettes, and the First World War is due to be published by Provoco-Publishing in 2023. She is a regular on Twitter where she is an active member of the #writingcommunity.