Every year, I tell myself some version of: You need to stay home, be responsible, save money. Readings are not the most efficient use of your very limited financial resources. Sometimes I listen to that voice, because it does speak a certain kind of cold, hard, practical truth, but sometimes I go rogue and listen to my book loving heart, which tells me that short term loss is okay because what I gain in the long term, as an anthology series editor, person and event organizer, will worth it. I did that when I booked a mini book tour for Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 2.
mini book tour for
I wanted to share both the tour dates (with one more to be added hopefully in Jersey City) and also why I did it. Because it's true that readings, while technically free to organize, cost money in terms of hours spent booking and promoting, wages lost to travel to them, travel costs and promotion costs. I don't know exactly how many readings I've organized over the years, but likely close to 100 if you count my reading series In The Flesh, which had around 60 readings over 5 years, so I've definitely weighed the pros and cons. While there are plenty of cons, like the fact that you are always at the mercy of weather and competing events, the pros I decided in this case outweigh them for me.
So even though it's literally impossible for me to make back the actual money I'll be spending on book sales, since a good night would be selling maybe 20 books, hence earning around $20 in royalties, I still love making readings happen. It's in my blood; I organized one for the very first story I got published, "Monica and Me" in Best Lesbian Erotica 2001. That reading was at Bluestockings and I remember being amazed that authors would come from all over the country to read from this book, and that little old nobody me could get my event listed in places like Time Out New York. That felt as thrilling as getting published. The funny thing is actually standing in front of a crowd has always terrified me. I don't revel in being up on stage reading the dirty words I've written in privacy to people who are staring at me, eagerly awaiting their erotic entertainment.
So it's a paradox: I love creating readings and making those spaces where people can hear sexy stories, but the part I enjoy most is being get host, the instigator, the one running the show. I do read, and often choose to read other people's work because it's easier for me personally than reading my own. But as I tell my students and authors, reading your work aloud is one of the best ways to truly hear what you're writing, to catch things beyond typos that go to the heart of your story. Is there an extra pause that doesn't need to be there? Should certain words be moved or removed? Would it sound better to add a line or a noise or punctuation mark? The bonus of reading to an audience rather than just yourself is that you get to hear how your words affect people. Do they laugh where you expected them to, or in other places you never would have thought anyone would chuckle? Do you find yourself grinning or cringing inside at certain lines? Do you wonder why you even wrote that one section?
For authors, I think doing readings is something you should say yes to if you can, since it does provide this invaluable feedback that we so rarely get. People remember readings; they are moved by them. They listen closely, and they hear the lines far differently than they do when they are sitting at home reading them. Maybe they hear them similarly to when they listen to an audiobook, but they still don't hear them in the voice of the author (unless the author has narrated the audiobook). You might tell a very brief aside at the beginning or after your story (or sometimes during) that sheds light on it; you might find yourself falling in love with a twist you gave to a scene and imbuing it with something even stronger than the black text on a white page.
As for me, I decided ultimately that I was willing to give up that day or two of paid wages and truly invest my time and money in my book, because I urgently want it to succeed. It may not be "cool" to so shamelessly say that, but it's true. I am pouring my heart and soul, my time, my social media assistant's time, my entire erotica focus, into making the Best Women's Erotica of the Year series successful. It may or may not work, it's too early to tell (but I was very impressed with the first quarter sales of Volume 1), but I feel like I owe it to the series, having taken it over from two esteemed, wonderful editors, and having decided I want to publish a different set of authors with each volume, to honor those authors, to do right by my publisher and mostly to know in my heart I did every single thing I could to help these books. Readings do that by getting the books into stores that may not have stocked it otherwise (or may have stocked only one copy), by bringing the book to the attention of the local community and to customers of those stores, and by being listed in local media. It's also a great way to support small local businesses, because you are bringing new audiences into those stores. I've done events at Sugar and Bluestockings (as I mentioned, the home of the very first reading I organized 15 years ago), but never at Skylight Books. My hope is that if it goes well, it will also help pave the way for other erotica events at that store, so it's also a way to spread the word that erotica is a worthy genre, not just something people read on the sly in private, but something people are eager to hear in public.
