Yesterday (yes, I am writing this post on Sunday; it wasn’t possible to get started sooner with this topic) was the 1st Annual Indie Author Day. If you weren’t aware of it, this was an event organized as a collaboration of multiple public and municipal libraries to celebrate indie authors.
Not every public library system celebrated, and those that did had differing levels of participation. From the example of my own local library and from some others that authors in my facebook feed promoted, the program varied a bit but had roughly this program:
1. One or more panels by supposedly independent authors (more on this later).
2. A 2pm live-streamed Video conference to be projected for all attendees (if you’re curious, that conference can be re-watched on Youtube. I thought it was a little dry, myself, and with a bit more self-congratulatory back-patting than I prefer, but there were a few points made that some of you might be interested in)
3. A meet-and-greet of local authors (well, at least those who attended. Every other local author I knew of didn’t go, and I knew nothing of the ones who did show up. But it was probably the highlight of the thing, as it allowed indie authors to get to know their fellow indie authors).
This was an event that some libraries did better than others. Chris Kennedy’s report of the Virginia Beach Library’s program seemed to run so much better than my own (in the Loudoun County Public Library system. While I am going to be a critical of the program in this blog, however, I am giving them big kudos for having the event at all; several library systems didn’t bother), with more programming: Virginia Beach had three panels of authors, several of whose names I recognized, against Loudoun County’s single panel, none of whose names I knew.
Also, the Loudoun County meet-and-greet session was mixed in with demonstrations of their Espresso Book Machine; I’m all for them pushing that (these could be good tools for supplemental self-publishing POD distribution, as I mentioned once or twice in my Self-Publishing Roundtable, but more of the machines need to be installed nationwide before they become much more effective than a curiousity), but it should have been at a seperate time (perhaps an hour earlier, leading into the rest of the event).
I also could have wished for better guests for the “Indie Writer” panel. It wasn’t that the people who were there didn’t belong (well, some of them belonged; I question whether the corporate consultant with no connection to the publishing industry who “self-published” his business book on corporate consulting back more than a decade ago, mostly as promotional material for his business, and who used a vanity press to do it, really qualified as an “Indie Writer”), but… well, there were no headliners. There were no people especially experienced with most of the challenges of independent publishing of fiction (one short fiction writer who mostly wrote for anthologies, one person whose books were originally published with a small press publisher that has since gone defunct, one self-published textbook writer (whose dully-delivered advice consisted, from what I remember of it, of discussing the difficulties of dealing with peer review as an indie. If you’re writing textbooks, that would be very good advice, but most writers, especially most indie writers, don’t have to deal with that), and the final panelist was the aforementioned vanity-press-published business writer). These guests all had something to contribute to a panel on one aspect of indie writing or another, but all of them really had limited knowledge on the subject. No-one really knew indie publishing.
This was an event intended for indie authors and aspiring indie authors. The aspirants may have heard something new, but the panel spent most of its time dispensing advice which most writers (even most of the aspirants) would have heard a million times before. It would have been nice if the panel discussing indie publishing and writing had someone with recent experience publishing and writing indie books.
And the panel went on far longer than it should have. Technical flaws prevented the librarians from connecting with the live video (they had the computer projected on the screen, so I was able to witness the error and all the things they tried to fix it. All they really needed to do was refresh the web browser, but these librarians, having tried repeatedly to ensure the laptop was plugged in to the power strip, eventually decided that the only way to fix the problem was to replace the lapstop with a different one. I’m still not sure what they were hoping would happen by replacing the power cords). Then the librarians got bored and decided to shut the video-conference down and move on to the meet-and-greet session, which I’ve already mentioned was itself interrupted by the Espresso Book Machine demonstration.
So… the event was a little disappointing, technically flawed, and had other issues I won’t go into here (for example, they had a table of cookies as “refreshments.” Some of these cookies were bone dry, almost dessicating the mouth of those who ate it, and the library offered nothing to drink with them. You had to go out of the programming room and into the hall and find a water fountain to wash them down).
And yet I applaud our library for at least trying. So many public libraries look down on indie writers, and others refuse to do anything to support their local writers. Ours… well, they don’t know what they’re doing, but at least they and the other two hundred Indie Author Day participating library systems are TRYING to reach out to and support the local writing community. That’s what libraries should do. And, if the local writing scene supports it, the librarians at the library will learn what it takes to make an event like this successful. If there’s interest, they will add more programming, put more effort into the scheduling, and learn better what kind of panelists would interest other writers.
So, if you were at an Indie Author Day event yesterday, or knew of one taking place at your local library, great! Let your librarians know you were glad they held it, and offer suggestions for what you want to see at such an event in the future. Ask them to request certain guests in the future, if you know someone (local; they aren’t likely to make much effort reaching out to someone who isn’t already part of the community) who would be good for the panel. Encourage them to expand the program, either in terms of hours or in terms of more support for Indie Authors (or both, if you think you can pull it off).
If you weren’t, try to find out if your library did participate. If they didn’t, ask them to look into joining in the event next year. Show interest in getting your library to support local writers and indies. If enough people show interest, even the most anti-indie of librarians will eventually (if grudgingly) start doing something for indie authors.
It’s worth the effort. Libraries can be a great resource for a writer, both in researching for your next book and marketing your existing ones, and events like this would be a great way to connect with them.