Book Fairs–My First Time as an Author

My character study on Abraham is finished. I really learned a lot from it. The approach I took was trying to understand what his stories meant to the author and who they were originally written for. There were a lot of surprises, even for a lifelong student of the Bible like me. I gathered a lot of material that I think will make fodder for publication in magazines or maybe a book.

But now the question is, as far as my blog is concerned, what’s next? This week, it wasn’t hard, because I had my first book signing on December 7. (But I’m already worried about next week). The Anderson County Public Library held an event called the Story Lines Author and Small Press Fair. I’m pretty sure it’s an annual event, too, so I plan to come back next year.

David Anderson at the Story Lines Author and Small Press Fair
At the Story Lines Author and Small Press Fair at Anderson County Public Library

If you haven’t had a book signing yet (or wonder what it’s like for authors), here is how it came together.

Behind the Scenes

From one of my writing groups, I got an email notice about a book fair at a local public library highlighting local authors, book crafters, and publishers. I wanted to get in on it, so I went to the website and filled out the application. The organizer noticed my book was only listed for Kindle and asked if I had any print books to show. I said I would by the date of the fair.

I talked some about the trials involved with that in my last newsletter. To recap:

  • I uploaded the cover to KDP and the formatted manuscript for my print-on-demand (POD) paperback. I tried to link it to the Kindle version already on Amazon’s website.
  • The paperback and Kindle versions were supposed to link together on the sales page, but they weren’t. They linked my paperback to another author named David Anderson.
  • Once that was straight, I ordered three proof copies to be sure they were ready for sale. After days past the delivery date, they still had not arrived.

Later in November, I checked the tracking. The last place it was known was somewhere in Ohio. I’m in South Carolina. Maybe that was the other David Anderson. The date for the book fair was coming up. I didn’t have time to check, so I ordered twenty author copies (without the benefit of seeing proofs first) and prayed for the best. They arrived November 27, and they looked great (thank God!). I had the paperbacks I needed to have a table at the fair.

A couple of people stop at my book table
A couple of people stopped by. I’m not really as worried as I look.

One author and friend who has self-published for years saw my matte book cover and asked how I did it. I told him I published through KDP. They give you a choice of glossy or matte. He wants matte covers because they don’t show fingerprints. But he’s been using Lulu, and that’s not an option with them. I think matte is the default option with KDP. I didn’t really know what I wanted, so I went with it. He confirmed to me I made the right choice.

A view of the front and back cover
I was pleased with how the front and back cover looked. I may have convinced my friend to switch to KDP.

It was fun. I got to meet potential readers, other like minded authors, and a couple of local publishers. My wife helped me with the table décor. It looked a lot better with her touch.

part of our display, two candles on a bamboo roll out mat and some mints
The mints, the candles, the sheer black table cloth made the table more welcoming.

I got to talk about the book with several people. The paperback is available on Amazon for $6.99. I told people it’s $7, or only $5 if they sign up for my email list. Some looked at me skeptically like, “I’m on to you.” But they signed up anyway.

I went around to meet some of the other folks. Several authors from the Foothills Writers Guild were there. I took a few photos of my favorite displays. Maybe they will give me and my wife some ideas for the future.

That doll is Shirley Temple, who stars in Kathryn’s mystery novels.
…and coffee lover.
…and fellow Foothills Writers Guild member

Next Event

There’s another book signing coming up at McDowell’s Emporium, one of our local independent bookstores, on December 21. Events like this are great for getting out there. I could not have done a book signing by myself. People only come out for one author if they already know and love. Steven King or Danielle Steele could do book signings by themselves and draw hundreds of people. Until we reach that level, I think we’re better off joining in fairs and events with multiple authors.

Authors, book crafters, and publishers at the fair
Not sure we got everyone but the library photographers probably did.

What are your opinions about book fairs and book signings? Leave a comment below.

holding my box of author copies

My First Book Signing!!

Story Lines Author and Small Press Fair, Anderson, South Carolina.

Saturday, December 7, 2019, 1:00-4:00 PM.

Anderson Main Library
300 N McDuffie St
Anderson, SC 29621

I rarely use exclamation points, but an author’s first book signing is a big deal (for him/her, at least). I will be at the Anderson County Public Library this Saturday along with other local authors and book publishers. My author copies of Dark Nights of the Soul: Reflections on Faith and the Depressed Brain came in just in time.

holding my box of author copies
Arrived and ready for book signing on Dec. 7!!

The paperback may be unavailable for a few days online. Go ahead and check, but just in case it’s not there, check again in a couple of days. I’m working out a few kinks, not in the book itself but in the distribution. But they will be available at the book signing. So if you’re in the Anderson area on Saturday, come by and meet not only me but other local authors and publishers.

Faith Pitch, Feb. 28

Tomorrow, there is a Twitter event called Faith Pitch. It’s described as a

Twitter Pitch Party exclusively for faith-based fiction MS. Pitch agents & editors. Three 2018 dates: Feb. 28, June 28, Nov. 28! 8a-8pCST.

