Just spent the weekend signing books at the Made in NH Expo in Manchester, NH (which has nothing to do with experimental, intelligent rats). There were great crowds, especially on Saturday, and lots of people were stopping by the booth. For my first book signing, I’d call it a rousing success.
Aside from friends and family, the people who had been buying my book had been largely anonymous. It makes you wonder at times, who the people are behind all those little upticks in sales reports. Online sales are a great way to get books to a worldwide audience, but it does dehumanize the process a bit. Well, the MINH Expo certainly put a face to the many readers I met. I got to shake people’s hands, talk about what sort of books they generally read, whether they had gotten on board with the ebook revolution, steadfast supporters of paperback, or somewhere in between (I even met one woman who does all her “reading” via audiobook). Let me just say that despite the whirlwind about it in the online community, ebooks have yet to displace the paperback, at least in the hearts of most of the readers I met this weekend. While many people did request the link to the Kindle version of Firehurler, most were more interested in having something in their hands – though you can’t discount the advantage of having a signed copy available for the comparison.
Another phenomenon, and one I had underestimated, was the giving of books as gifts. I would say that half the books I sold were to people who intended them for someone who wasn’t there at the show. Most of these were parents and grandparents, which led to a lot of conversations over reading level, content, and genre. The latter led to a lot of scrambling for a common vocabulary. It usually led to a discussion of what the gift receiver normally read or was generally “into”. When I heard that someone had just finished reading Wheel of Time or Game of Thrones (which I think, due to the HBO show, most people don’t distinguish from the rest of the ASoIaF series), I generally knew the person was on the right track.
The other thing that I really found encouraging were the number of kids who were avid readers. Going into the show I really hadn’t given too much thought to the low end of how old a child should be before reading a book like Firehurler. It was never intended as a children’s book, but of course that doesn’t mean children won’t (or shouldn’t) end up reading it. I settled on an age of 14 for what I considered to be a safe age, considering that I don’t pull any punches on the vocabulary or complexity of the plotline. If it were a movie, I’d guess that it would get rated PG-13. That didn’t stop at least one brilliant little 8-year-old from convincing her parents to get it for her. She had already read all of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, and she picked up Firehurler to a random page and read a bit, assuring her parents that yes, she would be able to read it just fine.
All in all, it was a wonderful, encouraging weekend. I sold a lot more books than I had anticipated (and I thank my wife for not giving in to my caution and making sure we ordered enough) and I am confident that they will be getting into the hands of avid fantasy readers. I was also giving out samples consisting of the first 4 chapters of Aethersmith along with each book sold, so that when people get finished with Firehurler, they’ll have a taste of the sequel ready to go. Hopefully it’s not too much of a tease though, since I’m hoping to get Aethersmith published by the end of this spring.
To anyone reading this who was at the show, thanks for your support!