Friday, June 10, 2005

Of Dark and Stormy Nights

So I'm sitting at my computer, my fingers soaked in yellow, magenta, and cyan ink, trying to tell the difference between 20# paper and 24# paper by holding them up to the light and judging which is slightly thicker.

Pre-conference excitement at its apex.

Tomorrow is Of Dark and Stormy Nights XXIII (www.ofdarkandstormynights.com), a convention for writers by writers. I'm faculty, which means I'm teaching two classes: one on creating series characters, and one on selling short stories.

The teaching is the easy part--I enjoy public speaking, and am very familiar with these topics.

The preparation is the hard part.

I've put together a handout for each class, but rather than the typical black and white Xerox, I've created a color booklet that the attendees will hopefully keep longer than the time it takes to get to the nearest garbage can.

The booklets are pretty easy to make using MS Word, but printing is a pain because it's double sided and each page needs to be fed into the printer twice.

My helpful wife, ever the enemy of disorder, unwrapped all of my reams of paper because the wrappers were unsightly, then neatly stacked it all next to my desk.

Since double sided only works with 24# (20# bleeds through), I've spent the last hour trying to separate the two. Prior to that, I refilled my ink jet cartridge, which is much cheaper than buying a new cartridge, but I didn't bother using the handy rubber gloves they included with the kit, so now I look like I've been arrested and printed by Jackson Pollock.

I should be done in about four more hours.

Why bother? Why not go with the black and white Xerox, or even simpler, tell the classes to take notes?

Because this is part of the business that I have control over.

I don't have control over some little old lady in Sheboygan Wisconsin who picks up my book in a Borders. But I do have control over my public appearances, and I want to be remembered. The more people who remember me, the more likely they are to buy my books and talk about me afterwards.

So I dress my best, make sure I have a fun, energetic, informative presentation, and give out handouts that folks will keep.

I'll also bring business cards (one with my address and phone number, one with just my book covers and website URL), flyers for the freebie table, and extra books for when the bookseller runs out of mine (they always seem to, and I let them have copies at a 40% discount. I buy my books at that same discount from an independent bookstore---buying from your publisher doesn't count toward your sales.)

It's a pain to print everything up and haul it there, but I think it's worth it. Though it's hard to judge the effectiveness of handouts, I get emails every week from folks who have met me somewhere on the road and want to thank me for the short story/booklet/coaster that I gave them.

What amazes me are the writers who come to conventions with NOTHING. No flyer. No business card. No copies of their book.

These same writers get upset when the dealer room runs out of their work, or didn't have it in the first place. They lament the fact that their website isn't getting any traffic, when they didn't pass out a single card with their URL on it. They spend hundreds of dollars attending conferences, and then their spend time boozing with old buddies rather than meeting new faces.

Yes, publicity is thankless, boring, and difficult. Yes, it's much easier to sit in a corner and hope to get noticed rather than put on a big smile and introduce yourself to strangers.

But isn't that why we attend these things? To be remembered?