Establishing a writing career

Happy New Year, everyone! Our next meeting is at 12:30 p.m. Jan. 25 at the Old Worthington Library.

Your book is finally in print — hooray! It’s the end of the long, difficult process of writing and rewriting — then rewriting again. But are you really finished? What comes next?

Authors know that publishing a book is only the first step in establishing a writing career. Join us on Jan. 25 for a discussion with Connie Berry, author of the Kate Hamilton Mystery series (Crooked Lane Books) about publicity, marketing, networking with other authors, setting goals, and creating a productive writing life.



Author Interview and Spotlight: Alicia Anthony

BCW member Alicia Anthony is releasing her first book, Inherent Truth. Board member Kandy Williams posed a few questions in advance of the release.

  1. Tell us a little bit about your book and when it releases. 

Inherent Truth is the first book in the Blood Secrets Saga, which is best described as a romantic thriller with light supernatural elements. The story follows Liv Sullivan, a reluctant psychic, who returns to her hometown after the death of her grandmother. Beckoned by visions from beyond the grave that leave her with more questions than answers, she revisits her grandmother’s old farm, where she meets undercover agent Ridge McCaffrey. But a gruesome discovery lands them both tangled in a web of family secrets that threatens not only their budding relationship, but their lives.

It releases January 14, 2020 both in ebook and paperback and can be purchased online from all of your favorite retailers.

  • Take us on the journey. Can you share the tale of how this book (trilogy) came about?

It seems like ages ago now. I’ve been seeing all those ten-year reviews online, I should do one about this, really. But the inspiration for this series first sparked when the decline of my own grandmother to the grips of dementia collided with the death of my birth mother, a woman I’d learned about but never took the opportunity to meet. That perfect storm left me wondering what memories would never see the light of day. The idea of secrets taken to the grave and memories left unspoken sparked this series.

I just remember sitting in my family room in front of the wood-burning stove writing my way into this novel. At the beginning, it was called The Girl in the Yellow Dress. And a lot has changed since then. But writing Inherent Truth was a cathartic way to process both of those losses. Of course, the storyline took a left turn into thriller-land somewhere along the way. But the overarching idea of secrets kept, buried with lost loved ones, and the possibility that those truths might someday be unearthed still is the impetus behind the series.

  • You’re taking the plunge and going the Indie Author route. Why? 

Honestly, I was one of those authors who thought they’d never go indie. I was adamant that I needed the support of a publishing house in order to make this work. So for years that’s the path I traveled. I sent query after query, accumulated a mass of rejection letters, but yet I kept entering these contests and doing really well. Eventually I started to realize that the readers for my work were out there. They were reading my work and placing me well in these competitions. That started to get the wheels turning a bit. I did research. Took a class. Talked to author friends who had launched successful independent publishing careers and eventually I decided that waiting was no longer in my best interest. Waiting only stoked that fire of inadequacy that all authors keep burning somewhere down deep inside. I was tired of that. Waiting felt like giving up. And that’s not where I wanted to be. The decision felt right. I think I needed to go through some of the trials of that other path to help me realize the benefits of indie publishing, but I knew immediately. It was the right time to take control.

  • What challenges do you face, as an indie author, that traditionally published authors might not?

Ooh. This one’s tricky. I would say marketing, but unless you’re with a big publishing house you’ll be pretty much on your own with that anyway, so I’ll stick with a related topic and say analytics. There are a lot of moving parts to launching an independent publishing career. One of the elements that is hard for me to wrap my creative brain around is the analytical aspect. Knowing what marketing efforts are working and what isn’t and how best to find that information without tearing my hair out or losing a week’s worth of writing time gives me fits. But it’s so important to understand in order to maximize your return on investment. In spite of what others may say, publishing isn’t free, and you have to know how to get the most bang for your buck, so to speak.

  • Do you have any advice for Indie Authors on strategies to find and connect with readers?

