For the past 20 years, we've marked off the last weekend of September in our calendars as "BOOK DAY." What started in 1995 as a one-day literary open-street festival for Western Canadian book lovers and literacy enthusiasts (and a great place to score discounted books), The Vancouver Book and Magazine Fair Society's Word on the Street was rebranded in 2013 as the more aptly named Word Vancouver (they did move events inside, and the new name is less of a mouthful).
While keeping its fun, festival component with lively readings and events to attract writers and readers of all ages, there's been a shift in focus (and exhibitors) from booksellers and publishers to the craft and business of writing for books and magazines. That's a welcome change. With a nod to the growing interest and trend toward self-publishing, the five-day festival now offers a range of events, workshops, and seminars for novices to seasoned pros at an accessible price to all: free.
We took in one of the Sunday afternoon seminars: "Digital Publishing with John Maxwell and Pablo Alperin" (because yes, opportunity abounds, but it can be so darned confusing). Both Maxwell and Alperin are instructors at SFU in the Publishing Program. They really know this stuff.
While their agenda was to include significant discussion on current and future platforms for digital publishing, people kept them fielding questions on promoting books in a digital world. How will readers find my book online? How can I sell more books? There are no easy answers, but they used the example of the romance genre, with its strong, organized online community and dedicated, captive followers, to confirm what we've talked about before: authors need to pay attention to where their readers are hanging out online, and then find meaningful ways to participate in those communities, as both reader and writer. It's in this way that you'll find your ideal readers, and they, in turn, will find you.
For more insight into the impressive self-publishing success that many romance authors enjoy, have a look at Mandi Woodruff's article, "These romance writers ditched their publishers for ebooks – and made millions," which features three genre dynamos, Bella Andre, Barbara Freethy, and Courtney Milan.
Whether you're a writer or a reader, we recommend you mark your calendars for next September and enjoy a weekend of books and valuable information on self-publishing. Plus, it's still a great place to get your hands on a hot new release signed by the author, or a sweetly discounted treasure. In the meantime, next up: The Vancouver Writers Fest!