Every year in mid to late April the University of Southern California campus is transformed from a regular campus into a sea of book enthusiasts. From sellers to publishers and all manner of ancillary crafts, the nearly thousand booths are testament to the enduring power of words.
For the past five years my local RWA chapter, Los Angeles Romance Authors, has had a booth at this event. Last year was the first year that I did it and it was so much fun I decided to do it again this year. I was one of four authors in a two-hour block, each of us with our book and our swag. My tablemate was fellow LARAite Ophelia Bell, who writes steamy dragon books. The booth was hot and getting hotter every time someone opened one of her books! We were fortunate enough to have current RWA president Helen Kay Dimon as one of the other authors, along with our own Aviva Vaughn.
Being at an event as large as Los Angeles Festival of Books is an interesting experience. Just finding the booth was a challenge, despite the fact that I had been there the day before. With almost a thousand booths, it was easy to get lost. There were so many different flavors of booths, from a fantasy author who had his own booth to the tea sellers next to us. Whatever to booth, the fact was that we were all down there celebrating books and reading.
Dealing with the public is always an interesting experience. Most people are there for what I like to think of as the right reasons: a love of books. We had good foot traffic where we were and a lot pf people stopped over, whether or not they bought, to engage us with small talk and questions. Ophelia and I gave away swag and chatted with folks. Some signed up for our newsletters, which is always nice. In general, the people were engaged and engaging. Some, of course, didn’t read romance but very few were dismissive. There was one gentleman who had a lot to say about his view of the world and women in it, to which Ophelia and I politely disagreed.
I sold a few books, gave away pens and bookmarks, and discussed LARA in my role as President. We had a librarian want to know if we wanted to do a panel (yes, please!) and people who were interested in our local chapter. Being at one of these events to me is not so much about selling books, although of course that is always a nice bonus, but about outreach. It’s about making the public aware of our chapter, and RWA, if they were not, and being the face of the organization if they are. It’s discussing what romance fiction is, and what it is not, and all the opinions around both questions.
We gave away a lot of books and signed up a fair number of people for LARA’s Romance Insider newsletter, which we are going to revitalize. All around us were book lovers, of all shapes and sizes, and all walks of life. It was great to see.
See you back there next year!