I think having a core group of supporters around you, whether it’s a group of writers, your family, friends, even colleagues is a great start. There are a gazillion companies out there to help you reach readers, but it’s not just about finding readers, you also need to create relationships. For me, I started with my newsletter, trying to build it up to a decent size before launching Inherent Truth was important to me. Bookfunnel was a great tool to help build my newsletter list. I’m also a member of several Facebook groups consisting of writers and readers. I try to make meaningful connections with people within those groups and I enjoy listening and learning from them. I launched my own Facebook Reader Group, which has been a fun experience. I like getting to know the members and I try to ask fun questions and I hold giveaways and things to encourage readers to join the conversation. That’s really what it’s all about, forming those relationships. You can check it out at http://www.facebook.com/groups/AliciaAnthonyReaderGroup if you want to learn more.

  • What’s the fantasy? Lead us down your ideal career path for your writing. What does it look like right now and years from now? (Be as realistic or as imaginative as you want.) 

Wow. Sometimes I think it is a fantasy. But watching this first step come to fruition, releasing Inherent Truth, gives me hope that the dream is possible. Right now, I have a very emotionally demanding day job. Through the school year I get up at 3:30 A.M. most mornings in order to eke out some fresh words or dive into a marketing project. It can be truly exhausting. The long term dream is to retire early in order to write full-time. I’d love to see that happen in the next five years, but we’ll play it by ear as far as that’s concerned.

I have a backlog of projects from the years I spent lying in wait for the perfect publisher, which is why I have plans for four releases in 2020. After that, however, I’m looking at putting out two books per year. I think that’s a schedule I could settle into pretty comfortably as far as inspiration and time is concerned. It’s important to me that I don’t sacrifice quality for quantity. And I don’t see that changing for me. I’d love to build an engaged and responsive reader base and be able to travel for book signings and events. I think overall, my dream is to have the freedom and means to travel with my family and write the stories that intrigue and inspire me. Isn’t that all any author really wants? Oh, maybe a unicorn, too. A unicorn would be cool. 😉

For more information, please visit my website!

Book Review: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes/From Here To Eternity

By Patrick Stuart, BCW President

Have you ever wondered about death? I don’t mean in the existentialist, why are we here, is there really an h-e-double-toothpicks-type-stuff, but rather the more, shall we say, grittier side of things. Such as how do we decompose? If someone dies at a Burger King, who’s responsible for the body? And what happens during a cremation? Admit it, you’re curious. Yo también. But be curious no more, because mortician and author Caitlin Doughty recounts her experiences in cremation, embalming and other practices in the book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory.

“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” cover

In case you’re unfamiliar with Caitlin, she’s run a website for several years aiming to educate people in the death process (more on that later). But her growing popularity and success has led to books, travels around the world, a YouTube channel, TED talks and her own non-profit funeral home. In Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, she starts at the beginning as a college graduate with an esoteric liberal arts degree and zero job experience, which naturally leads to employment in a San Francisco mortuary. However, the first line of the book immediately sets up the author’s sense of humor and no-nonsense approach: ‘a girl always remembers the first corpse she shaves.’ Be honest . . . as an opening, that’s killer (har, pun intended). But from that point on, she takes us on her journey as a body snatcher and crematory operator, discussing in frank detail all the fascinating bits involved with the processing of death. The ways bodies decompose, how to make corpses appear lifelike, what’s left after cremation, the details of embalming (and why she’s against it), and several other topics. Although the subject matter is dark, her approach is matter-of-fact, deliberately contrasting how death has become part voodoo/part taboo in our modern society. And as mystery writers who dole out death on a regular basis, let’s face it; we should know as much about the subject as possible.

