Monday, March 1, 2010

South Carolina Book Festival

I went to the South Carolina Book Festival with Brian K. Ladd and Gail Gray yesterday. It was a fun trip, and as Brian said earlier this morning, "definitely an eye-opening experience".

I wish I'd had a chance to go to all three days of the Festival. There were a lot of interesting people, especially authors, in attendance. We sat in on two panels on Sunday: Debut Novelists and Science Fiction and Fantasy: What's the Difference?

The first panel featured four authors who have published their first novels within the last year: Brian Ray, Heidi Durrow, Batt Humphreys, and Dale Neal. They all had insightful things to say about publishing your first novel, but as a first-time novelist who's gearing up to send queries out to agents this summer, I unfortunately heard nothing helpful regarding the traditional submission of query letters and networking in the publishing world. Three of the four authors had won a contest to get their book published, and the fourth, a journalist with 30 years experience at CBS, was approached to write his book.

This lack of query-and-networking commentary (and, evidently, experience) was frustrating. It was kind of like attending a seminar on how to get rich and the speakers at that seminar encouraging you to buy lottery tickets. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure each of the three authors who'd won publishing contests wrote beautiful books - each of which I'd like to take a closer look at. You don't win contests by writing crap. I give each of those writers my utmost respect. But is 3/4 of the panel being contest winners really an accurate representation of the hundreds (if not thousands) of authors who get published each year? I would've liked to've seen a more realistic approach to getting published from these "Debut Novelists".

I definitely got more information out of the second panel, and enjoyed myself a lot more as well. James O'Neal talked about his new series of futuristic crime novels, while Janice Hardy discussed her "Healing Wars" fantasy novels, a trilogy which begins with the novel The Shifter. Both of these novelists had a lot to say about the differences and similarities between science fiction and fantasy, and they had a great chemistry for a two-person panel. Janice defined the difference between science fiction and fantasy as "Fantasy writing is the exploration of the impossible. Science fiction is the exploration of what could be probable." Interesting, huh? I also got some great insights on how cops handle certain situation from James, and hope to incorporate it into the novel - considering one of my main characters is a police officer, this was a great find!

After the panels, we walked the exhibit floor and talked to several different authors. My favorite by far was Nick Valentino, a steampunk and fantasy writer who's just published his first novel, Thomas Riley. Nick had some great marketing going on. He recruited a USC student to dress up in steampunk gear and hand out flyers for his booth at the door. Nick also dressed up in his own steampunk outfit, and handed out beautiful press cards and nifty swag like this cool iron-on patch:

I got one of these for myself and another for a friend who's crazy about steampunk. Nick was ingratiating and fun, and made us feel welcome in his booth. We pooled our money and bought his book, and he signed it for us after making us promise we'd become part of his "Sky Pirate Army". It was so much fun!

Aside from Nick, there was very little fantasy or science fiction showcased, and absolutely NO horror at all. This was another disheartening discovery for me. I hope the SC Book Festival will broaden their horizons in the years to come (especially when I have a book I'd like to showcase there, heh).

Even though it was a mixed bag of tricks, I'd definitely go to the SC Book Festival again next year. I feel it's important to meet other authors and show my support for the writers in South Carolina, and this festival is just one of the many ways I can achieve that goal.


Arlee Bird said...

SC Book Festival sounds like it was a pretty fine experience although that first panel was indeed an anomaly that is not representative of reality. But the opportunity to network is pretty cool.

Did you get my email? If not, check out my Saturday post as I gave you and your blog recognition in the form of one of those "awards".


B. Miller said...

Networking was fun. I definitely need business cards next time. I wasn't able to take the new ones this time because this was sort of a spur of the moment trip, and I didn't have time to get any printed.

THANKS for the award!! Your praise really made my day! :)

Helen Ginger said...

When your book comes out, be sure you approach the Festival people. Let them know you're local, you have a book out and can speak or be on a panel. Don't wait for them to discover you.

Straight From Hel

ggray said...

I have to say, the best part of my whole SC Book Festival exepreince was meeting Nick. He was so enthusiastic about his book and steam punk. I started reading Thomas Riley last night and it's a fast-paced mind trip full of all kinds of contraptions and alchemy. Highly inventive. Yes, Becky, hopefully next year they festival will represent more genres - maybe have a panel open to magical realism and slipstream too.

B. Miller said...

Thanks for the advice, Hel! And Gail, I found Nick on Twitter and started following him... did you find him yet? Can't wait for our next convention adventure.

Nick said...

It was a great Book Fest and I can't wait to get back there next year. Thank you all for the kind words, it really means a lot! I hope you all enjoy the book and I'm really happy that I made some new friends. That's really the best part of the Fest for me.

B. Miller said...

Thanks, Nick! It was great meeting you on Sunday. I hope we meet again at another con sometime soon! Good luck in all your endeavors. You're doing so great!!