Anyone else hum the title of this blog post to the opening tune of Jake & The Neverland Pirates?
Just me? Oh...
That may be in part to I just spent a week's vacation with my wife and kiddos, so you can guess what Disney show played often. Felt good to take some time off and recharge the batteries. I meant to write up a post about how much fun I had at the 1st ever Barnes & Noble Teen Book Festival last week, buuuut...vacation. ;)
Anyway, holy Teen Book Festival weekend, Batman! I'm already stoked about next year's event. Receiving an invitation to sign at three different B&N stores and be one of the featured authors made me feel beyond blessed.
And that was before the weekend even started.
My first ever signing in a Barnes & Noble store would take place in Riverside, California and man, was I pumped! I've been trying to sign at Barnes & Noble stores since I first started publishing three years ago. Until the Teen Book Festival, I had always been (kindly) turned away, so you can imagine how excited I was walking up to the store and seeing posters of my books on their doors.
So why am I telling you this? Why admit that I didn't do so hot in my first signing at a big time store? Because if you're an aspiring writer reading this post, you need to know that:
But I'm also telling you the above story to show you fast things can turn around.
My second signing took place on Saturday at a different store, Rancho Cucamonga. Walking up to their store with fellow YA author, Jennifer Brody, I again felt the thrill at seeing my name, photo, and book covers on posters above the B&N doors, finding my books laid out on tables for purchase throughout their store, and then an audience, seated and waiting for us to arrive and kick off our talk.
I saw familiar faces in the crowd - author Nara Duffie and her wonderful family - and tons of strangers, all of them eager to hear about books. Jennifer gave a great reading from her debut novel, The 13th Continuum, and then I gave a little talk about Voice, Show vs. Tell, and Where Inspiration Comes From. We did a Q&A and then did a book signing.
And that's when I really felt things turning...
Fathers & sons approached my table, mentioning they'd overheard and agreed with my talk about the need for content targeting YA male readers in desperate want of material. Another male teen told me that, until he found my Salt series, he always had to read his sister's books and would skip over the romance parts because he didn't care about that stuff. He wanted both of his Salt books signed, asked me when book 3 would be released (later this fall) and told me he couldn't wait to find out what happened to Kellen because he was afraid for his favorite character's safety.
Then I met a new reader who impacted me so much that I'm still grinning at how much her words meant to me. The main signing had ended about a half hour previously and Jennifer and I had moved on to playing Pictionary, Word Ball, and the like with those in attendance when a young woman approached me. She introduced herself (we'll call her Jane, though that wasn't her name) and mentioned how nervous she was to finally meet me. Jane said she was afraid she'd been too late to make it to the signing, but that she had to meet me and say thanks for writing the Salt books because of how much they meant to her.
It blew me away.
I ended up excusing myself from the games so Jane and I could catch up privately. Here's a snippet of how our conversation went:
Jane: Sorry, I'm just super nervous to be here talking with you.
Aaron: Why? I'm just a regular guy like anyone else.
Jane: No, you're an author. To readers, you're like a rockstar.
Aaron: I mean, I don't know if this helps or not, but I'm gonna go home after this event and mow my yard.
Jane laughed at that and we ended up spending the next twenty minutes or so talking books and movies. Then she again thanked me for writing the Salt books and The Grave of Lainey Grace because of how "smart" they were. She said that my books didn't hit her over the head with tell, instead showing her things and making her think. That she thought 'This guy is saying something...' when she read my books and that they touched her.
We said our goodbyes not long after, but here it's been a week and a half since that event and I'm still on cloud nine from meeting such an incredible person. I left that signing ready to take on the world again - all because of Jane.
Another Goal Realized
Finally, my last signing took place in the local Barnes & Noble I've been frequenting since before I published my debut novel, Salted. The thought of publishing my own books back then was just a dream. I'd drag my wife down the YA aisle, perusing the titles, studying the covers to see what I thought worked/didn't work about them, all the while hoping to one day have a book of mine on the shelves. I remember telling my wife: 'One day, I'm gonna come back in this store and sign my books."
I realized that goal on Sunday, June 12th, 2016.
It's easy for authors to listen when naysaying voices whisper 'No one's reading these silly stories you're writing. No one cares.'
Readers might not realize this, but the passionate ones like Jane - (and the equally enthusiastic reader/booksellers like those who invited me into their stores) - are rockstars to we authors/writers. They're the ones who help fuel us and keep us going when the voices tell us no one is reading.
Those rockstar readers all gave this author one heckuva weekend and stoked my creative fire to keep on writing. Can't wait for next year's Barnes & Noble Teen Book Festival!
Author. Actor. Rascal.