A follow-up book by the same author is From Here to Eternity; Traveling the World to Find the Good Death. This time, Caitlin recounts her years between mortuary school and opening her own funeral home, traveling and observing various funerary rites and practices around the world. Her goal is similar; to educate and ‘normalize’ death by getting up close and personal to it, but this time from different cultural viewpoints. She visits a region of Indonesia known as Tana Toraja, where the local ethnic group mummifies their relatives and keeps them in their houses, sometimes even their beds, before moving them years later to their final resting place. There’s also Crestone, Colorado, one of the few places in the U.S. that allows natural, open-air cremations. Also skull worship in Bolivia. The mummies of Guanajuato, Mexico (which freaked out Ray Bradbury so much that he wrote a short story about them). And of course, the Western Carolina University ‘body farm’ of North Carolina. All with plenty of details to spur your writerly juices, and perhaps add a little oomph to the exposition in your next novel.

“From Here To Eternity” cover

Bonus: if you’re looking for even more information (or just want to kill some time), I highly suggest Caitlin’s YouTube channel Ask A Mortician. There’s several videos, ranging from roughly 5 – 15 minutes each, all covering a wide variety of topics from the Pearl Harbor Memorial (the author is originally from Hawaii) to necrophilia, shrunken heads, Victorian corpse photographs, what happens during a graveside exhumation, and many other subjects. As testament to their popularity, many of these videos have over one million views, being both informative and showcasing the author’s trademark droll sense of humor. And if you like, you can even make a quick, tiny contribution to her non-profit, which a) is how she pays for it all, and b) will cause you to feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Or maybe that’s the expired sushi you discovered earlier in your refrigerator . . . either way, check it out. Oh, and keep writing.

2019 BCW Holiday Event!

It’s that time of year again. No, not visiting with family, trading gifts, and reveling in the shared humanity and peaceful coexistence of friends, colleagues and neighbors. It’s time to gather with others (like you) who spend their free time imagining how to creatively murder complete strangers! Then writing about it! In the hopes that millions of people will read it! All while thinking, ‘Damn, this (gal/guy) is one twisted $#@%* . . . when does the next book come out?’

In other words, it’s time for the annual BCW Holiday Event! If you haven’t been, this is the one event of the year not to be missed. Where we all gather at a local restaurant to eat, drink and be merry, talking about our writing successes and failures, our hopes and dreams, and discussing the upcoming BCW 2020 year. In addition, we’ll be having our annual book exchange, with our own Carolyn Melvin reciting another variation of the Wright family travails to keep us thoroughly discombobulated.

Plus, there’ll also be the BCW Short Story Contest, where prizes of dubious value will be awarded and the winner will be published on the BCW website (see details below). So mark your calendar/Outlook for noon, Saturday, December 7, 2019, at the New Albany Rusty Bucket (180 Market Street, New Albany). Spouses, relatives, friends, significant others, and anyone just looking to hang with like-minded people on a Saturday afternoon are also encouraged to attend . . . just remember to bring a wrapped book from yourself and each member of your entourage (and be prepared to explain your choice when the wrapping comes off). See you there!

2019 BCW Short Story Contest!

As mentioned above, BCW is having a Short Story Contest for our last meeting of 2019. The concept: write a story of 200 words or less involving the photo included with this post. The only condition is that your story mentions the holidays/season. Otherwise, write whatever you want: be murderous, humorous, mysterious, use first/second/third person, an unreliable narrator, scatter red herrings like breadcrumbs . . . go nuts. Then turn it in by midnight, Thursday, December 5, to buckeyecrimewriters@gmail.com (just one submission per entrant, and don’t forget to include your name). Afterwards, show up at our holiday event Saturday (see above) for the awards and the basking of glory to be heaped upon all submitters. So why are you still reading this? Start writing . . . now!

Book signing!

BCW board member Connie Berry, along with Amanda Flower, are signing books this weekend (Nov. 23)! Check out the below for details.

NaNoWriMo 2019

An airplane mechanic works on a plane's propeller.
It’s time to crank it up!

Me (BCW President Patrick Stuart):  Wake up. It’s time for NaNoWriMo! 

You (you):  NaNowuuuhhhhhh? 

Me:  You heard me; NaNoWriMo. National. Novel. Writing. Month. That time of year where you burn incense to the writing gods, sacrifice a Stephen King novel or two, and start warming up the Keurig maker. Because you’re going to be rocking that caffeine to get a 50,000 word rough draft done by the end of November.

