2017 Craft Fair Experiences

Craft Fair 2017After participating in several craft fairs this year, my anecdotal observations pretty much confirm the experiences of previous years, which are:

. Print still sells. My books won’t sell nearly as well by sitting on a bookstore shelf with thousands of other titles. Also, some of my customers said that they tried ebooks but didn’t like them. Sure, a few use iPads and Kindles, but people just don’t seem as excited about them as they once did.

. Customers are shocked to learn that the Chapters chain here in Canada collects 55% of every book sold. It’s the main reason I prefer to sell directly to readers, along with the fact that, in the past, my returned books have been damaged.

. The overwhelming majority of young families understandably don’t have time to read. Those pushing strollers rarely stopped by my table to browse unless they were shopping for a mystery fan in their family, which leads to point four.

. Mystery reader demographics haven’t changed in the 20+ years I’ve been selling books. The largest purchasers, and readers, of mysteries are women between forty-five and seventy-five years of age.

. New or would-be writers are still quite confused about whether to self-publish, find an agent, or look for a traditional publisher. I try to give sound advice without going into a long pros and cons list. Mainly, I ask them to think about what they want out of the publishing experience, and to do some research.

Since fees are charged (and they can be quite steep) to acquire a table at craft fairs, and there is often a jurying process, selling at these venues is always a gamble. You never know until the fair is well underway if you’ll earn your money back. As a vendor recently said to me, it’s always a rush when things are going better than expected, but you can’t count on the same results every year. It’s risky to base your expectations on previous year’s successes. So, we’ll see what happens next year because I’ll definitely participate again. I guess it’s the gambler in me.

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My Own November Challenge

I’ve often been tempted to participate in the amazing Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) where writers commit to writing 50,000 words from Nov 1 – Nov. 30. It appears to be a great way to start a novel, but November is absolutely the worst time of year for me to attempt it. You see, I have my own writing challenges every November, especially this one.

This fall I’m releasing two books (more about the second one next week), promoting both through extra blogs and social networking, plus selling print copies of my books at four different craft fairs.

All this is being done while maintaining the day job and starting Christmas preparations. To keep myself sane and happy, I also spend the first hour of every day writing. After all, it’s what I most love to do.

Keeping all these balls in the air can be difficult, yet I need to test myself, not just as a writer, but as a business person. I want to see what I’m capable of and to learn where I need to cut back. I’m in the thick of things now. It’s exhilarating and exhausting, and I can’t say there’s a lot of peace of mind at this point, but I’ll be able to assess this a little more clearly at the end of this year. Meanwhile, I wish all those who are attempting Nanowrimo the best of luck!

Knock Knock, front cover

Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/y6wejnls

Apple: http://tinyurl.com/y96xscpv

Amazon: myBook.to/KnockKnock

#amblogging: My Best Formatting Tip

selfpub[1]I self-published my first mystery in 1995. In those days, Pagemaker was the formatting program of choice for print books, but it was cumbersome to learn and use. By 2008, when I self-published Fatal Encryption, Word had become a popular means of formatting a book.

After working a traditional publisher for several years, I’m returning to self-publishing for some of my novels, while staying with a traditional publisher for others. Because I’d forgotten so much about formatting a print book, I searched for and found a few how-to blogs, and YouTube videos to help me properly format the book for CreateSpace.

Despite the online help, I wish I had made better notes when I produced Fatal Encryption. The basics are there, but the details about creating the header weren’t written down, so doing it after all this time stumped me. Not all of the blogs addressed headers satisfactorily or offered the types of suggestions that I needed.

Formatting a book is time-consuming and frustrating if you haven’t done it before. So, my best advice for self-publishers is to make notes as you go along. There’s a lot to think about when setting up your basic page layout. Important steps, like remembering to right justify the text, or not indenting the first line of a new chapter, or creating the correct line spacing, are details that are quickly forgotten down the road.

I’m typing up notes as I do all this now because I don’t know when the next self-published novel will appear, but at least I know that I’ll have detailed notes, not to mention the bookmarked how-to blogs, for next time.

#amblogging: From the Other Side of the Table

critiquing-other-writers[1]Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending the Golden Ears Writing and Reading festival. This brand new event was beautifully organized and well attended. I was happy to volunteer as a blue pencil critiquer. Although I’ve pitched my novels to agents and editors before, this was the first time I sat on the other side of the table, where writers came to see me.

For those who are unfamiliar with the process, a blue pencil session is where a writer sits down with an editor, experienced author, or agent, to have a small sample of their work verbally critiqued. I know firsthand how scary this can be.

My job was to read three double-spaced typewritten pages while the author sat across from me and patiently waited to hear what I had to say. I did this in a room with others, so I had to tune out all conversation while I focused on the pages.

