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While I waited for my book’s release date to arrive, the founder of the Northshore Literary Society invited me to be a panel member at the “From a Great Idea to a Book” workshop sponsored by the Jane Austen Festival. The festival held free events all day Saturday for lovers of Austen’s books. The attendees paid for the writing workshop on Sunday.

I almost turned her down. Even if my book was ready to sell it did not fit the romantic fiction genre. But Saturday’s events gave authors opportunity to display and promote their work, and I would be talking to writers on Sunday. I said yes for a taste of the marketing experience.

I had articles published in Gathering Magazine, so I asked the publisher if she wanted to distribute copies of her magazines that had not sold to attract new readers. I planned to distribute copies of my book’s introduction and collect names and emails for a drawing to win a prerelease copy of my book.

I had already paid for table space at the festival when Rebecca, a close friend, told me she was speaking at the Southern Christian Writers Guild meeting on the same day. I always filmed authors who spoke at the Guild for NOLA’s faith blog, but we never knew who would speak until we arrived, so I planned to skip that meeting. When I learned my friend was promoting her book, skipping wasn’t an option.

Fortunately, the publisher of Gathering Magazine agreed to work the table until I could return. We arrived at the festival early to set up. The book section in front of the main stage was full. No table for us. Ryan, a motivational speaker and friend, walked by looking for his table. No table for him either. We found an event organizer who set up a table for Ryan and me to share. He set out his books and I helped the publisher set out her magazines, printed copies of my book’s introduction, and cards to sign up for the prerelease drawing.

With thirty minutes to spare before I dashed off to film Rebecca’s presentation about Gallaudet University Press offering her a contract, I took out my camera to film authors promoting their books. As soon as the first author began speaking someone decided the festival needed music…really loud music. We called to the woman on stage standing behind the soundboard.

“Can you turn the music down or off.” She frowned.

“All we need is ten minutes.” She consented.

I left to film Rebecca. By the time I returned, the Louisiane Vintage Dancers where teaching audience members how to dance. Crafts were being packed up and tables carted off to a dark closet until needed again. I was pleased to learn seven people had signed up for the drawing.

The mad dash on Saturday gave way to a delightful Sunday. My husband drove me across the lake for lunch at his favorite restaurant. I departed from my usual taco salad and thoroughly enjoyed the spinach chimichanga.

We arrived at The Lake House to see the moderator for the panel and cofounder of the Northshore Literary Society standing on the balcony. She spotted me and pointed to the stairs at the side of the house. My husband and I ascended the stairs to enter a packed room. The organizer told me the panelist would be seated at a table with microphones. There were four chairs. No microphones. I suggested standing so people could see and hear us. She agreed and left to find the other panel members.

She returned with Robin Wells, St. Tammany Parish Literary Artist of the Year and author of sixteen critically acclaimed fiction romance novels that had been translated into eighteen languages.  Her books had won the National Golden Heart Award, two National Readers’ Choice Awards, the Award of Excellence, the Golden Quill, and the Holt Medallion. I wondered how I merited being on a panel with such a distinguished author. The other panelist, a NLS board member, had a fiction story published in the Apalachee Review, and had started writing her first novel. I greeted my co panelist, and the moderator invited us to sit down. I guess she decided people could see and hear us just fine.

During the panel discussion, Robin Wells said, “Writing is spiritual.” I understood the concept based on my experience writing Sunday school material but had not considered fiction writing could be spiritual. Robin also said, “I would be reluctant to give any one advice on writing because the publishing industry has become like the Wild West.”

She confirmed what I had already discovered. With the advent of print on demand publishing, social media and digital books anything is possible. Anyone can be published, and many manuscripts are published that are not ready for public consumption. My first book fell into that category. I later wrote a book titled Publishing’s New Frontier about my experience in Christian publishing’s Wild West.

Nevertheless, the success of some print on demand books has made the once frowned upon self-published industry, which is now called independent publishing, acceptable. I know a few traditionally published authors who have ventured into POD because the profits are much higher than those generated by writing for a traditional publishing house.

At the conclusion of the panel discussion, a retired Methodist clergyman told me about his wife’s involvement in Women’s Aglow before she died. Another man said, “You are very open. Whatever we wanted to know you were willing to tell us.” I enjoyed talking to them and was happy to see both men holding a copy of my book’s introduction that I had left on the display table for the workshop. I returned home from my first foray in marketing with one copy of the introduction advertising my book. Not bad for a nonfiction book among people who read fiction romance.


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