Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bluegrass Festival Of Books

We arrived at the University of Kentucky on Friday evening. An author reception at King Alumni House consisted of authors, Joseph Beth Booksellers, and press from the Lexington Herald-Leader. The newspaper, along with Joseph-Beth were sponsors of this fantastic Festival of Books.

But the moment I walked into the large Bluegrass Ballroom at the Lexington Center the next morning, I knew it would be a successful day. Each author was given a large space and a table. The anticipated crowd gathered outside before the doors opened. I would estimate an attendance of 3,000 or more folks came to see Paula Deen and the rest of us. There were several great sessions and workshops, but some authors only graced their tables part of the day. Or even an hour, depending on how "popular" they were. A few authors, I noticed, only sat at their tables long enough to get their pictures taken.

Me? I was there all day, baby. And guess what? I sold out. Just like at the Frankfort book festival, I ran out of books. Once again, Michael sprinted to the car and took books from our stash in the trunk. Hmmm. Seems to me Joseph-Beth underestimated this Southern Fried Woman. Not that I had lines of people waiting with baited breath to buy my book, but I did have a constant flow.

Over the course of the day, sitting there, talking to folks, getting to know them, having them get to know you ... you sell books. It's a process. It's not easy. You sit there, smiling, and waiting. Some come to the table, pick up the book, smile back, and then try to set it down so you're not offended that they're not buying it. Some outright say, "I'll pass." But then there's the women that come just to see you. They've circled your name in the program and make a beeline to your table. They came just to buy your book. Yet some mosey over, read the back and say "I'll be back." And the rest see my posters, their eyes light up, they read the back cover and exclaim, "I know my mama would love this!" Or "I want two!"

Anyway ... you get the picture. Writer's take note! I've said this before ... but, writing the book is the easy part. You need to have a great cover, a catchy title, and a personality to withstand months of getting out there in the public and handselling your book. One at a time.

The big draws, Paula Deen, Dorothea Benton Frank, and maybe a few others ... do help to gather a crowd. And one particular author, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee aka http://www.theyarnharlot.com/ wrote a book about knitting. (I think it's really neat that women learn how to knit, but good grief, these women take it to the next level.) Stephanie didn't write a book of fiction, but still, the line for her books on knitting stretched around the room all day. I was amazed.

Gwen Hyman Rubio, author of Ivy Sparks, an Oprah Book Pick, sat behind me. Her husband was like Michael. Ever faithful C.E.O. Carry Everything Out. He sat next to her all day, assisting her. She had a busy table. I saw Silas House. Author of Coal Tatoo. Silas walked up to my booth and gave me a big ole' Carolina hug. Though he is a native Kentucky son, his books are well loved by folks in the Carolinas. We've traveled in some of the same book festival circles. What a great guy and an outstanding author.

One thing I did (unintentionally) that drew some folks. I decided that while I sat there all day, I would not waste any time but work on edits of my novel. I figured, when I had no customers at my table, my head would be in my work. You would not believe the questions. "Is that what a book looks like before it's a book?" "Wow, you really are an author, huh?" "Geez, that's so cool, a real manuscript."

I had to laugh. I was drawing folks in and didn't even know it.

Then, I heard from some lucky ticket-holders who sat in on the Paula Deen luncheon. They said the whole thing was like a cult-following. I can believe that. I too, love Paula. Some women wore hats with a big stick of butter on the top. I suppose if you've got a hook, like cooking or knitting, you'll have groupies.

But then, there's always those women who came ... just to see me. They want those stories that sing to their hearts. Now that, my friend, is a feeling of success. I can't tell you what that means to me, or how grand it feels. Because for every low, there is a high. And though we get weary and worn out traveling the countryside from one gig to the next ... it's what I've always wanted to do. Have folks read my stories. The miles on the car and on our bodies are small proof of that dream.

So today, I'll rest. Work on the novel and stay in my nightgown. I sold all my books. I'm soon to go into the third printing of Southern Fried Women. And I'm not even close to the place I want to be as a writer. But after a day of R&R, I'll hop back in the car and Michael and I will head to our next destination.

To speak and sell more stories that sing to hearts.

Blessings to you and yours.

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