Sunday, November 7, 2010

A breakdown of "Bloodsucking Vegas" at the Vegas Valley Book Festival

(Me in my booth at the Vegas Valley Book Festival)

(Note: For those of you who want to sample the opening chapters of Bloodsucking Vegas: a vampire noir, click here.)

So, I did my hour at the Vegas Valley Book Festival today from 2pm to 3pm, and, I have to say, it was a rewarding experience.

It's not that I got overwhelmed with throngs of bookbuyers, because my particular corner of the festival had very light traffic. And, truthfully, I did get to meet a large handful of potential readers, as well as some fellow local independent authors.

I even had a drunken would-be fan come up and give me a very affectionate hug (and an awkward kiss on the neck!) before she stumbled off to the next booth, which was very cool, since I happen to like happy drunks.

Also, I have to thank my wonderful friends who showed up to throw me a little love, including the Princess, Brother Juan, Chris, Warren & his beautiful family, and my old work partner Chester & his lovely wife Lissa.

Perhaps the most sobering thing to happen to me was when I got my 2 minutes of "podium time" at the head of the courtyard. It's not that I have a fear of public speaking. Far from it. But public speaking to a largely indifferent crowd is even more daunting. I feel like I could easily get up in front of an audience of thousands of people who are giving me their attention, but when only a half-dozen or so in a moving crowd turn towards you while you talk into a microphone...well, you just have to buck up and power through it.

(The text of my remarks -- which concerned why I wrote Bloodsucking Vegas -- can be found here.)

Another thing I learned was how to launch into my "bookseller" spiel when approached by curious festival-goers. It's more art than science, as they say, ranging from an enthusiastic introduction of myself to a friendly query designed to spark up a conversation (as in, "So, are you a fan of vampire stories?").

Since the whole point of being there is to engender interest in my book, I even took the opportunity to turn a potentially-negative reaction into a positive one when a passerby remarked, "I hate vampires!" My two-fold response was to begin with, "Well, what if I told you that Bloodsucking Vegas was different than any vampire story you've ever known?" And I followed up with, "Well, do you know anyone who likes vampire stories? How would they like a personally-inscribed copy?" 

Now, I didn't actually sell a copy of my book to that particular person, but at least I got the chance to reach out to him and hone my salesmanship. We ended up having a nice little conversation where he wished me luck before moving on. And, who knows? Maybe our encounter will stick in his memory, and he'll mention my book to someone.

Finally, the performances of some of my fellow authors really brought home a notion that I've always held about authors who give public readings of their work: they should get some theatrical training or hire an actor to do their reading for them. For me, there is nothing more off-putting than a writer who gives a wooden, soulless performance of their own words, and, yet, I see it time and time again, even from well-known, bestselling authors.

One of the Vegas Valley Book Festival's keynote authors, T.C. Boyle, is actually one of the best in the business at giving public readings, and writers of all stripes would do well to steal a little of Mr. Boyle's trademark showmanship, which is legendary. I first saw T. Coraghessan Boyle give a reading back in the mid-1990's, when his novel, The Tortilla Curtain, had just come out. He has a comedian's sense of timing, and he knows how to subtly change his voice to help delineate each character in his work. It doesn't hurt that he is a notoriously flamboyant dresser whose sense of the outrageous permeates every interview he's ever given.

Billed as the largest book-related festival in Las Vegas, the Vegas Valley Book Festival is a sign of "real" culture in Sin City, and I'm glad to have been part of this year's events. I want to thank organizer Phil Hooper for giving me the opportunity, and I hope to be back next year.

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