Reflections on Indie Author Day 2016

eastchester indie author day 2016Guest Post
by Mel Parish

As the founder of Westchester Indie Authors (WIA) I’m always on the lookout for new events which will help gain more visibility for our small group of authors based in Westchester County, NY. When I heard about a national attempt to link up authors with libraries for Indie Author Day on Saturday, October 8th, 2016, it seemed an ideal opportunity. After discovering that no library in southern Westchester County had signed up to host an event, I approached my local library about the possibility of participating.

Tracy Wright, the director of Eastchester Library, has always been very supportive of local authors and, despite the short notice, was able to offer us the use of the library function room for the day. We agreed that the library would provide some refreshments and set up the equipment necessary for the nationwide digital presentation, but the schedule of other events would be left to WIA to determine. Knowing there’s nothing like free food to draw people in, we decided that each author would also provide a plate of finger food.

Ten authors agreed to participate. We offered three panels: one group of authors talked about why they had been attracted to self-publishing, three non-fiction writers explained the inspiration behind their writing, and four fiction writers discussed “From first idea to finished novel – what’s involved?” We also had poetry readings by two of our members and a spice demonstration by our Indian Cookbook author.

The library had promoted the event through their normal channels and each participant was encouraged to put up flyers and try to get publicity in their local town press. We did have some success with the latter, but as it was rather a last minute attempt, I’m not sure whether it ultimately had much impact.

One of our difficulties was to decide whether the intended audience for the event was writers or readers. The official Indie Author Day flyers stated that the day was to “connect indie books, libraries and readers” but the digital presentation seemed to be most relevant for authors. Most of our attendees seemed to be interested in the self-publishing aspect and I certainly think the title of the event makes it more attractive to authors than readers.

We had a small but appreciative audience. Most who turned up stayed through to the end, and several both bought books and signed up for further information about WIA.

In a recent report on the event by Peyton Stafford for No Shelf Required, some librarians said they would not be participating again this year due to the low turnout, while some authors bemoaned the lack of book sales. Our approach was that while we had a display of our books for sale and each author had the option to donate one book to be used as a door prize, our primary focus was on providing an informative program rather than selling books.

While it would have been nice to have a larger audience, given this was the first event of its kind, we considered the day a success and look forward to using the experience gained to making the next one even bigger and better.

Not only do we intend to start advertising much earlier than last year, but we will advertise the schedule of events in advance to attract people who might only want to drop in for one or two sessions rather than commit to the whole day. Additionally, to cater to diverse interests, we plan to split the agenda into two parts: a session for readers in the morning and a focus on self-publishing in the afternoon.

This year, Indie Author Day is Saturday, October 14th, 2017.  If you are interested in participating, you can check here to see if a library in your area is already signed up. If there is not, I’d highly recommend offering to help put an event together. It’s a great opportunity to get together with other local authors and bring your work to the attention of your local library.

author mel parishMel Parish writes contemporary fiction with a twist of mystery and suspense and is the founder of Westchester Indie Authors, a support group for self-published authors in Westchester County, NY. To learn more about Mel visit her website or Amazon Author Central page.

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9 thoughts on “Reflections on Indie Author Day 2016”

    1. Thanks, Theodore. It certainly seems to be hit and miss as to which libraries participate in Indie Author Day. Perhaps some librarians aren’t aware of how many local indie authors there are in their area which is why it’s important for us to be proactive in getting in touch with libraries. And maybe the Bucks County Library System decided the Author Fairs would be more appropriate for them than Indie Author Day – last year several libraries opted to hold different events on different dates.
      Hope you have a great day.

    2. I think the issue here is that November is NaNoWriMo and libraries are trying to hold events in conjunction with that. It’s fabulous that your library is doing so much, Ted! Thanks for commenting.

      1. Thanks, Kat. I hadn’t thought of doing events to tie in with NaNoWriMo. That’s a great idea, especially for events aimed at authors. We are also hoping to hold a book festival in December (similar to Theodore’s events) -though targeted at readers/holiday shoppers more than other authors.

  1. Great start. I just happened to meet with my local librarian yesterday, and we’re planning our first event for this year. Luckily she’s aware that this may take a few years to gather momentum, so if the turnout is low, that’s just part of the process. We hammered out a tentative program, and I’m getting excited about the focus of it. Go, indies!

    1. Hi, Melissa, that’s great to hear. One hint, don’t rely just on the library advertising, you need to get as much publicity from the authors involved too. We are going to get the event onto as many local news sites calendars as soon as possible. Last year I think we left it too late. It can be a lot of work arranging the day but ultimately it’s fun. Hope your event goes well.

  2. My city didn’t run any Indie Author Day events even after I contacted them about it months in advance, so I had to go to my hometown and the library’s marketing was abysmal. Almost no one showed up and there were eight authors and a panel speaking to virtually no one. Authors got to talk to one another, but beyond that, it was the worst event I’ve ever been to. First year or not, I put out all kinds of support for the event, and nothing. I want to give it another chance, but hoping for a much bigger venue. If that doesn’t happen, I won’t be returning to my hometown to relive that mess.

    1. Sorry to hear you had such a disappointing experience, Michael. I think it is tough getting an audience for a new event like this and the libraries don’t necessarily advertise it as much as they could. It certainly seems as if there is a wide variation in how much libraries are willing to support indie authors. I guess I’m lucky to live in an area where my local library does encourage indies, but across Westchester County it looks like there are only two libraries participating this year and, apparently, Westchester County is one of the biggest county library systems in the country! We indies have a long way to go!

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