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.
Mel 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.