Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Book Fair

I imagine that most writers that really want it, have a network of cheerleaders that believe that they have the next Stephen King in their midst and are eager to provide whatever advice and inspiration that they can. I certainly have my. My group of supporters is small but passionate. Among them is my older sister. Recently she emailed a link to me about a book fair that she thought I might be interested in. The website said, in part, “All throughout the day (10am-5pm), various publishers and distributors will have their tables set up…”

Well, this was a book fair and not a writers’ conference but I thought that, given this sentence, there might be something useful for me here. You see, according to what I’ve read and what I’ve been told, most conferences take place between April and September. I wasn’t ready to start thinking in this direction this summer so I didn’t look for a conference. They cost money, usually a few hundred just to attend. Then most are in big and distant cities so I’d have to pay to go and stay as well. That’s a healthy chunk of money in the end for a project that I’m still not even sure of. So, I stayed home and I wrote.

My understanding is that the point of conferences is twofold. One is for technical, nuts and bolts, advice on the publishing industry and writing and, for a few dollars more, even the piece that you are working on. That alone would be wonderful. But the other purpose is to put a horde of writers in a room with a horde of agents and publishers. Few deals are closed at these things but contacts are made. People network. I hate that word!

But I didn’t go to any. I stayed at home with my indecision and my laptop and here I am, nearing the end and I have no friends in the industry, no contacts that I’ve networked and schmoozed. I can send blind letters to agents but those have a pretty high failure rate.

Which brings us back to the book fair and that line. “Contacts,” I thought and happily headed out for it.

It was held in an Episcopal Church in St. Louis. When I walked through the door, I was hit in the face with the ripe smell of pot and body odor. This wasn’t your typical “I just went jogging” body odor. This was the well seasoned stink of somebody that hasn’t showered for days and using the laundry system of, “I’ll wash it when it walks to the washing machine and begs me.”

The main room was rather small and crammed with long folding tables. They were lined up wall to call and cover with pamphlets. OK, there were a few books but mostly pamphlets. On one table was a stack of Xerox copies that were stapled together and being sold for $1. There were a couple of proper publishers but they had manned their tables with hippy kids that wouldn’t have known how to buy my book. Besides, there wasn’t a bit of fiction to be found.

This was a book fair for the far left wing, “let’s legalize everything” crowd, certainly not the right venue for networking and contacts. I waded through the muck for a little while but eventually had to just leave.

Oh well, there’s another book fair at the end of October. Maybe this one will go better, y’think?

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