One year on from her first report about the Boston Book Festival, American indie author Christine Frost brings better news from the 2014 event.
In fall 2013, the organizers of the Boston Book Festival conducted an experiment. Called “Indie Alley,” it offered tables to self-published authors, but the plan went awry when the originally designated area for them was moved at the last minute to a location that was difficult to find. As a result, very few of the approximately 25,000 attendees even knew they were there. (I looked for them, and never found them myself.) I spoke with a couple of the disappointed self-published authors and the organizers of the Boston Book Festival (BBF), and even though it seemed there was no way to move forward with a way to collaborate in the future, it turns out there was.
Finding Another Path
When I first attended the Boston Book Festival a few years ago, an organization called the Independent Publishers of New England (IPNE) had a table. At the time, they didn’t welcome self-published authors. It was for small presses. Recent changes have opened up membership to indie authors. I perused their website several times to determine the benefits of membership, and I saw their growing presence on Google+. Weekly office hours on Hangouts offered interesting discussions, and they continue to expand with author interviews in the Face The Book TV. In-person meetings are scheduled throughout the year, and they host an annual conference for authors based around New England. Affordable advertising rates for ads in their catalog gave me good exposure at the many events they attend, including the New England Library Association and the New England Independent Booksellers Association conferences. With a new IPNE membership badge posted on my blog, I was ready to dive in and see where it would take me. I was not disappointed.
Where Indie Publishing Memberships Come in Handy
Opportunity to join IPNE at their table for the Boston Book Festival came in September. Authors could simply have their books on display, or sit at the table to do a signing. Coincidentally, the weekend of the Boston Book Festival was the official launch of my third novel, so the timing couldn’t have been better. Three indie authors per hour were scheduled at the table throughout the day. The table was centrally located, right along all the other vendors, comprised of publishers, literary journals, and groups and organizations focused on writing.
It was one of those lovely autumn days in New England. Sunny, warm, but just enough coolness in the air to remind you that winter is on its way, and with the fall foliage on the trees dotted around Copley Square, it was picture perfect. I arrived with my books and set up. The crowds were just starting to get really big when my hour kicked off at 11. By the time I had to pack up for the next slate of authors, people surrounded the table, not only to buy books from the indie authors, but to inquire about the organization. Having recently been appointed to the IPNE board, I was happy to talk about how membership has helped raise my visibility as an indie author.
While I didn’t sell out of books that day, I got to talk to a lot of avid readers and other indie authors who were happy to find an in to the Boston Book Festival. “Indie Alley” is unlikely to return, but IPNE offers an excellent means to be involved. What differentiated it from the Indie Alley experience was that IPNE had been previously known to the organizers of BBF, and had established its reputation as an alliance of professional publishers and authors. The clamor of indies overwhelmed BBF staff last year, and subsequent reactions over the last-minute location change could have been more constructive.
For me, this experience demonstrated why it’s important to be part of organizations like the Alliance of Independent Authors and IPNE. Memberships help. Not only do they offer opportunities to market your work, but also to market yourself as a professional who knows how to network and be at the forefront of changing the face of the publishing industry. I believe these organizations present more opportunities than the endless streams of pleas to “buy my book” that fill newsfeeds on social media channels. The tide is turning, as evidenced by all the news we see about traditional publishers, and indies will best succeed by banding together with a collective, professional voice.