Remember when the Scholastic Book Fair was set up in the hallways at your school? With clean order forms and a pencil in hand, you and your class got to walk through the stacks and pick out books that birthday money or your parents might buy. Then there were the cool stickers and trinkets that could only be bought during the event. It was hard to stretch your dollars during this once a year delight.
Zoom through a few decades to attending a regional book festival as an author. You do a short reading to a small audience then stand at your publisher’s booth to help sell books. That’s called a signing, but is really a selling. It’s a heady experience to wear an author nametag and be a part of something so vibrant. There are hundreds, make that thousands, of new titles displayed across the publisher and book store booths. It’s hard to not be intimidated as lines of buyers snake around stanchions to wait for one of the national authors to sign his book. People pick up books to save for Christmas gifting. The book festival is the closest equivalent for an adult Scholastic Book Fair.
Zoom ahead a handful of years to the same book festival. National authors present on the hour in rooms around the display floor. There are a few panel presentations on publicity and regional writing for authors. Writers from other publishers wander while waiting for their scheduled signing time. In fact most of the people who stop by the booth are more interested in talking about how you found a publisher. They’re not buying books or magazines. Many are middle-age with hopes to publish a story they have always wanted to write about growing up on a farm or raising a special child or angels leading people out of an apocalyptic event. Everyone’s talking, but people are walking out with little more than business cards and book marks. Publishers hope there will be a bump in electronic sales.
Change comes slowly or plows through like an uncontrollable circular wind. Maybe regional book festivals will go virtual in the future with authors doing Skype readings and publications offering reading samples and who knows what else. Cool idea, but I’ll miss the excitement of meeting authors and touching so many, many books.