When you're a writer, there are several big dreams you have.
1. Get a contract
2. Hit the Bestseller list
3. Be at author signings and events
For the third item, the dream usually involves crowds of people, sold out stands of books, and hours of signing book after book.
I haven't had lines of people, and I certainly haven't pulled up in a limo to crowds shouting my name. I have had three very successful Barnes & Noble book signings I am so thankful for, though. I've had groups of friends, family, and even strangers support me at our local Barnes & Noble, and I've been so fortunate to live by a store that supports local authors like me. These events are huge confidence boosters, and they remind me to keep writing.
So when I booked an event for today back in March at an outdoor book festival, the bookworm in me and the author in me screamed. An outdoor book festival with loads of vendors, food, authors, and book signings? I immediately starting planning giveaways, ordering a tablecloth (pink, of course), and planning our trip. I bought a sundress--it would be hot, of course--and picked out some new sunglasses. I had a vision of sunny skies, books flying off the table, and reaching a new market.
Oh, the possibilities. Oh, the dream.
Then came the rain.
A Not-So-Perfect Author Event
100% chance of rain.
These were the words that shifted by picture of the anticipated book fest to a gloomy view. My husband and I watched Harry Potter this weekend and laughed at the rainy, gloomy castle scene because we knew this would be our world.
So I traded in my sundress for rain boots and a coat. We swapped out posters on our author table with some waterproof frames. We got tarps ready. We got rid of our "Love is" sign in board. We made adjustments. We got ready.
Then we got to the festival. We got semi-lost on the way in and couldn't find a spot in the parking garage. We ended up walking with two totes of books...and we ended up fighting on the way in to the festival. We got soaked. We were cold. We'd been up since 5 in the morning. We drove almost three hours. We got to our tent... and everything was wet. The rain was pelting the tent, collecting in the middle. The wind was blowing said rain into our faces.
It was not the book festival of my dreams.
We were surrounded by amazing authors and vendors who were trying their best to put on a sunshine face despite the gloomy weather. But as I quickly perused the sparse crowd, I realized the books flying off the table would not be because of massive sales... they would be because of wind.
I looked to my husband. I was teary-eyed, sad that he had wasted his day off to drive me to a rained-out festival. I was sad over all of the work and time and effort and money I'd put into the day.
Most of all, I was feeling my way to that dark place every author goes once in a while: the place of feeling like a failure. I felt like the rain was a bleak symbol of my writing career.
Finding the Silver Linings: How My Husband Saved My Spirits
It didn't take long, though, for my husband to help me shake it off. Sure, we were still cold and miserable and wet. Sure, there weren't throngs of people milling around.
But he helped me see the good things. He helped me stop feeling sad about my writing just because of a bit--or a lot-- of rain.
I realized that sure, I might have only sold three books. Sure, in many eyes, this was a bit of an author failure.
But Chad helped me see that the festival was about so much more than dollar signs.
1. I met some really great people. There were so many authors who, like me, were trying to find their place in the business, who were working so hard to promote, to advertise, to sell. It was so inspiring to see others who had been working hard... and were still working hard.
2. I got the coolest Edgar Allan Poe T-shirt and mug from classicbooklovers.com. Seriously check out their website! They just started their business earlier this year, and I already want one of every T-shirt they have.
3. I got to hear some really successful authors speak. It was great to hear them talk about their writing, their struggles, and tips they'd learned.
4. I sold three books to three strangers. I, being the pessimist, felt sad about this. Chad, the optimist, reminded me that three people I don't know now are reading my books. Three people who will tell more people about it. And he also reminded me of how many books I sold at my two Barnes & Noble signing events this year.
5. Chad and I made crazy good memories. We had some really funny moments. Chad broke the melancholy with his typical, ridiculous humor about popcorn and Porta Potties and everything else. Sure, it wasn't my most profitable event. But the thing is, I know in ten years, we'll be able to say "remember when" about this event. We'll remember that even on the cold, rainy day when we both wanted to give up, we made it through together. I'll remember that even though he spent a lot of money and drove a lot of miles, Chad told me not to give up. He told me it was worth it. He told me to keep at it. Because that's the kind of marriage we have. Aside from all the jokes and fighting, he supports me, no matter what. So at the end of the day, I might not have made a ton of money. But I realized what an amazing guy I have sitting in the book tent beside me. What's better than that?
What is Author Success? Defining a Successful Author Event
So many times in the writing world, we let numbers define us. Sales amounts, author ranks, lists. These are what we base our worth on, these are what we let define our confidence.
Today reminded me, though, that there's so much more to being a writer. We write to tell our stories, whether it's to five million people or to three people on a rainy, gloomy day. We write to experience life, to tell about life, to connect with others. I connected with a lot of people today. I got to see a new town.
So if you have a book signing or event coming up, don't worry so much about how many sales you make. Don't stress if you don't meet your personal quota.
Instead, think about sharing your story. Think about how amazing it is that all of your hours inside your own head resulted in you standing somewhere holding a copy of your book you are ready to pass to someone else.
And think about the people standing beside you, through sunshine or monsoon-like weather. Think about how lucky you are to have those people who believe in you and the power of your words.
And then, write on.