Well it has come and gone! Labor Day weekend was a big one; Dragoncon is one of my favorite weekends of the year, and this year was extra interesting because I headed out to the Decatur Book Festival for Sunday. I’ve heard about DBF from agents and authors on Twitter, and thought “how interesting, this is basically in my back yard!”
So this was my first year going and WOW! It was very different from what I expected, but a great event. First of all, in just hearing about it, I expected an indoor conference type setting, but it was the complete opposite. The Festival is outside and takes up a huge section of a very quaint downtown area of Decatur.
The whole area is taken over with big white tents filled with authors, publishers, and booksellers of all sorts. One of my personal highlights was the carnival-style food carts featuring deep-fried EVERYTHING, a pan-fried noodle stop, and many more delights. (I was in a hurry and holding out for dinner plans with a friend, so I went simple with a corn dog.)
I was helping support a young adult author group I am part of called Young Adult Author Rendezvous. We have over 70 authors, and most of them sent books to be displayed at the festival, so we basically had a very small bookstore set up in Decatur.
Sales-wise it was fairly slow. I was a little frustrated at our location. We were near one of the entrances/exits so had some traffic, but we were also in the section with non-fiction authors. We were surrounded by several religious authors, several true-crime folks, and other decidedly non-YA booths. But there’s always a learning curve with doing something for the first time.
I did give away a lot of buttons and bookmarks, and sold a copy or two of Phantom Touch.
Now this was a really cool concept. There’s an area called the Emerging Authors tent, where authors can pay a fee to have their books displayed. It’s advertised as an option for authors who might not be able to afford a whole booth on their own, or can’t be there in person. You apply, pay your fee, and send your books where they’ll sit on a table with hundreds of other books. When I first read about it, I was quite skeptical. “There won’t be anyone in there, that’s crazy, I would never!”
I think the picture proves me completely wrong. I can admit when I’m wrong, and I was definitely wrong. While I’d been expecting a shabby tent off in a secluded corner with an implied “Abandon hope, ye who enter here,” the tent was huge, centrally located, and as you can see, well-traveled. I passed by several times and always saw a lot of people in there. One drawback is that it’s essentially a storefront; you don’t get to sit with your books and talk to people, but maybe that’s just as well. This recreates the bookstore experience; browse, touch, skim until you find something you like.
Anyway, the day at Decatur went by very quickly! Before I knew it, it was time to pack up and load out. The volunteers were amazing all day long, checking in with us and offering to sit at the booth if people needed to use the restroom or get a break. But at the end of the day, they became a pro moving crew. Our assigned volunteer helped us pack everything and carry it out to the loading area. That made a difficult and tiring job 100x easier!
Overall, DBF was a cool experience. I do wish it was on a different weekend, because I’d love to be able to spend the full two days there and go to some of the talks and spend more time browsing and talking to other authors. But I enjoyed my day there and hope to do it again sometime!