It was a beautiful snowy (?!?!?!) Saturday morning in April, and I was headed to Camp Hill, PA, for my first book convention as a participating author, and not just an attendee.
YAPA Book Convention was the brainchild of YA author Tom Tancin and Mechanicsburg Mystery Bookshop owner Deb Beamer, who both felt the need for more teen book events. The convention, eighteen months in the making, was held at the Fredricksen Library in Camp Hill and was sponsored by Mechanicsburg Mystery Bookshop and Cupboard Maker Books in Enola.
I was honored to be a part of this (hopefully annual) event, and I wanted to just toss out some of my impressions of my first official book convention.
The convention was held at the library, from 10am – 4pm. Authors arrived starting at 8am to set up their tables and get the lay of the land, so to speak. The main lobby of the library was set up with two long rows of tables to accommodate the twenty-odd authors who were in attendance.
Most of the day for the authors involved sitting at their tables, talking to convention attendees and library patrons who stopped by to chat, inquire about their books, or even ask for writing tips. There were also author discussion panels at intervals throughout the day.
Book sales were handled in the back of the library by the sponsoring bookstores, which was a relief to me. I always get so flummoxed at vendor events or signings when I have to handle my own sales. It’s simply overwhelming to me to have to write up sales slips, take money, make change, and still be sociable and engaging as I sign books.
I’ve attended quite a few signings, both individually and as part of a group of authors, and I’ve had tables at vendor events. I’m always interested to see how other authors personalize their tables, and in all honesty, I’m always looking for fresh ideas to steal borrow for my own tables.
Most of the authors, of course, had some kind of table covering, which ranged from a simple black or white cloth to color-coordinated tablecloths that complemented their book covers. Table decorations, too, ran the gamut from minimalistic to very creative. Quite a few authors took a no-nonsense approach and displayed only their books. Others had various items on their tables that related to their books. One author, whose book was set in Japan, had a beautiful Japanese doll as a focal point. Another author who wrote historical fantasy stories displayed pieces of paper made to look like aged parchment. Still another author played upon her last name and displayed various keys on her table. Of course, my table was adorned with various ghosts, and I brought out Gigi Giwoggle, who garnered quite a bit of discussion.
Almost all the authors had something to give to readers who stopped by their tables, mostly items that advertised their books, such as bookmarks, business cards, or postcards. The most unique item I saw was a plastic tote bag emblazoned with a picture of the book being sold.
The discussion panels included Fan Fiction, Researching, World and Character Creation, and Social Media. I was so thrilled to be part of the Fan Fiction panel, since my books originated as Ghost Hunters fan fiction.
I thought the discussion went very well. There were only about fifteen teens and adults in the audience, which lent itself to a manageable discussion. The moderator kept things moving, and we covered topics such as favorite fandoms, copyright issues, being respected as an author who writes fan fiction, and how we as authors felt about readers write fan fiction of our works.
Not surprisingly, the teens in attendance were very knowledgeable about the realm of fan fiction. They had very intelligent and insightful questions and comments, and I am not ashamed to admit that they taught me a few things about fan fiction/art.
Networking and Exposure
This was the biggest reason I wanted to do this convention. Book sales at these events are always desirable, of course, and I was disappointed that I didn’t do well in that aspect, but the biggest advantage of participating in these events is to be able to network with other authors, the library, and the bookstores involved. I was pleased to make new contacts with several of the authors, plus I now have possible future opportunities for bookstore signings and speaking engagements with the library’s teen writers’ group.
Overall, this was a wonderful opportunity, and I am so thankful to have been a part of it. As I grow as a writer and add to my published works, I hope to be a part of future YAPA Bookcons, as well as others. I’m already looking forward to next year.