Plus it's not only the people who show up to a reading who count in terms of awareness of your title, but every single person who is exposed to the name of your book. Maybe they see the event listed in the store's calendar or in the local paper, or see a postcard or poster or other promo material around the store. Maybe they ask a friend to join them; maybe they wind up looking up the book, or the next time they see it months later remember, "Oh yeah, that author did an event..." I really think readings are an invaluable, long-term way of putting your book cover and title into people's minds. It also makes me feel pretty badass, to borrow Jen Sincero's bestseller's term, to book these readings myself. Yes, some people have their publishers do this for them, but I really enjoy the process of personally reading out to stores (some never get back to you, and that's okay too) and doing all the logistics. It makes me feel in control and proud as a businesswoman, and reminds me that all those years of booking readings weren't for naught; they taught me a range of skills that are mostly dormant in my daily suburban life but can be revived easily.
Lastly, for me as an anthology editor, a live book event is a way to meet my authors in person, when they've previously only existed in my inbox. Yes, I follow them on social media and may know a bit about them, but I don't know their face or their voice, and getting to know them during readings is a wonderful feeling. I want this series to be about building a community of authors who support each other's work, including and going beyond their stories in the books, and readings help foster that. And putting my marketing hat back on, you can share the readings via broadcasts if you desire (like Facebook live), videos, and photos to amplify the effect.
All that to say, I truly hope you can make one of our free readings (the Jersey City event I hope to have news about soon and will be more of a party atmosphere), and whether you can or can't, I'd greatly appreciate you helping to spread the word. Readings only work if there's an audience there to hear them, and part of why I booked these so many months in advance, in addition to making travel bookings easier (Amtrak is so much cheaper when you book far ahead) is that I wanted to have the most time possible to share these dates and make sure anyone in Los Angeles, Baltimore or New York could mark their calendars. You can also find all of these on the press and events page of bweoftheyear.com and can use the Facebook event links to easily share these readings with your networks. Contributors from Volume 1, including Jade A. Waters and D.R. Slaten, will also be joining us (so there's another reason to do readings: giving some love to older books that often drop off bookstores shelves to make room for new ones). No RSVPs are required.
I also learned an important lesson: when you are creating Facebook events, make sure the proper page is hosting them; the first one below is hosted by my author page, which I decided to leave as is, but the other two are hosted by the BWE page, after I made a mistake and another page of mine had wound up hosting one of them. Branding counts even when posting events. Hope to see you there! And whether or not you can make it, you can help the book in a major way by marking it as "want to read" on Goodreads (you can log in to Goodreads using your Amazon.com U.S. email address and password if you don't have a separate Goodreads registration). And subscribe to my monthly newsletter because I'll be doing a big book giveaway this month.
January 31, 2017, 7 pm Best Women's Erotica of the Year reading
Join Best Women's Erotica of the Year series editor Rachel Kramer Bussel for a rousing reading from Volumes 1 and 2, featuring Jocelyn Bringas, Melina Greenport and Jade A. Waters. Q&A and book signing to follow. Free. Wheelchair accessible.
Facebook event page
Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, 90027, 323-660-1175
February 9, 2017, 6:30 pm
Best Women's Erotica of the Year reading
Join Best Women's Erotica of the Year series editor Rachel Kramer Bussel along with contributors to Volumes 1 and 2 including Annabeth Leong, Jordan Monroe, and D.R. Slaten for a rousing reading, followed by a Q&A and book signing. You'll hear some of the sexiest stories around starring women characters who travel the world in search of satisfaction, and find out what it takes to be successful in the thriving erotica genre. Light refreshments will be served. Free. Wheelchair accessible.
Facebook event page
Sugar, 1001 W. 36th Street, Baltimore (Hampden), 410-467-2632
New York City February 11, 2017, 7 pm Join editor Rachel Kramer Bussel and contributors Ella Dawson, Abigail Ekue, Annabeth Leong, Stella Watts Kelley and Vierra Lai for a rousing reading from hot new anthology Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 2. The authors will participate in a Q&A and book signing immediately following the reading. Wheelchair accessible. Free. Wheelchair accessible.
Facebook event page
Bluestockings, 172 Allen Street, New York, NY 10002, 212-777-6028
Nearest subways: F to 2nd Avenue, J/M/Z to Essex Street, B/D to Grand Street
Labels: Baltimore, Best Women's Erotica of the Year Volume 2, Bluestockings, feminist bookstore, feminist sex toy store, Los Angeles, Los Feliz, Lower East Side, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Skylight Books, Sugar