Thursday, August 28, 2014

Booktopia Asheville 2014

Last weekend I went to the awesome and amazing Booktopia event in Asheville, organized by the super cool Michael and Ann of Books on the Nightstand. It was my first Booktopia so I wasn't 100% sure what to expect. And sadly I was late, due to my husband coming with me and having grad school classes on Friday that gave us a late start. Also due to grad school budgets, we weren't able to stay in the main hotel. But I still had a terrific time. Next time, though I will be sure to get there on time, if not early, as the events on Friday that I missed sounded like fun (Yankee swap and staff recommendations by the local bookstore, Malaprop's) In fact several people said the optional local tours on Thursday night and Friday morning were a great way to get to know people, key if you were visiting by yourself.

I was kind of by myself, as my husband wasn't joining me for any of the author events. But he was there for the Friday happy hour and dinner on Saturday before the biggest event. Luckily a woman I met at the Happy Hour, Lisa, had the identical schedule as me so we were buddies for the author events.

Here are the authors who were there:
I read all of the books, but there wasn't time to go to an event for every one of the authors, so you had to pick and choose. I picked Krista, Denise, Ariel, and E. (Emily) I only realized later that I had picked all women. I am going to be seeing both Wiley and Kim at an event in October here in Charlotte, Bibliofeast (a movable feast where you sit and eat dinner and every 10 minutes a new author comes to your table to chat). And while I liked Anthony's book okay, I didn't love it. (I've linked to my reviews for the above so you can see why. I know I'm in the minority.)

So I went to these four events which had about 20 people in them, and it was an hour-long conversation with the author, with a facilitator (who would usually start off with questions, but it was mostly questions from the audience.) It was very insightful, particularly as regards the writing process for many of the authors. I found Denise Kiernan's discussion of her interviews particularly fascinating. And in Emily's discussion the intriguing question came up, is YA an age group or a genre?

Then on Saturday night, at the bookstore, each author spoke for about 10-15 minutes. Most of them gave new material which was nice. (In fact one author had refused to answer a question in the small group because it was what she'd prepared to discuss at the bookstore.) And I loved the Sunday morning session, back at the bookstore, when Krista spoke along with her editor from Algonquin Books, Kathy Pories, and the head of Algonquin's marketing, Craig Popelars, about the process of how her book (and by extrapolation, all books) went from an idea in Krista's head, to being on the shelves at Malaprop's. One thing Kathy said really was insightful. She said with some of her authors, she explains to them that they shouldn't see her as an ideal reader, not someone on high making pronouncements.

I wish I took some pictures but my phone is full! Afterwards we went on a tour (with other Booktopians) of The Biltmore which was stunning. I can't believe I've driven through Asheville probably 50 times and never stopped before. It was a fun, quirky town with lots to see and do, and I will most definitely be coming back.

And here are some of the notes I took at the final event. They're as close as I could get to direct quotes while typing on my phone, so please forgive any choppiness
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Krista Bremer (KB): the hardest part was, because these were discrete essays, knitting them together.
Editor was most helpful in telling her what didn't need to be there.
The essays had narrative arcs that had to be broken apart to create the overall arc of the book.

Q: What skill set goes into being an editor?
Kathy Pories (KP): what I learned in creative writing was how strong a book can be if every sentence works as hard as it can. I think you have an affinity for loving to read. It's always a negotiation. We think of ourselves as an ideal reader, not someone on high. We're trying to find the spots that make your eyes glaze over or make you reread multiple times.
KB: editors can perpetuate power structures.
KP: the best editor tries to be invisible.

Craig Popelars (CP): you have to have a really good book but it has to come w an author w a platform (changed in last 15 years.) we ask more and more of our authors than ever before. What does the author bring to the table? We're not just building book, but a career as an author.

CP: (re: marketing generally) It's almost like a Tom Sawyer paint the fence sort of thing because my job is to get everyone else to do my job. The indie booksellers are the incubators for bestsellers.

KP (speaking about Jihad title and marketing in general): How far can you go to get attention without alienating your audience? The jacket was designed to soften the title.

CP: (re: jacket design) you have a second chance when you don't quite get a book cover right in hardcover, with the paperback. Everyone has an opinion.
Ann: but the opinion often is: I don't like that (not what it should look like.)

audience comment: Architecture is similar to publishing in that they both are straddling the intersection between creativity and business.

KP: I love it [books] but it is a product.

Q: Where do ebooks and audio books fit in?
CP: 70% of the AJ Fickery book were ebooks. Special ebook pricing to get the book out to generate reviews, word of mouth, lead to bigger sales down the road. When a new book comes out, we can add a sample chapter of the new book into ebooks of backlist which you can't do in print.

Ann: can't think of another business where competitors are so friendly. It is a business but it's really special.

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