I’m still talking about the Indie Book Event, held last Saturday in New York City. In all likelihood I will not need for there to be a part three, but who knows? As I continue therapy, more things may come back to me.
Like a second grader
Here are the times I have been in New York before:
- when I was ten, with my mother and my sister, in which I correctly identified a hooker, loudly, and hailed my first cab;
- when I was twenty with a college friend in which we never left the pier (what pier? A pier; I don’t know which one) which was memorable for being the first night I have ever drunk enough that I cannot recall how I got back, nor how my friend got out of a ticket when he decided he no longer believed in red lights– while driving with an expired license– with a cop behind us;
- when I was twenty-three and passing through the train station on the way to the Poconos.
So my total understanding of New York before Friday afternoon was: hookers and cabs, docks and alcohol, and the inside of Penn Station. Everything else I got from movies. (Incidentally, I describe New York City in Immortal in enough detail that one reviewer praised the section with “he’s obviously spent a lot of time there.” This still cracks me up.)
I’m telling you all of this so you can understand the tweets I sent out on Friday as the bus drove through town. One of my followers said I sounded like a kid on a second grade school trip, and I probably did, but you must appreciate I was looking out the window at things I’d only ever seen on TV and in the movies, so being there was a lot like being on a life-sized movie set.
And when you drive past Central Park, the Met, the New York Public Library, 30 Rockefeller Center and Grand Central all within a half an hour it’s like all of the movies and shows that featured them get collapsed into one giant movie in your head.
But again, I was dehydrated and lacking caffeine at the time.
I don’t sleep in hotel rooms
The whole idea of getting to New York a day early was so I could roll downstairs before 8 AM to participate in all eleven hours of the Event, but of course this plan was predicated on my being well-rested after a night in a bed that isn’t my own.
This never really works out. I’m not sure why. I’m not saying The New Yorker Hotel isn’t a nice place. It is, although I have to say I slept in the smallest hotel room I’ve seen in my entire life. (Definitely a New York hotel. The closet was larger than the bathroom.)
My only issue with the room was the air conditioning. At home I sleep with a fan going all the time because I’m used to the white noise, and happily the air conditioner in the hotel room was just about loud enough for me. Except it shut off periodically, and every time it did I woke up thinking, “Oh no, they shut off the power! I forgot to pay the electric bill again!”
I expect next year I’ll be taking two nights instead of just one. Not because then I can get some sleep, but because I missed out on a night on the town with everyone from the convention.
I’ve heard stories.
This is the second story I didn’t want to tell.
I was not a scheduled presenter, and I was fairly glad of that fact because by lunchtime I was in full-on zombie mode. I was also, apparently, judgmentally impaired.
What happened next was entirely Melissa’s fault. Melissa is, as I mentioned yesterday, the event organizer, and because of the position of my table– near the back of the room– I had an uninterrupted view of her pacing and looking anxious for the better part of the day. On a few occasions she sat down in the chair next to me to watch the presentations, and it was during one of those moments I heard whoever was speaking at the time (forgive me; I can’t remember who it was) say something about when writers choose to publish as an indie. (Translation: going with an independent publisher instead of a big house traditional publisher.)
“You should say that,” she said.
“What, now?” I asked. Because standing up and heckling one of the presenters didn’t sound like something the event organizer should really be recommending.
“We have an open slot this afternoon,” she said. “You can talk about things from your perspective.”
“No, I’m much too tired and completely unprepared,” I didn’t say. What I said was, “eh, okay.”
Four hours passed in which I didn’t spend any time taking notes or rehearsing or, say, taking a nap, and then I was up on the stage.
Now. What I wanted to say was something along the lines of, “every writer believes in his or her book and wants to get it the widest readership possible while making as much money as possible. And the best path to that is still through the Big Six publishers. But since the Big Six are looking for an ever-narrowing band of proven money-making products, many of us just aren’t going to fit that mold. Independent publishers are here for the quality books that slip through the cracks, and that’s great, but starting with an Indie without first trying your work on the Big Six doesn’t make much sense.”
Instead, when I sat down I realized I’d left my brain at my table and it was too late to go back and get it. So I opened up with something like, “I can’t believe I had to go with an Indie to publish Immortal, this sucks, please kill me.” Only maybe I went on a bit longer than that.
Oh, and in a monotone. I don’t know where the monotone came from, but it’s possible I was so exhausted I’d lost the capacity to modulate my speech. (It wasn’t nerves; I’ve spoken in front of people plenty of times, only occasionally in a monotone.)
I also paused regularly. This is something I learned when I did radio, i.e., don’t say “um” or “uh” or use other space-fillers while you’re thinking of what to say next. My pauses were to collect my thoughts, which would have been great if I’d had any thoughts to collect. During one particularly lengthy pause I happened to notice Melissa in the back of the room, looking considerably more panicked than I’d seen her at any other part of the day and giving me a look that I believe translated as, “OMIGOD WHAT ARE YOU DOING? SAY SOMETHING!!”
When I got to the end of what I wanted to say– or whatever I said that was supposed to be what I wanted to say but probably wasn’t anywhere close– I realized I’d been speaking for only a minute or two. I was supposed to be filling up a half an hour.
“Any questions?” I asked. “Or does anyone want to… bail me out?”
Thankfully, one of the authors, Nina Perez, happened to be sitting in the back of the room and thinking (I’m sure) that she could do more with this time than I was. She raised her hand and offered to come up and talk about her experiences as a self-published author.
Well of course I said yes to that.
And then we had a panel. And an actual discussion about independent publishing. And I believe at one point I admitted that if a Big Six publisher showed up with a contract for me, I’d sign it in a heartbeat (I mean, come on, of course I would) and this caused much conversation to be inflicted upon the room.
When it was over, and the host (Girl_Who_Reads was a great host, despite her debilitating Southern accent) asked if we had anything we wanted to add before the next panel, and then stared at me. We had another uncomfortable pause before I replied, “um… Noooooooo.”
Thanks to this performance, I am now known in certain elite circles of the independent publishing market as Eeyore.
If I can be serious for just a second or two, the Indie Book Event was not only a great deal of fun but a worthwhile destination for any writer trying to navigate today’s marketplace, which is getting exponentially confusing. Sure, I went mainly sell books and meet some people face-to-face (like Lori Hettler of TNBBC who gave me one of my first reviews and who I can’t believe I didn’t mention until now) for the first time, but the presentations– on marketing, editing, promoting, blogging, tax laws (!) and how to talk about your book in a low monotone– were almost disturbingly informative. I would list all of the people responsible for this barrage of expertise but,
1: I would forget someone, which would piss both them and me off;
2: the list would be HUGE.
So instead, I’ll let them introduce themselves in comments if they wish and tell you, the reader, to put next year’s Indie Book Event on your calendar. Um, as soon as the dates are set.
I’m doing the same right now. And I’m booking two nights. Look out, New York.