I got hit with a case of the dry heaves when I walked into the exhibition hall. There I stood, in my slept in clothes, getting out of my slept in vehicle, with a display made up of bricks and lumber and fabric, walking through the likes of Penguin Random House, Disney Books, Scholastic to set up my wares. I felt, for only the second time since I started doing this and definitely the most extreme, like an imposter. I mean, listen, I know there are small presses here locally whose owners don’t like me. Still, I don’t have a problem walking into a room where they are and setting up shop, because I know that I deserve to be there, every bit as much as most and more than some. I know there are authors who don’t much care for my hawking, but I don’t feel out of place. Here, I waited for sirens and lights to go off, for someone to catch on to the fact that I obviously, patently didn’t belong. I Messaged librarian friends, looking for reassurance. I put some vague panicked messages on Facebook. Then, I set up my booth and we did what we do. Since then, people have been asking me how it went, and the honest answer is, “I don’t know.”
I don’t know because this weekend wasn’t about ready sales. Sales on the spot. Foolishly, I had thought it would be. One man laughed. “Did you think they were going to buy for their libraries on the spot?” Uh, yeah, actually I did. In fact, in the world in which I’ve cut my teeth, we have a term for those who say they will buy later. We call them bebacks and they are generally dealt with with a roll of the eyes or worse. In this environment, though, I had an intelligent, charming man next to me who was giving books away for FREE who got shot down because the participants didn’t want to have to carry the book. (This man was Chris Beakey, by the way. Awesome man. Excellent writer.You can find him here.) So, I’m watching sales slowly trickle in. Not huge, but they are happening.
I don’t know because I have some prospects on the line that could change our publishing house in huge ways. But I don’t know if they will turn into anything or not. I came home from Printer’s Row Literary Festival convinced that I had made the kind of connections that would change our world, and they were nothing. Yet, I have people reaching out to me. People saying that we were the highlight of the event for them. Did you get that? A veritable smorgasboard of free books, authors doing signings, Neal Freaking Patrick Harris, John Lewis, and I was the highlight? I. .. don’t really know how to deal with that. Especially when, as I said, I felt like such an imposter. I can’t talk more about them now, not until they are done deals, but there’s some potentially exciting things happening.
I don’t know because while I thought I was an imposter, other people were amazed by our story. By the tenacity and grit that we’ve shown. Not everyone. We had eyes rolled at us more than once by academics who informed us that speculative fiction isn't "real" fiction. I had one woman told us our books are ordinary. Still, I made some friends, business aside, that I truly hope to keep in touch with. More than that, I was told over and over again what an inspiration we were. Which was really different from the “I” word that I had in mind.
It was not ready money. Financially, at least for the short term, it was a bit of a bust. It was emotionally and physically exhausting. But by the end of the weekend I could breathe because we did it. .And we did it well. So, how did it go? I don’t know, but I think it went all right.