I had a book table at the local author’s expo I attended this weekend, the first of many I imagine. I was instructed to bring my own set up. I was a little apprehensive as to what exactly that meant. I carefully collected the things I thought I would need – a tablecloth, stands for displaying my books, bookmarks, business cards that I had picked up the day before, hard candies in a cute dish and a smile. Even so, I was not as prepared as I should have been.
Dozens of times I was asked this question. “So, what is your book about?” And even though I smiled warmly and gave it my best effort, I felt like each time was awkward and each answer lacking. I was poorly representing my creative work that represents me so well.
I learned a lot of things at this expo and realizing I needed to develop a better answer when a total stranger will ask ‘So, what is your book about?’ was one of them.
Those of you who know me and might think I always know what to say would have been as surprised as I was when I didn’t. They didn’t know me. I didn’t know them. They certainly had never heard of Tessie (my main character). They hadn’t heard me teach a Bible Study. They weren’t my FB friend or a Twitter Follower. They hadn’t read my blog nor my magazine articles. I had never prayed for them in a moment of distress. They didn’t even know I loved to crochet. 😉 I was fully seated upon the throne of obscurity.
There were authors everywhere, about a hundred at this expo. Just to my left was a very nice man I enjoyed meeting so much and he was the author of a book that has recently been made into a very successful movie. Not only that, the story happened in the Birmingham area, where the expo was being held. He was not unknown. Well, maybe he was, but his book, the movie, the setting of the story was WELL KNOWN and let me tell you, folks were eager to interact with him, buy his books and have their pictures made with him. I never once heard anyone ask him what his book was about. They already knew.
I couldn’t help but think of my book-signing last month which was, in my opinion, very successful. The people who came knew me or knew of me. They never asked me what the book was about. Many of them had already read it and were excited to taste ‘Tessie’s cornflake candy’ or ask when the sequel would be out. They were there to celebrate with me because they cared about me.
But this day, was a different scenario. This day was a day where I needed to introduce my book and myself to total strangers in about a minute. I wish I could tell you that I have had a revelation of what that answer should be. I’m still pondering it as I prepare to attend a writer’s conference this weekend where I will once again have a book table. I hope to do better.
I’d love to hear from other authors if they have any suggestions. Perhaps readers can tell me what you hope to hear about a book when you ask that approach a book table. How can I step down from that throne of obscurity?
Do you want to know that the book is about a family with a heart for foster children and adoption? Do you want to know that the main character relies heavily on her faith when her family is faced with a crisis? Is it important to know that this family is very similar in structure and character to my own real life family? Are you more interested in the fact that it has a preparedness influence? Does it intrigue you that the family begins to be more self-reliant and Tessie learns to can food and train her goats to pull a wagon? Do you care that I wrote this book to organize my own thoughts when I wondered how we would react if life as we knew it was disrupted? How about the matching chapter devotionals in the back? Or maybe, at the book table, you’d like to hear about me, the author?
These are the questions that are rattling around in my brain today. And here’s one thing I know. I’m so glad I wrote this book. I’m so glad I’m growing and stretching and learning. I’m so glad that I can have a business card that says ‘Stephanie Rodda, Author’. I am enjoying every moment of this challenging adventure. I am thrilled to have my own, folding book-table (with a carrying handle, mind you). I am thankful to have the opportunity to inspire another woman, another parent, another person who may be saying, “What will will do if life as we know it, crumbles?” Because we all know this, life isn’t neat and tidy, things don’t always turn out like we expect them to. And when our expectations and what we were sure we could count on lies at our feet in crumbles, we have to decide if we are going to find our courage and rely on our faith. That’s exactly what I’m going to try to do, even at the book table.