Orrville Public Library Local Author Meet and Greet

March 28th, 2022 6:46 PM

In March of 2020, when I first began seriously writing Illness, doing any kind of live event was a very far thing from my mind. For one thing, I didn’t imagine I’d see any modicum of success in this industry. I didn’t think my book would make it into that many hands, that any folks out there might enjoy it or respect it as an entry in the fantasy genre, nor did I think I’d recover much—if any—of the money I would go on to invest in creating a quality product. At that time, I wasn’t even sure whether I’d complete the novel, let alone make it past the publishing stage and into the barbarous territory of marketing. I didn’t even know if I’d have the wherewithal to keep going after publication, whether I would manage to give this a really, honest try.

With any entrepreneurial venture, there’s always that little voice that keeps saying, “Nobody knows about you. Nobody has seen this thing. You haven’t truly committed to anything. If you just stopped now, nobody would know, and you could resume a life that had nothing at all to do with this thing.”

Then the pandemic moved into full swing.

And that voice got louder as I pressed on. The world was changing before our eyes then, and so, so much was uncertain. At times, while friends and family were suffering at the hands of a terrible virus, it was very easy to lose any sense of purpose or meaning related to my writing. Why bother with this novel and with self-publishing when the world is suffering so much?

But writing, of course, ended up being therapeutic. It helped me to manage my anxiety, which was a lot higher during those times of such great uncertainty. Even though writing the book didn’t do anything to change the world or make it much brighter, it did help me, and I guess that’s why I kept pushing myself and ignoring that voice.

Now, I have seen at least a modicum of success. My book has made it into the hands of quite a lot of people, actually. At least a few hundred. And quite a few of them have enjoyed it, and some have even voiced their respect for the work as a refreshing entry into the fantasy genre. I definitely didn’t recoup my costs, but that’s a story I’ve told many times, and I’ve learned from it. Besides, this was never about money; I’ve known from the beginning that a self-published author shouldn’t have the slightest expectation of making any money. A hope, maybe—but not any expectation.

I made it through to the bone-riddled, ashen, and arid wasteland of marketing. It’s brutal out here. I’ve detailed my marketing efforts exhaustively on this blog, so my readers are familiar with my adventures in this strange and unforgiving land. I’ve dug my heels into the water-starved sand, have built my thing and gone to the people directly instead of building it and waiting for them to come. Despite my best efforts, I’m never surprised by how difficult it is to ask of and receive from the people their time and attention. I know I’m not owed any such thing, but I’ll continue to do the hard work of asking and hoping to receive anyway. It’s all I can do. I’ll keep looking to others and saying, “Here’s this thing I created. I poured my values, mind, and effort into it. Can you give it a look? Maybe you’ll find value in it.”

Back when I was in The Origin Animate, a post-hardcore band (for fun, you can check out our old YouTube channel), playing live events was the best way to market ourselves. We met so many people who were packed into small venues and out for a night of live music, games, and friends. I’ve always had a penchant for live events and the way they bring people together around some centerpiece (a group of musicians, a speaker, an author, art itself). This desire to gather in a social setting… it’s deep in many folks’ bones, on a cellular level. It’s visceral. We want to interact with other people (I mean, some of us do; I know lots of others who would disagree). I think that’s part of the reason why so many people are divided on the remote work thing. You can blame corporate real estate (and that probably is a major part of the issue), but I think, too, there is a strong desire to be around other people. Obviously, every situation is unique. I, for example, don’t necessarily crave the company of my fellow office mates, but that’s largely because I’m blessed with my wife and kids. I get plenty of social gratification at home as is, so I’m happy to spare my vehicle from all that wear-and-tear (and my wallet from those gas prices).

So, I’ll say it here in case I haven’t said it explicitly before: the remote revolution has been great for me. The key there, of course, is the qualifying phrase “for me.” At the same time, I absolutely acknowledge that good, genuine, mutually beneficial social interactions are like sunlight; they can awaken in you a kind of revitalization that you didn’t even know you needed.

In some distant and dusty corner of my mind, I think I did start to worry that live events, in general, might fade away, that virtual meetings would utterly usurp them. I would see authors hosting virtual live events, and, while I was not (and still am not) at all averse to the nature of remote working, I think certain things (like concerts and book signings, of course) do become more meaningful because of their venue and because of the proximity to the people involved in the event. Though the worry was there, it was quiet. I hardly considered—in fact, I might be able to say that I didn't even consider—what the landscape might look like for writing-related events on the other end of the pandemic (and, I think it goes without saying that I didn’t even know then whether we would make it to other side of the pandemic).

But there were a few instances where live events and the like were part of what I thought about for the future. In those times, when I envisioned myself with a completed series of novels (or, at the very least, one completed novel), dreams of book signings and live readings showed up. Most often, I just pushed them aside, telling myself that I wouldn’t need to worry about live events until much later, when I’d sold more books and had more people eager to see my signature on a copy.

I talk at length about this because, for a long time, I didn’t even think to pursue any live opportunities, and I think the major causes of my inhibition in this regard were the pandemic and, truthfully, my own doubts.

Had it not been for my blessing of a neighbor, those inhibitions might have kept me from pursuing these live opportunities for a much longer time.

For her own privacy, I’ll not share her name here, but after we moved to the friendly little town in which we now happily find ourselves (Orrville), we were fortunate to meet a couple who lived a few houses up the road. In passing, I revealed to our neighbor that I had written a novel, and I thought nothing of it. We had talked about a lot, but I never knew that she used to be an employee with the Orrville Public Library. Nearly two years after meeting this neighbor, it was January of 2022, and I checked my email inbox to discover an invitation to participate in the Orrville Public Library’s first Annual Author Meet and Greet. I was baffled. I had an online presence, but it wasn’t that big… and it certainly wasn’t local (most of the traffic I get to my website is from all over the world, and most of the people I reach out to aren’t Ohioans). How did this local library know about me? I wracked my brain about it, and finally I asked them how they found me, and they told me that my neighbor had recommended me. Of course, I thanked her, and now I’m publicly thanking her, because the event turned out to be an absolute delight.

It also spurred another large Ohio book fair to reach out to me with an invitation, and I’ll be giving more details on that at a later time. My neighbor’s kindness—and the Orrville Public Library’s willingness to invite me—awoke again in me the desire to participate in these live, social events. The subsequent invitation from that other Ohio book fair made me feel that it’s possible for me to get out there and keep promoting my work, and it reignited my passion for writing these novels. I was already ardent about writing them for the sake of the stories themselves, but now I can point to yet another reason when I’m in sore need of motivation: I’ll need more books for my table at live events.

The Orrville Public Library is a gorgeous building with a top-notch, impeccable staff. I was blown away by the kindness of the staff and their willingness to make the day all about the authors. I’m sure my fellow authors would agree! I’ve included a gallery at the top of this blog post that showcases my display and a few other memorable (for me) aspects of the event. If you’re interested in how it went, be sure to check out the gallery. You can get more information by clicking on each of the photos and flipping through the gallery in its expanded view.

As a parting piece to this topic (which, until today, I’ve been really excited but unfortunately too busy to write about), I’d like to extend an offer to any of the authors who participated in the event: please comment on this blog post and share your experience (along with any pertinent social links, sites, or new releases). My readers would love to hear about it, too.

Readers of my blog, have you ever been to a writing-related live event? Which one was most memorable? If not, what is your most cherished memory from a live event of any sort?

Thanks, as always, for reading.