Two big events happened in New Zealand on Saturday. We had the final day of voting and the results of the 2020 General election, and the Wham Bam Author Jam took place in Christchurch! Organised by author Stacey Broadbent (who writes M/M as Cyan Tayse), for the past three years, the Wham Bam Author Jam has provided a chance for authors and readers to interact. The event attracts authors from Australia and the North Island as well the respective ends of the South Island and a really good local crowd. I signed up for the first year but wasn’t able to make it, went last year and had a ball. I missed the sign up date for this year, but another author had to cancel so I nabbed a table last minute. It was another awesome event.
There is something very special about talking about books and stories with a crowd of readers and writers. Last year, the Wham Bam Author Jam was where I gained the confidence to stop answering people who asked me about my books by saying, ‘Well, that one’s not very good’ or ‘You probably don’t want to read that one.’ A lady who brought a book from me last year returned and we remembered each other which was very cool! My table was between Amy Blythe, awesome author and writing friend on my left, and the Christchurch Writers, more awesome friends, on the right.
I sold nine books this year, which feels pretty good! That covers the cost of my table, but not the cost of printing and shipping the books to New Zealand. I also ended up coming home with four new books, so I can’t say that the event was a financial success. If you’re UK or US based, or have a really big fanbase, you might be able to make these sorts of events cover their costs. However, even though they’re maybe not the most financial choice I could make, I want to keep doing these events, for three reasons.
1. The energy that you get from interacting with book enthusiasts at these events! I spent probably as much or even more time chatting with my fellow authors as I did with readers, but there is this amazing energy that happens at these sorts of live events. I came away with a massive boost, wanting to write all the books (and also with quite an expansive to read list).
2. Author networking! It’s really good knowing what other people are writing. It feels really good when someone comes to my table and looks interested in my vampires, to say ‘oh, you know who else writes vampires?’ and then point them towards another author. It’s also good, when a reader asks if a book meets a certain requirement, to be able to say, ‘no, it doesn’t, but boy, does this author have you sorted.’ Yes, this happens with authors you know online too, but I don’t know—I think that I am better at making those connections once I’ve met the author, heard them talk about their books and that allows me to place their work better. There’s also the fact that you can see what promotional ideas various authors have and get some great tips, and share your tips. I’ve actually made several new author friends which is pretty cool!
3. Representation. A guy came up to my table and thanked me for writing LGBTQ+ fiction because there is an absolute dearth of it in New Zealand bookstores. We geeked out about Qtopia in Christchurch which has some really great youth initiatives, and he told me about a fundraiser they’re doing, and I loaded him up with bookmarks, magnets, brochures and a postcard, along with tons of recs for books. Last year, there was a lesbian couple who were astonished to realise there was a rainbow writing community in this country. I figured out a while ago that in writing my stories, I’m hoping to give others the community and support and validation that I didn’t have for a big chunk of my life. It has only just occurred to me that by taking my books out into the world through these sorts of events, I am providing that representation in a different way. So that is extremely cool and I really want to do more of it.
There are a few things I want to do better for next time! I want to get some stands for my books—I’ve got so many of them now, that they really do take up a whole table, so it would be nice to have a plan to display them. Also on my Wishlist: one of those nifty pop up banners and a big table border thing. I also need to do my ordering and inventory when I’m home and can see what I have on hand or get better at tracking my inventory. I shot a quick video of my table which was a lot of fun, so while I think it was not a bad effort, I do think there is room for improvement.
I also forgot to swing by the supermarket for snacks before hand. I did okay on the food front, but really struggled to stay hydrated, ending the afternoon with a dehydration headache. This was on me—I didn’t want to leave my table to refill my water bottle and wound up getting really thirsty. So yeah, next time, I will bring more drinks with me!