For most writers the experience of actually writing is a very solitary one, and that is very much the case for myself. I find that I need a certain amount of isolation when writing just so that I can fully concentrate on the story and nothing else, after all writers want to do their very best for their readers.
Having said that, it is a wonderful and in many ways liberating experience to switch off the computer and head outdoors, to meet and greet those who are actively interested in what I write about. Such was the case last weekend where I packed up my computer and a box or two of stock, and headed to Bolton in the northwest of the UK to participate in the Autumn Festival, a medieval based markets event.
Bolton has a rich medieval past and was once my home, so for myself it is a place that is close to my heart. I have been involved with this festival for some time now as a trader, I began by selling my plant stocks there, and as my horticultural business dwindled, I continued by using the event to help publicise my HTTK books. I share a modest stand with my fiancée who has her Jaded Opals jewellery business, and we don our costumes and join in to help make the event fun for everyone. It is a wonderful family event and our two children join in, and in many ways I suppose it is an odd sort of place to find an author and his work, but for me that is part of the appeal.
With two books on display and a third being heavily advertised for release in the coming month, I am now in a position where I can talk to people who have read the first two books, and it is without doubt a rich and very enlightening experience. One particular member of the public already comes to mind as I write this, I think it was the way that her eyes sparkled, and her smile as she spoke to me about my second book, which has kept the memory of her visit so prominent in my thoughts. Seeing the enjoyment of someone who has read the books is simply wonderful to behold, to hear another person actually talk with great affection for those characters I have spent so many hours creating, really does warm my heart.
In many ways it reminds me so much of my youth, and when I read some of my favourite books, and I do feel a little cheated, as I have never had the opportunity to talk to those great authors who I admire so much about their own work. I must confess I would have loved nothing more than to sit with Tolkein, or Harper Lee and let them know of the excitement I felt stir deep inside me as I ingested every line of their stories, and so as a new author especially, I feel that being available to those who wish to share their thoughts of the books is particularly important. I have never expected to be the biggest selling author, but to those few of you who have read the books and come along to support me, I am happy that you have enjoyed them, and it was delightful to have had the experience of meeting you all at such a wonderful event.
Today’s publishing industry is in a state of flux, and many authors like myself are experiencing the wastelands, as publishing houses shrink their lists of authors and focus on household names. Self publishing is becoming the fastest growing area of publishing as more and more of us find it impossible to get a foot in the door, events such as the Autumn Festival may seem like an odd place to promote, yet more and more authors are now being forced to go it alone, and seek out places that they can meet and sell directly to the public. With large online and chain store retailers slashing the prices of books, it does look like it is a good deal for the public, but it is getting harder for authors to make a living, and our only means of survival will be to find other venues. I think this will become a fairly standard practice for authors, especially new one like myself, as it is our only means of being able to earn enough money to continue writing. On a more personal note I actually think it is better for us, listening and responding to the readers is the life blood of a writer, and that public engagement is actually immensely inspiring. I have really enjoyed my chance to get out there and be seen, and I hope there will be many more events in the future to set up my pitch alongside my family, and let all of you see what I have done and maybe give you a few hints about what I am about to do.
To have your support is very humbling, and it adds to the joy of writing, and I feel very grateful for it, until we meet at yet another event I wish you well, and send you my deepest thanks, and look forward to our next encounter.