The session required concentration, sharp thinking, and the ability to express myself clearly and in a positive, supportive way. It wasn’t overly daunting because I’ve taken part in verbal critiquing sessions for a local writers group for many years. Despite my experience, suggesting improvements to authors I hadn’t met (with one exception) and for work I’d only just seen, was an interesting challenge, but a rewarding one.

I’ve been writing a long time. The opportunity to help others is one of the most satisfying things about my writing life right now, and I’d happily do it again.

#amblogging: The Competition for Time, Attention, and Dollars

I’ve attended Canada’s annual Word on the Street event (now known as WORD Vancouver) for nearly twenty years. I remember many crowded, sunny days volunteering at the Crime Writers of Canada table. For a number of years, it took three or four of us to attend to the many people stopping by our table. Even on rainy days, there was still a great turnout as many events were held indoors.

Over the past five years, I’ve noticed a decrease in the number of attendees for this free event. This year, it was particularly noticeable. Although we enjoyed a gorgeous sunny day, the crowds I remember simply weren’t there. The construction at the front of the library might have put casual street traffic off, but it could have been something else.

big-event-fundraising[1]You see, what I’ve also noticed over the past decade is a marked increase in the number of events being held in Vancouver, and not just on the last Sunday of September, but on many weekends. Metro Vancouver has become a fundraising mecca for great causes and has also drawn an increasing number of high-profile sports events.

On the local newscast, I realized just how many other big events had taken place on Sunday. One of those was an Alzheimer’s Society of BC fundraiser, which was especially significant for me because my hubby (interviewed on TV) was there representing the Society.

Bark on Global-3

The thing is, all these worthy events have inevitably created a greater competition for much-needed dollars. Individuals only have so many hours in their schedule and dollars to give, while the need for food banks, for example, grows. In the end, some of the longstanding events might not see the crowds they once had. At the end of the day, everyone tries to do what they can, and hopefully lots of people gain a little something from these efforts.

#amblogging: What I’d Forgotten About Book Production

self-publishing[1]I’ve self-published two books, one in 1995, the other in 2008. After that, I spent an interesting few years working with a traditional publisher. So, here I am again happily engaged in the production of my fifth Casey Holland mystery, Knock Knock.

After going through the final edits and initial formatting, I found the occasional typo and started second-guessing myself about whether the book was actually ready to publish. Sure, I hired a great editor and incorporated 99% of her suggestions, but in doing so new typos occurred.

While chatting with colleagues at my writers’ group, it dawned on me that I’d forgotten one important step in the process, which was to proofread from a hard copy, and not just a computer screen. So, I’m currently printing out each chapter and, ruler in hand, am going over every word. I’m also reading those words aloud.

It’s helped quite a bit as I’ve found three more errors, but it’s also slowed the process significantly. Now I’m finding that I don’t like a certain word here and there, so I’m substituting one for another. I’m also giving the book to my hubby who is a meticulous proofreader. It’ll take a little longer to see Knock Knock published, but at least I’ll be certain that I did the best I could. At the end of the day, that’s what matters most. Well, that and my sanity.

#amblogging: Writing in Isolation? Attend an Event!

Those of you who’ve been writing a while know how lonely it can be. You can feel like you’re living in a strange void with no clear end in sight. Even if you’re surrounded with great how-to books and support from friends and/or family, it’s a tough haul at times.

Over thirty years of writing has taught me the value of stepping out of my fictional world to attend events and network with others. Autumn is an incredibly busy time and there are many opportunities for workshops, conferences, festivals, library readings, and book signings, so pick a few and get out there if you can.

For those who live here in the Metro Vancouver area, there are a number of great events happening this fall, but to keep this blog short, I’ll focus on just three of the big ones. First up:

Word LogoWORD Vancouver, Reading & Literacy Festival, from Sep. 19-24. The big day is Sunday, Sept. 24 when magazine editors, publishers, authors, illustrators, organizations, and non-profit groups all gather at, and around, the main library on Georgia Street. There will be plenty of handouts, people to talk to, readings, panel discussions, and so forth. This free event also offers musical entertainment, face painting, and all sorts of fun stuff.

I’ll be taking part in a panel discussion called “Mysteries Set in BC” – Local Authors, Local Settings,  at Perspective Point from 4:10 pm to 5:00 pm on Sunday the 24th. You can find more info about the festival at https://www.wordvancouver.ca

The second is the Surrey International Writers Conference from Oct. 17 – 22 at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel in Surrey, British Columbia. Authors, agents, and editors from all over the world attend this friendly, informal event. This is a writers’ conference rather than a fan-based conference. I’ve attended five times and always learn something new. For more information visit, https://www.siwc.ca/ You don’t need to register for the entire conference, but can do only one day if you live nearby.

Third is the Vancouver Writers Fest from Oct. 16 – 22nd on Granville Island in Vancouver. This event boats over 110 authors and 95 events. They have some really big author names appearing this year, and there is a fee. Check out their website at http://writersfest.bc.ca/ for more information. It’s going to be a fun fall!