I’ve come up with two pitches to tweet for my MS of Through Fear of Death.

  1. One of Rome’s most popular gladiators is arrested, but his prison guard becomes his ally. Their unlikely friendship could be what saves Rome.
  2. One of Rome’s most popular gladiators wants his freedom. When he refuses to fight, he is arrested. But his prison guard becomes his ally. Their unlikely friendship could be what liberates Rome.

This is first a PSA for other Christian authors, if you have a manuscript you’ve wanted to pitch to agents and editors, you don’t want to miss this opportunity. Second, I would really appreciate feedback on how effective you think they are. Thanks for stopping by.

On Meeting Editors and Agents at Writers Conferences

Most writing conferences offer opportunities to meet with agents and/or editors one-on-one. Some people are confused about the purpose of meeting with an editor. Before you register for a writing conference, you need to be clear about this. And of course, meetings with agents and editors are for writers who want to be published through a traditional publisher. If you are self-publishing or indie-publishing, you don’t need to meet with agents and editors.

Logo for Carolina Christian Writers Conference 2018

But first, you need to understand there are two kinds of editors. Some operate like independent contractors. You can hire one to edit your manuscript. I’m still trying to decide if I want to do that, because it is an added expense, I’ve already done a good bit of self-editing, and I don’t know if it will really help me get accepted by an agent or publisher. But if I were self-publishing – which I’m still considering – I would definitely hire one of these editors, because I don’t have a traditional publisher to provide one for me. However, when conferences offer a chance to meet with agents or editors, these are not editors who edit your manuscript.

The other type of editor works for one publisher, and part of his/her job is to acquire new manuscripts for his/her employer, i.e., sometimes called an “acquisitions editor.” Ultimately, an editor is a gatekeeper to the publisher, but most of them will only accept manuscripts submitted by an agent. An agent has relationships with many publishers. He/she can submit your MS to editors who are looking for your type of book. Though the role of agent and editor is different, they are both at the conference because they are looking for new manuscripts and authors they believe are ready to publish now.

An agent is usually necessary to get your foot in the door with an editor. However, the one exception is at conferences, editors will hear pitches directly from authors. And if they like your pitch, they may ask you to submit a book proposal and sample or even a complete MS.

Logo for Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference

So in moving up the ladder to publication:

  1. An agent shops your MS to (acquisitions) editors.
  2. An editor presents your MS to representatives of his/her specific publisher.
  3. Publisher representatives accept your MS and offer a contract.

At that point, you will want your agent to negotiate your contract with the publisher, and the editor will be your liaison with the publisher.

Moral of the story: Agents and editors are both necessary to get published, so talk to any of the ones who are most likely to be interested in your manuscript.

Q: So this is not an editor who is offering to edit my manuscript?

A: Correct. There may be some of those editors as attendees, but the kind of editors conferences will make available to you are the ones that could potentially get you accepted by a publisher.

Q: If these editors will only accept manuscripts from agents, should I only talk to agents?

A: Normally, yes. But as I said, the one exception to this rule is at conferences. When editors offer one-on-one meetings at conferences, they are offering a rare chance to bypass the agent and pitch your MS directly to them. If they like your idea, they might ask you to submit something to them. Every editor is different in terms of what they want to receive initially, but most will ask for a book summary and/or outline, some sample pages, and a brief author bio. Only submit directly to an editor if they ask, and give them what they ask for specifically.

Q: If through the conference I can get an editor to accept my MS without an agent, why do I need to talk to agents?

A: Two big reasons:

  1. Your chances of being accepted by an editor are still much greater through an agent than on your own.
  2. Even if you do get an offer from a publisher because an editor was excited about you and your MS, you should still have an agent represent you in contract negotiations. If publishers can take advantage of you, they will – even Christian publishers. They’re not bad people, but this is a business to them. They want the most advantageous deal they can get. An agent knows the tricks they will try to pull and how to protect you from them.

Q: What if I do get a publishing offer, but I don’t have an agent?

A: Contact a few agents who represent your type of book and tell them you have a publishing offer and need an agent. My guess is your phone will ring off the hook.

Q: How do I know what agents and editors are interested in?

A: Find a recent copy of the Writer’s Market. For the editors listed in the conference, look at their publishers and see what they publish. That will tell you what the editor is looking for. You might be able to find a copy in your library. However, if you are serious about getting your MS published through a traditional publisher, it is worth buying. If you want to focus on agents, the Guide to Literary Agents can give you more detailed info.

Q: So at the conference, is it better to talk to an agent or editor?

A: It’s best to talk to whoever is most likely to take an interest in your manuscript. You will need both of them to successfully navigate the publishing process. If you get an editor first, you should have no problem finding an agent. If you get an agent first, his/her job is to get your foot in the door with an editor. Where you start your journey is not nearly as important as finding someone who really wants to help you get in.