Tucson Festival of Books–2013

I attended the  5th annual Tucson Festival of Books last weekend. This is my third year in attendance and it seems bigger than ever. Not sure about better though. The attendance may be reaching critical mass because it gets harder and harder to see and listen to the big name authors who appear every year.

This year the headliners were Larry McMurtry, R.L Stine, John Sayles, J.A. Jance, Jody Picoult, Diane Gabaldon, Nevada Barr, and Ted Danson (yes that Ted Danson. He  wrote a book about our endangered oceans.), to name a few. Virtually all those presentations were “sold out” (the events are all free, but lines formed well in advance of the presentations, sometimes as long as an hour before).

The author workshops are usually the highlight for me, but this year they didn’t seem to pack as much educational punch as they did my first two years. Maybe I’m getting smarter about writing, maybe the presenting authors were collectively weaker teachers, or their topics were not as scintillating as in previous years.

Still, my goal is to get one good piece of information or inspiration from each workshop and I succeeded easily.  I came away with several tidbits from each session. And for free. Free education is always worth one’s time. Among the topics I learned about were social media and promotion, author platform, cyber crime, the importance of book covers, and query letters.

The trend I’m starting to see as reflected by the content and topics discussed is that self-publishing is legitimate and growing rapidly. More important, quality is everything. No matter how a book gets into print, if it’s not the author’s best work, it won’t sell. Period. Reitirated several times in different workshops is the fact that publishing has been and always will be a word-of-mouth business, and poor-quality books never generate buzz among friends and fellow readers. The only exceptions seem to be with big name, longtime bestselling authors whose books will be read by their loyal fans no matter what the quality.

For most of us writers, we don’t have that fan base that guarantees sales of our work, so we need to promote our best work, the best way we know how, and that takes a ton of work. Self-pub or traditional-pub, authors are expected to do more and more of their own marketing and promoting. It seems that those areas are becoming more important than actually writing the book.

What’s your take on the new path writing and publishing is taking? What festivals or conferences have you been to that you can recommend? Author networking is becoming a key to success in marketing, and these conferences and festivals are great ways to communicate with other authors.

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