Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Book Festivals — do you or don’t you?


Sheila Lowe, mystery author and forensic handwriting examiner
Yesterday, I spent the afternoon at the LA Times Festival of Books, dividing my time between Mystery Ink bookstore and Sisters in Crime/LA. The weather was blessedly cool—in past years the Festival has been held on the last weekend of April, when it’s already warming up, but with Passover sharing that weekend at times, the dates have shifted. In any case, there seemed to be a host of people pushing strollers, walking around, checking out the many booths and listening to speakers on various stages. 




Certainly, TC Boyle, who signed next to me in the 11-12 hour, had a long line of fans waiting to get his autograph. TC was new to me, but it turns out he’s written a lot of popular books. He had a kind of rangy Mick Jagger rock star look as he stood in front of the booth, meeting and greeting his readers without the table blocking them from him. Unlike some other well-known authors with whom I’ve shared table space at similar events (e.g., like the one who left in a huff because the folding chair didn't suit), I appreciated that when his line ebbed, TC took the time to introduce himself to Cara and me and shake hands.

Seated on my other side was the always charming Cara Black, who was generous enough to talk up my books as well as her own when visitors stopped by to look at what we were offering. One of the pleasures of signing books at festivals is meeting authors you admire, for their work and/or as people.

In my second stint of the day, at the SinC/LA booth, I sat between Mar Preston, whom I had met a couple of years ago at Derek Pacifico’s Homicide School for Writers, and Laurie Stevens, who brought us chocolate. We liked her a lot.

A couple of young men (20s) stopped by and asked what Sisters in Crime was. “Nuns with bad habits,” I cracked. Luckily, they had a sense of humor and got the joke. Both said they enjoyed mysteries and we each gave them our elevator pitch. They didn’t buy any books for us to sign, but they took our bookmarks, so I’m hoping maybe they’ll download the e-versions. Besides, I’m just happy to see young people reading mystery. Or reading anything.

The next visitors made my day by getting excited to see my current book, WHAT SHE SAW, and to learn that INKSLINGERS BALL is being released on June 10th. They encouraged me to write faster and I invited them to my book launch party.

I can’t say I signed a huge number of books yesterday, but enough to justify the 120 mile round trip and $10 parking fee. There have been years when I signed more books at a festival, but I keep showing up because you never know who you’ll meet, or what your presence might mean to someone else. Is it worth it? You tell me. What’s your perception of big public events like these? Do you sign a lot of books? As a reader, do you buy books at festivals? Is it important to you to have the author sign? I’m interested in your take.

13 comments:

  1. I don't live close enough to any big book festivals to participate. The cost and travel time make them not worthwhile. But I do two local events every year and it's always fun. My Eugene readers expect me to be there, and I typically sell a lot of books too. Sometimes I wish I lived in an area with more bookstores, writers chapters (MWA/SinC) and literary events, but I'm pretty busy as is, so maybe it's good that I don't. :)

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    1. LOL, you could stay very busy, just going around to those places!

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  2. I really love to go to book festivals or any kind of venue that allows me to talk to people. It's fun and it's exhausting and it's really the only place that I talk about my books. I mean, I have to sell the work, right? Maybe one day we'll work one together.

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  3. I love book fairs and festivals. I've been going to LATFOB for over 10 years now, and the number of people accompanying me has expanded.
    BTW, it was great to finally meet you, Sheila!

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    1. It was great to meet you, too, Marlyn! You disappeared so fast, it was barely a glimpse :-)

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  4. I've been to a few writers' conferences but no book festivals so far (I shouldn't complain about distance, there are several great ones in the UK I could attend). I am planning to attend the London Book Fair next year, if I'm not travelling at the time to visit my family.

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    1. Will you be going to the CWA event?

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    2. Unfortunately no. On nightshifts :(

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  5. I think it's worth it just to get to meet people. Can't handle the walking anymore, or I'd still be going to the LAT Book Festival.

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    1. There's definitely a lot of walking to be done. We parked almost on the roof of the parking garage, too. Luckily, there was an elevator. Last year I walked up 5 flights to my car and thought I was going to have a heart attack!

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  6. I've never attended a book festival mostlly because there aren't any here. Next year, the Tucson Festival is the same weekend as LCC so it looks as if it's going to be a while before I try one on for size. I do think though, that you're right about meeting people and just having an energizing time out from behind the desk.

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    1. Those two events do seem to clash. Too bad.

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