You:  Hahahahaha! (wiping tears from eyes). I thought you said ’50,000 words.’

Me:  I did.

You:  Holy (word redacted). You’re serious!

Me:  Damn straight. We do this every year. It’s a 30-day writing marathon that started in 1999 with 21 people in San Francisco.  Fifteen years later there were over 400,000 participants. 

You:  And how many met their goal? (skeptical face)

Me:  About one in ten.

You:  That’s not very many.

Me:  It’s the journey, not the destination, grasshopper.

You:  I hate it when you do that pseudo-Buddhist (word redacted).  Besides, I’ll bet those manuscripts sucked.

Me:  That’s not the point. The point is to end up with a rough draft, or at least a good start on one. Which can then be refined into something beautiful later.

You:  Like what?

Me:  Water for Elephants , by Sara Gruen. The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. Or The Darwin Elevator series, by Jason Hough. All of those started as NaNoWriMo manuscripts.

You:  So you’re saying if I finish 50k words, I’ll soon be sitting on a six-figure publishing deal?

Me:  Hahahahaha! (wiping tears from eyes). That’s funny! 

You:  You’re a terrible president.

Me:  True dat. But NaNoWriMo is about starting, not finishing. Or as my grandpa used to say, when the ‘poop hits the propeller.’ So go to the Bexley Library, 2411 E. Main Street, Bexley, Ohio on Saturday, November 16, from noon to 4:00 p.m. BCW has the Technology Room reserved, so you can sit with your fellow writers and write your fingers to the bloody nubs. We’ll even have refreshments, and a cattle prod in case you fall asleep. Would you like a demonstration?

You:  Yeah, right (zzzzzzzzzzzz-snap). Sweet (several words redacted). That hurts!

Me:  Pain is just weakness leaving the body, grasshopper. See you there.

WhoDoURead&Y?

Gillian Flynn and Gone Girl.  Paula Hawkins and The Girl on the Train.  Lee Child, Patricia Cornwell, Jo Nesbø, Laura Lippman, Dennis Lehane, Sue Grafton, Stieg Larsson, or (insert your favorite author here).  But what makes them special?  Do the quirky British characters of Agatha Christie awaken your inner Anglophile?  Are the pages of a Carl Hiaasen book tinged with sultry weirdness, coconut oil and mosquito repellant?  Or does Janet Evanovich’s over-the-top bounty hunter protagonist make you secretly wish for big hair, hoop earrings and a Joisey accent?

(hint:  you know it does)

And more importantly, as writers how do we tap into this nebulous and diabolical vein of readership desire?  After all, we can string words together too.  But it’s concocting that #%$*& secret sauce.  That pinch of missing ingredient, to create the perfect combination of plot, dialogue, mood, character, setting . . . whatever.  Crafting the right proportions to make people feel.  Think about us on the subway ride to work.  Taking a shower.  Being trapped in a conversation with a boring neighbor.  Having that last, final conscious thought before drowsing off to sleep at night.  How do we occupy that space?

If you want to know, join us on Saturday, October 19, at the Hilliard Library (4500 Hickory Chase Way), from 12:30 – 2:30.  Together we will discuss our favorite authors, what we like about them, then list and compare those traits to (hopefully) create a roadmap for how to reach that same rarified level of Hamilton-like popularity.  Note:  whether you’re a reader, writer or both, novice or expert, this will be an interactive discussion so be prepared to participate.  Pinkie-finger-promise though, it will be an awesome, transformational and inspiring experience (or at the very least, a good way to kill a couple of hours).  And as usual, please feel free to join us for lunch afterwards, where we will discuss writing, the Buckeyes, home repair, Balinese shadow puppetry, or whatever else strikes our fancy.   But until then . . . keep writing.

‘A Legacy of Murder:’ An interview with Connie Berry

Connie Berry’s follow-up novel to the riveting A Dream of Death is coming out this month! A Legacy of Murder hits the shelves Oct. 8. Connie took a break from writing about Kate Hamilton to discuss the latest launch with BCW’s Jim Sabin.

