Now, don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed giving the talk; while I’m on the introverted side, I actually like public speaking, provided I don’t have to face an audience armed with rotten tomatoes or the kind of bad manners that should have been drilled out of any civilized person in kindergarten. And the book fest was a lot of fun, though by the time I’d been there about five hours, I could sense my energy starting to fade, along with everyone else’s. It’s a challenge to strike the right note, to be pleasant, friendly, and open toward anyone who approaches without being too pushy and aggressive, and to keep that up through a seven-hour day.
Unless you are a much bigger name than I am, you’re not likely to sell enough books at a festival or signing to cover the expenses of attending, let alone make a profit. So why do it? Two key words: accessibility and networking. Of course you want to connect with fans; they’re your lifeblood as an author, and besides, what writer doesn’t get a rush from talking to someone who’s engaged with the story you wrote, who wants to ask questions and is thrilled to get a nicely personalized copy of your work? You can’t do those things via social media, and a happy and excited fan giving you and your book great word-of-mouth publicity is a sales booster over the long haul. As for networking, while you can do quite a bit long-distance in today’s interconnected world, there’s still nothing like meeting your fellow authors, your editor, the staff of your publishing house, and other interesting people face-to-face. You never know who’s going to show up at one of these events, and what seems like a chance meeting may have more impact on your success than you could ever have predicted. (My fantasy—as yet unfulfilled—is that someone is going to show up who wants to talk about movie rights to Dream Derby. I’ll keep you all posted on that one.)
At the moment, I’m exhausted; I’m not as young as I used to be, and frankly, I’m grateful that the next festival on my schedule is only 35 miles away from home. But I’m glad to have had the experience, and I’m actually looking forward to the next one!