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Reflections on My First Writer’s Festival: Part One: The Lead-Up

 

Part One: The Lead-Up

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The above photo is the product of an exercise I undertook during a book marketing and promotion seminar in May of this year. The seminar was being delivered by the marketing director of a prominent Australian publishing house. Each participant had been given a number of sticky post-it notes to write down their goals for their writing. I wrote down ‘To be invited to the Brisbane Writers Festival’. When I wrote this, the idea of participating in a writers festival seemed huge, out of my reach for the moment, something that would happen in the future. It wasn’t this particular festival that I would be invited to attend, but I would never have expected that only two months after attending this seminar and making this note, I would indeed be invited to the Byron Writers Festival, a major annual literary event and the largest regional writers festival in Australia.

Tragedy to triumph is a good way to describe the way that my first appearance at a writers festival came about. It was the 29th June 2016, and I was preparing to enter a flash fiction writing competition. I had entered this particular competition the previous two years, and my stories had been selected on both occasions, so I was hoping for third time lucky. I was absolutely shattered when upon sitting down at my computer to enter my story via the competition’s website, to discover that I had mixed up the deadline, and the competition had closed a few days earlier.

For the rest of that afternoon I was feeling pretty darn sorry for myself. I had planned to enter two stories into the competition, which I had started working on months earlier. The very next morning, I received an email notifying me that my application to appear at the Byron Writers Festival had been successful. From being completely down in the dumps hours earlier, to jumping up and down screaming with excitement, my luck had done a complete 180 degree turnaround.

Immediately I was faced with completing the next step of the application process. It was now the 1st of July, and I had until the 20th to deliver twenty copies of my newest book Paid To Dance: Stripping Past & Present to the festival bookseller to be stocked in the onsite bookstore during the event. There was just one problem: the book hadn’t even been published yet!

I had made three separate applications to present each of my three books at the festival, and the one that had been successful was not yet available. I had originally planned to release the book on the 20th of August, but upon learning of the success of my application, I decided to bring the publishing date forward to the 5th, almost two weeks earlier than planned.

The very evening of the day I was notified of my success, I was on the computer finalising the cover design for Paid To Dance. My interior and cover files were edited and ready, but they had not yet been submitted to CreateSpace for publishing. Once my filed were submitted, I had to wait twenty-four hours for CreateSpace to accept my documents.

Once the files were accepted, it was time to order a proof copy of the book. Proofs are available as a hard copy or digital file through CreateSpace. I ordered a hard copy however that night I was up pacing the house in the throes of panic, terrified I would not receive the proof in the mail in time. The proof would take approximately a week to arrive, and then I would have to account for any changes I would make in the process of checking it over, and for the files to be resubmitted to CreateSpace all over again. I had time to wait for the mailed proof, but to then make changes and order copies of the book for sale brought the timeframe nail-bitingly close to the deadline of the 20th of July. So I decided to go ahead and order the sale copies. I had revised the book well already, and I just had to trust that the final product would be good enough to sell. Being a perfectionist who goes over final details a thousand million times before finalisation, this rushed process was completely out of my comfort zone.

The previous year the festival had introduced the Self Published Marquee, a new initiative which allowed independent authors to promote their work. I had been allocated a two hour session two have my books on display, during which time I could sell and promote myself and my writing.With my sale copies on their way, I set about creating promotional material for my display table at the festival. I created a number of different paper handouts, including short descriptions, excerpts and information about me, the author. I also organised a cash flow chart and mailing list.

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Planning the layout of my display table, on the floor of my home study

As Paid To Dance was the only book of the three I have written to have been accepted by my application, it was the only one to be available in the festival bookstore, however I was free to promote it and my other two books during my two hour session at the festival. Realising that I could also sell copies of Paid To Dance from my table, as soon as the first shipment of books arrived, I put in another order.

I had never poured so much money into my writing practice as I did in the month of July 2016. It was undoubtedly a stressful time, and my nerves were shot by the looming deadline. I vowed never again to apply for an opportunity with a book that wasn’t even published yet!

My fiance and I had considered staying in Byron Bay the night before the event, but with one look at accomodation prices we agreed that it would be best for me to go down the morning of my festival appearance.

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The books arrived with a week to spare. Funnily enough, the proof copy I had ordered earlier arrived a day later than the shipment of twenty. Two days before the deadline I made the four hour round trip to Byron Bay to deliver them to the festival bookseller. I could count on one hand the number of hours of sleep I’d had the night before that journey, and the nights since learning of my success. After dropping off the book I visited Sonia, a friend of mine who lives in Lennox Head, just south of Byron Bay. I had since learned that I would have to wait until the next morning to collect any unsold books from the festival bookseller, so I would have to stay the night in Byron following my appearance on the Sunday.  Sonia offered to let me stay at her place the nights before and after the festival, and I graciously accepted her offer.

With the arrival of the second and final shipment of my books, I felt I could relax somewhat. Now all that was left was to print my handouts and forms, find and buy display stands, and arrange a cash float. Sonia’s spare room was no longer available on the Sunday following the festival, but instead she recommended me to a friend of hers, who also lived in Lennox Head, who rented a room in her house through AirBnB.

The month of July had been a blur in the midst of all the planning. With everything organised, I was ready as I could possibly be for my first appearance at a writer’s festival.

In my next post I will share about my experience at the Byron Writers Festival during my two hour promotional session.

Click HERE to purchase a copy of Paid To Dance, and to view Kate’s other books

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Paid To Dance: Stripping Past & Present is NOW AVAILABLE in Paperback and Kindle ebook

 

 

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