I feel that today was a momentous day in my career as an author. Or my wanna-be career as an author. I came to Portland for a visit, and coincidentally, the annual NW Bookfest was happening. I was several months too late to get a table at the exposition, but thought I could show up and make some connections, maybe sell some books. Schmooze with other authors.
When I woke up this morning I was actually pretty terrified about going to the event by myself, I find it hard to walk up to random people and talk, especially if I’m trying to sell my work. I considered having a bloody mary or two to calm my nerves but decided to go sober and see how it worked out.
The one thing I hadn’t counted on was that most authors are actually more introverted and geeky than me, which was a pleasant surprise. There were 100 tables of authors selling their books and I had no problem making conversation and at some point, directing the shy people into talking about my book and passing out my cards. Not to say that I didn’t learn about many other authors, but I formed some friendships and traded stories for a good part of my morning.
I only brought five copies of my book to the event, mostly because I was nervous and wasn’t sure that I could sell any without a booth, but I talked five authors into book trades and was able to pick up five books that sounded really interesting. Besides finding five new books to read, five people now own my book and we promised to trade reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I think that’s a win in this situation.
At one point I was stung by a bee as I was chatting up an author. I said ‘Ouch,’ looked down and pull the stinger out of my leg. She asked if I was allergic, I told her that we’d see, and we continued on in our conversation. I didn’t die.
The major thing I learned was what an author’s table should look like at an event. Everyone had giant poster board pictures of their books, which I have, but most had themed tablecloths, shirts, hats, bookmarks, postcards, and giveaways. The giveaways were what drew so many people to the tables, and very few authors had them. At one table, I was asked to pick a card from a specially printed deck, if I picked the ace of spades I could win a copy of the newest book. Any other ace won a copy of an older book. I drew the nine of clubs and got some advice. They were philosophy books.
My favorite table was by Robert R Mitchell, the author of “Only Shot to a Good Tombstone.” He erected a spinning wheel ala The Price is Right, and had several book-themed items to give away. I won a beer coozey. Appropriate. He had a tablecloth printed with his book info that caught the eye, and some tombstone themed decorations. Win for him.
Another booth by CS Blue, a poet, featured a sound system, and he sang me his latest love poem, accompanied by soothing music. I’m not a huge poetry fan but he put his heart and soul into the production. I was a bit uncomfortable nearing the end, as I was the only person at his table listening. And because his love took on some more-than-pg flourishes.
Overall, I was pretty pleased at the event, I met several great people, and learned a lot about book promotion. The books I traded for were The Sum of our Gods by Benjamin Gorman, The One Idea that Saves the World by Laurence Overmire, Island Women by Richard Sessions, Memory’s Hostage by Margaret Pinard, and Sun Wielder by D Wallace Peach. All intriguing books that I’m excited to read.
The next stop of the day was the Oregon Brewfest. I met my long-lost friend Andy Buoni and his co-worker Aaron, and we wandered around a couple hours sampling some of Oregon’s best microbrews. Andy and I spent two years together at The Ohio State University, taking the same classes and doing all the things that delinquent college students do. It’s always great to catch up with old friends, especially the kind that can start right into conversation like a day hasn’t passed. I saw Andy last about five years ago, and before that, about 10 years. Wow, I feel old.
The brewfest featured almost 100 different beers, including a small selection of international beers, ranging anywhere from 5% to 11% alcohol. I tried multiple types that I’m trying hard to remember the names with very little luck. When my phone gets charged I’ll be able to get the info from the pictures I took. The ones I really wanted to try had lines with approximately 100 people and I didn’t have the patience to wait. As it was, Andy and I perfected our line-cutting technique for a good portion of the day; he’s a smaller, inconspicuous type of guy who could melt into the front of a line without notice, and I’d show up as he reached the front. At other times I’d spot a group of single men near the front of a line and strike up conversation, and Andy would appear as I was getting my beer poured. The only objection came when a woman protested ‘cutters,’ and Aaron took the fall for us. Poor Aaron didn’t benefit from any of our ingenious, tipsy line cutting. I did miss out on the dragon fruit beer and the jalapeño beer, those lines were so long that cutting was not an option, but I can find them in the stores.
As the day progressed, the crowd became ridiculous, and I found the shortest line to spend my last token. The shortest line didn’t necessarily mean the worst beer, it might mean an undiscovered beer with bad advertising. After 15 samples, I was happy with it. Then I took my commemorative glass and wandered to a nearby bar to write up my notes.
All in all, a successful day in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve been wandering the city for almost a week, shopping, running, and discovering, and I have plans to hike waterfalls and find the hidden natural gems that Portlanders can show me. The next stop is Seattle, for more book promotion and an unexpected wall dive that is apparently one of the best in the States.
Gearing up for a new book…