There is a part of writing and publishing that is entirely dependent on audience engagement. Like the tree that makes no noise if no one is there to hear it: that is, no writing is heard if no one is there to read it. In this case, it’s literally true, the book makes no noise unless a pair of eyes read it. In this age of rapidly increasing technology, in a world where design and visual arts are fading away in favor of quick bytes, swirling images, cell phone snap shots, YouTube sensations, and once listened to podcasts there are some things that authors, publishers, and bookstores can still provide and which strengthen who we are as people and which allow us to go beyond pizzazz and sparkle, images and shine. Are you wondering what I am talking about? You know the answer, you have just forgotten what one of the answers is.
We publishers and booksellers can still offer real-life authors to the readers. We can still place a person who has thought out what they have to say in a book form. Frequently the author will (usually free of charge and with a smile on their face) engage in questions and answers. These authors will showcase their passion and expertise to strangers. They want, almost more than anything else they do, the a chance to read out loud part of their book. They will sit patiently and answer questions one-on-one, sign a short line and their autograph to you, or your Aunt, or spouse. They will use ink, and if they are well-advised even add a small tagline with the date and place they sign your book. Wanna be authors can ask attend the event and find out about the writing life. Readers can hear what an author sounds like when they read a character’s dialogue. They can listen and discover it the author says a character’s name the same way you thought it would be pronounced. You can find out what inspired an author to be a writer. Tangible visions, truths are shared: when the author answers a question do they look nervous? Remember why we have jury trials in-person, it’s because so much is communicated in nonverbal ways.
As the technology age creeps forward steadily forward bookstores, publishers, and authors need to remember that real-life events are something that Amazon can’t do that, something an eBook won’t offer an intimate event for you either. I urge booksellers and authors and publishers like myself to work on our event planning skills. How to talk, market, and promote. We need to remind people what an author reading really is and how it can help. It’s much like a music concert, the change to witness something unique, to watch the reactions of others…If you need to pretend having a reading is retro do so, whatever it takes, real life experiences are not fake and the word will spread. Let’s have a Meet-An-Author campaign. I know my thoughts aren’t just a bunch of wise cracking. As just this past Saturday in Cedar Falls, Iowa, 100’s of people showed up to hear a reading, to gather and ask questions of the author, to talk with their neighbors they sat beside, reacquaint themselves with their community of friends. The reading was an enriching experience even before anyone set their eyes on the written words of the book.
Getting to meet an author is a one-of-a-kind way to become involved in the writing, the reading, and publishing process. We can’t afford to let this tradition fade away.