Connie Berry
Connie Berry

JS: Congratulations on the publication of your second novel, A Legacy of Murder. How does it feel to have your first two books published in the same year?

CB: It feels really fast—and probably will never happen again. When Crooked Lane acquired the Kate Hamilton Mystery series, I had the first book, A Dream of Death, ready to go and the second, A Legacy of Murder, well under way. I know plenty of authors who write multiple series, and I give them credit. Writing two books a year is one thing. Publicizing and promoting them is another—and way harder.

JS: You’ve taken Kate Hamilton from the Hebrides in Scotland to the east coast of England. What prompted you to choose settings so far from home?

CB: Writers are often encouraged to write what they know, and I do know Britain quite well, having gone to college in Oxford and now traveling there a couple of times a year. My paternal grandparents were Scottish, so I grew up with the Scots’ accent and food. Today the cuisine in Scotland is marvelous, but back then, Scottish food meant oats porridge for breakfast, peas porridge for lunch, and lots of well-done roasts and overcooked veg for dinner. But there’s another reason I chose the UK for my setting. When I was in graduate school, my thesis advisor encouraged me to choose a topic I really loved because I’d be spending a lot of time there. I’m a card-carrying, died-in-the-wool Anglophile. Setting books in the UK means I ‘m able to spend lots of mental time there. And then there’s in-country research, which is the best.

JS: Kate Hamilton, your main character, is rather inquisitive, as you might expect from an antiques dealer. How does that help her solve mysteries in the present day?

CB: Like me, Kate can’t abide a mystery. My kids used to call me “Sherlock Holmes” because when something didn’t make sense, I would track it down until I learned the truth. Several years ago I solved a real mystery—finding a long-lost Scottish relative (then deceased) and learning what happened to her after she vanished. Kate’s desire to solve mysteries and her ability to discern patterns and connections, helpful in the antiques trade, give her an advantage as an amateur sleuth. But amateur sleuths need more than curiosity. They need a believable motivation for sleuthing. In A Dream of Death, Kate’s motivation was to save her husband’s best childhood friend from wrongful prosecution. In A Legacy of Murder, her motivation is even more compelling.

JS: You devote a lot of time to the craft of writing, including doing outlines for your books. How does that help you when it comes time to actually sit down and write?

CB: I’m proof of the old adage: If you don’t know where you’re going, you probably won’t get there. I know many wonderful authors who call themselves “pantsers” (writing by the seat of their pants), but I write better when I know where I’m going. However, planning doesn’t rule out the unexpected. Sometimes my characters say and do things I’d never planned, and I have to adjust my outline. Usually for the better.

JS: Your first book, A Dream of Death, seems to have opened up some opportunities for you to join panels and other activities. What has changed for you since it came out?

CB: First I had to learn to be a writer. Now I’m learning how to be an author. Today, being an author is a business that includes promotion, advertising, developing an audience, travel, speaking, expenses, attending conferences. Right now I’m blogging with two online groups: Miss Demeanors and Writers Who Kill. This year I will attend four conferences—in Dallas, Boston, San Diego, and Bethesda, MD—so I’ll be flying coast-to-coast twice. At the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in early November, I’ll be participating in a panel discussion, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being Amateur.” In December, I’ll be speaking at libraries in Mayfield Village, Ohio, and Middleburg Heights, Ohio. Besides writing, what I love most is talking about the world of crime fiction.

JS: So, tell us a bit about A Legacy of Murder.

CB: What could be lovelier than Christmas in England? American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton arrives in the Suffolk village of Long Barston, dreaming of log fires, steaming wassail, and Tom Mallory, the detective inspector she met during a recent murder investigation in Scotland. Kate also looks forward to spending time with her daughter, Christine, an intern at Finchley Hall, famous for the unearthing in 1818 of a treasure trove known as The Finchley Hoard. When the body of a young woman, an intern planning an exhibition of the hoard, is found floating in Blackwater Lake, Kate is naturally concerned for her daughter’s safely. But when another murder and an attack on a second intern occur, Christine becomes the prime suspect. Determined to prove her daughter’s innocence, Kate launches her own investigation. What she finds are clues pointing backward four hundred years to a missing blood-red ruby ring and an infamous legacy of murder.

