I’ve sold eBook and paperback copies of Manual Exposure, but until the Bookmarks Festival of Authors and Books, my book has never been available for purchase at a local venue where any member of the public could pick up the book, flip through the pages, and feel the weight of my words in their hands. As a child and teenager, I attended book festivals and dreamed of the day I would see my book offered to interested readers. Thanks to the local Charlotte chapter of the Women’s National Book Association, I was able to reach that important milestone.
Fellow members of the local WNBA traveled to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to promote both the organization and member authors at the festival. The volunteers set up a lovely booth that featured published works from the members of the organization. Can you spot Manual Exposure on the table?
Between you and me, I would have happily stayed and watched the people come and go from the booth all day. I enjoy watching them scan the books and pick up the titles that intrigue them. I closely watch their reactions as they read the cover of the book and make a momentary judgement as to whether or not that specific title is destined to go home with them. I am frequently that reader, but I’ve never seen anyone do that with my book, and frankly, I can’t imagine ever growing tired of watching that dance.
I’m a new WNBA member, and I’m so glad to see the local chapter working to expand the name recognition for both the organization and the members. It takes time, money, and a great deal of energy to make it to an event like Bookmarks, and I appreciate the efforts and challenges the volunteers faced during the day. The calendar may have rolled forward to September, but this festival day was hot and humid. The volunteers always had a sweet smile and greeting ready for all who stepped up to the booth, and I can’t thank them enough for the work they did.
I really didn’t anticipate that I would sell any books at the festival. Aside from the big names that drew the crowd to the event, there were hundreds of titles waiting to be gobbled up by excited readers. Just having my book available for purchase was a big deal to me. I am the type of person who celebrates the little moments that others tend to overlook or downplay. When Manual Exposure went live as an eBook, my eyes were filled with tears. I felt the same giddiness when I saw my book on that table at the festival as I did when I hit publish on Amazon. Every step of this journey is a dream come true, and I don’t intend on ever forgetting it or ignoring how it makes me feel.
“Shut up!” were the first words out of my mouth when I checked back at the booth during a mid-day break. The volunteers told me that I had sold a book, and I couldn’t have been more excited and shocked if they had told me I had won a lottery jackpot. This was my jackpot. They explained that the woman had liked my cover and thought the summary sounded interesting. She loved that I’d signed the book, too.
Just as they were telling me the news, the woman who purchased the book returned to the booth and I was introduced as the author of her new book purchase. Seriously, that alone was enough to make me want to squeal.
She said that the cover of my book was beautiful and the photograph just drew her in. As a photographer, the title and photograph on the cover were big pulls for her. I desperately tried to not burst into tears. I took the cover photograph in Asheville, North Carolina, during the peak of the fall season of 2011. My husband and I had driven our beloved dog, Grandbury, on the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. Grandbury had such a wonderful day in the sun as he watched the landscape swirl around him. I’m so thankful that I captured that beautiful day and moment. Later that day, Grandbury would have the first of many seizures that indicated the likelihood of a brain tumor.
If it isn’t clear, my love for Asheville runs deep and in every pore of my being. To see someone connect with a photo that I took, a photo that is washed in memories and love, a photo that represents Asheville to me, means the world to me.
Her excitement about reading a book by some unknown author tickles me to no end. I’ve been that reader. I’ve been drawn to a book and purchased it for no other reason than liking the cover or book synopsis. Except now, the book that drew someone in and prompted them to take a gamble with their time and money–is mine. My book, my words, and ultimately me.
I’ll admit that I am not a cool author. I walked to the next discussion panel with tears in my eyes and the goofiest grin on my face. That reader will never know what her purchase meant to me, and I hope that she isn’t disappointed and loves my story and characters. Because of her, I ached to go home and get back to work on my second novel. Seeing a person connect with my book on a personal level is the most addictive part of being a writer. Knowing that I have had an impact on someone as so many authors have had on me is almost impossible to perceive.
You’ve been warned. I’m not a cool author. I may appear shy at your praise because I’m afraid if I open my mouth I may howl with tears of joy. I’ll try to get better; but never doubt that sweet words from a reader go straight to my heart and inspire me to return to the page. I never want to be so cool that I ever forget this feeling and what it means to connect with my readers. I always dreamed of it, but as a child who grew up in many trailer parks, I never knew if I’d ever get to see someone point to my book, choose it over the other selections, and take it home as a new treasure they had discovered.
I’ve now seen that happen in my lifetime. To other writers, young and old, I hope you dare to dream that for yourself. The time it takes to get to that moment doesn’t matter. I just want you to know that it can happen. No matter your circumstance, I encourage you to dream that your work and words will and do matter. The key is never to forget that this is what you wanted and to recognize the moment when it happens. Should a moment like this ever fail to impress you or mean something to you, for your sake and that of the readers, I hope you put the pen down.
As for me, I’m writing. I am uncool and greedy. I want to experience that moment again and again.
The most uncool author you know-
Jeannie M. Bushnell