JS: And how can we get a copy?

CB: A Legacy of Murder, second in the Kate Hamilton Mystery series, is available in hardcover and e-book at all outlets: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million, Indiebound, Kobo, Target, Walmart. And discerning bookshops, of course!

Thanks for the great questions, Jim. If anyone lives in central Ohio, I hope they can attend the launch party for A Legacy of Murder — Saturday, October 12, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Fortin Ironworks, 944 W. 5th Ave., Columbus, Ohio 43212. Parking in the small Fortin lot for handicapped only. Parking for others in the lot across the street, in The View on the corner of W. 5th and Holly, or on the street. Besides champagne and a real English tea, there will be book signing and a drawing for prizes. Books available through The Book Loft.

‘A Legacy of Murder’ cover

BCW member talks writing, and her newest book

Buckeye Crime Member Eileen Curley Hammond just released the fourth book in her Merry March Mystery series, Murder So Deadly. Board member Kandy Williams chatted with her recently.

KW: You’ve released four books in just over a year. How did you do it?

ECH: It’s not quite as fast as it seems. I worked on the first one for over a year, and then started on the second one. As it turned out, I was editing the first one when the second one was nearly done. Although I wouldn’t recommend doing it that way, the advantage was that I could still change something in the first book when it made the second one better. I released Murder So Sinful in August of 2018 and Murder So Festive in October last year. In hindsight, that was too close, and I hindered my ability to launch my debut book. Unfortunately, the second book takes place at Christmas, so to capture those sales I needed to publish by October.

KW: You’re an independent author. Why did you decide to pursue that path versus traditional publishing?

ECH: Everyone’s path is different. I’m slightly north of 60 and a cancer survivor. I decided I would rather spend my time writing, than going through the long process associated with traditional publishing. I’m also a bit of a control freak, so being independent suits me.

KW: Have you had any surprises along the way?

ECH: I learn something new every day. Joining Buckeye Crime Writers was one of the smarter things I’ve done. This group continues to be an important touchstone in many ways, especially for a new writer. First, the speakers at the monthly meetings are great. I’m using what I learned from Franklin County Chief Toxicologist Dan Baker in my latest book. Second, the connections you make at the meetings with other members are invaluable. I always walk away with new ideas.

One big surprise (which shouldn’t have been) is how much work an independent author does that isn’t related to writing. I had to find someone to do my covers, contract with an editor, and design the inside of the book. The good news was that Amazon has a relatively good add on to Word, which makes the inside design work more manageable. It’s not perfect and has some hiccups, but I think the result is quite professional.

Marketing is always a challenge, but traditionally published authors have some of the same issues.

KW: Are you a planner, or a pantser?

ECH: I’m a pantser. I look at planners’ outlines and plans with envy. I never have any idea what’s going to happen. I follow Stephen King’s advice. I write at least 1,000 words a day Monday through Friday. Sometimes it’s agony, other times it’s quick. Before I adopted this habit, I had trouble balancing my life. When I was writing, I felt guilty for not doing other things. If I did the wash, I felt guilty for not writing. Now I know if I complete my 1,000 words I’m done with writing for the day.

KW: Tell us a little about your book.

ECH: The main character is Meredith March. She owns a property and casualty insurance operation in the small town of Hopeful. Merry is divorced and has custody of her 17-year-old daughter. Her ex ran a financial scam that duped many of the people living in town. He was convicted and served four years in jail. Merry now has a serious boyfriend and is working on getting an annulment.

In my latest book, Merry and her friend Patty go on a stakeout. Here’s an excerpt from Murder So Deadly:

“I shouldn’t have had that extra glass of water at dinner,” Patty said. “How much longer are we going to be here?”

“Wimp. There’s a bathroom past the front desk. I’m sure if you ask nicely, they’ll let you use it.”

Patty eased open the door while I covered the car light with my purse.

I hissed, “Hurry back.”

She scurried to the door, pushed it open, and passed the two men we were supposed to be following. Patty disappeared into the motel. The two men walked to a large black Lincoln and slid in. The car purred as it passed me moving toward the exit. I stared daggers at the motel door. “C’mon Patty. Where the heck are you?”

She darted out the door, running full tilt toward the car. I pulled up next to her. “Get in.” Patty jumped into the car, and I floored it. “Didn’t you see them come out?”

“Of course. They held the door for me.”

“I’m happy they still have their manners…”

KW: You sound busy. Is there anything else going on?

ECH: I’ve become an active member of Twitter’s Writing Community. One of the fun things to do is VSS365 (Very Short Story). The moderator sends out a daily word prompt, and the challenge is to write a 280-character poem or story that includes that word. A curated book of the best writings was just released called VSS365 Anthology, and I’m proud to say that one of my stories was chosen. All proceeds from the sale of the book benefit a children’s literacy charity called The Book Bus.

KW: How do we get Murder So Deadly?

ECH: Thanks for asking. Just click on the link: https://www.amazon.com/Murder-So-Deadly-Mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B07WHT5PN9/.

Lessons Learned from My First Book Expo

This summer, I received a Tweet touting a Mid-Ohio Independent Authors Book Expo. Since it was nearby (in Grove City), I thought it would be a good test run to see if I could gain traction.

Before the expo (things I did right):

Eileen Curley Hammond visits her first book fair.
Eileen Curley Hammond visits her first book fair.
  • Ordered author’s copies of my books. I had no idea what to expect, so I over-ordered, figuring better to have too many.
  • Obtained a mobile credit card swiper/chip reader. (I decided on PayPal. The exhibitors next to me had Four Square. Both worked.) Preloaded my prices and tax so that I only had to press a few buttons. I also brought change with me for cash buyers.
  • Designed and ordered an overlay table cloth. (The tables came with cloths, I wanted to brand mine.) Vistaprint made this an easy process, as all I had to do was the wording; they had a design I liked. I also used them for a tabletop sign for my book that will be released end of September.
  • Ordered wire display holders (stands) for my books.
  • Became a Transient Vendor for the State of Ohio so that I could collect sales tax. (You can do this online.)
  • Checked my stock of bookmarks.
  • Practiced my elevator pitch.
  • Touted the expo on my social media platforms. (In hindsight, I would have done this earlier and more frequently.)

During the expo (things I learned):

  • A wheeled cart is a back and arm saver. The venue indicated that they’d have people help with load-in; they did, but they were hopping. I’m going to order one along with plastic containers to store my books. The exhibitor across from me had a very sturdy looking cart and one enormous bin for his books. He said that the bin was over 100 lbs. I will be buying smaller bins and stacking them.
  • Introduce yourself to the exhibitors around you and let them know what you write. That way if a customer tells you they only read sci-fi, you can refer them next door. (Mutual referrals happened several times.)
  • In addition to your display books, put at least a few of your stock on the table too. I thought it was better to have a clean look to the table, but one reader was hesitant to buy because she thought she’d be getting the display. (I put several on the table after that experience.)
  • Think about bringing a candy bowl or dish and keep it filled as an enticement for customers to speak to you.
  • Smile and be bold. Make eye contact, ask what the person reads, and tout your book(s). Don’t be afraid to step away from the table and into the aisle.
  • Ask another author to take your picture; post it on social media while you are at the venue. (Make sure your boxes are out of the way.)

Was it worth it? This particular book expo was not well attended, though I did sell several books. The organizers did a good job getting the word out, but it was a lovely Saturday before many kids went back to school. From my perspective, it was positive, as it gave me a chance to get the kinks out. Now I need to determine the next best one to attend.