Thursday, April 03, 2008

Report on Public Library Association Conference

Ah, touring.

Last week was one of my patented insane promotional weeks - I was at PLA, the Public Library Association Conference, in Minneapolis for two and a half days and then fllew to Salt Lake City to do two days of World Horror. And if that's not a dichotomy I don't know what is.

Slightly inauspicious start to the trip - my flight to Minneapolis was cancelled and I was rebooked 2 1/2 hours later. But even thought it was five in the %$#@$^& morning and I was pretty disgruntled that I could have had the extra 2 1/2 hours of sleep, it turned out to be a fortuitous delay, because there is absolutely nothing to do in an airport but think.

Well, okay. You can also shop, eat, drink, buy books, jump on the internet, read, people watch or cruise for illicit sex in the bathrooms (so I've heard.) But I decided to think, instead, something I don't do enough of these days. So I was able to get some big picture thoughts (a lot inspired by David Montgomery's blog discussion on Crime Fiction Dossier - essential reading: link here:)

That's http://www.crimefictionblog.com/2008/03/thoughts-on-pro.html

I was also able to start revisioning my new book - it's amazing what you can align yourself to do in a few hours of concentrated time. Maybe leaving the house more often would be a good idea. Anyway, I won't be throwing it on a bonfire just yet, so that's progress.

I'm also getting better at getting everything in that I need to do, conference-wise I rented a car at the airport and did my bookstore drop-ins right away (since the bookstore drop-in has become a mandatory part of all my traveling, and I would not have any time to do it later). I've found that you can do a lot in a block of just three or four hours. I was completely charmed by the famous local independents Once Upon a Crime and Uncle Hugo's/Uncle Edgars, and was able to hit four B & Ns, too (no Borders anywhere in easy driving distance... were we missing the signs of Borders' demise all along??) Minneapolis isn't too hard to drive around (although I kept getting distracted by the fact that there was actual SNOW on the ground and almost ran into a guard rail when I rounded a corner and got a view of the lake. Frozen solid. In almost-April. How do people live like this, is what I want to know.)

Actually Minneapolis would be an interesting city to set a thriller in. I'm not going to be able to visit the world-famous Mall of the Americas (for a non-mall person, this is not exactly a tragedy), but I was completely awed by the SkyWay - a complete second downtown of shops and glass connecting bridges set on top of the actual downtown. It's really pretty sci-fi (you don't even want to know how lost you can get) - but also incredibly practical - if it snows here from November to April you would need a completely enclosed and heated downtown, wouldn't you? I can't even imagine how much it cost to build the whole thing, but it's a genius thing to see.

Now, I've blogged about PLA before and am linking here to two blogs about the importance of BEA, ALA and PLA to authors, especially new authors.

(That's http://thedarksalon.blogspot.com/2006_05_01_archive.html)

But here it is in a nutshell. Besides the fact that librarians are the best partiers on the planet, no joke, the reason for authors to attend PLA is that it's about 8000 librarians all in one place who are there specifically (at least partly) to find new authors and old favorites and buy books. It's great if your publisher sets up signings for you in their booth, but even if that doesn't happen, a lot of publishers are happy to give you books to give away and Sisters in Crime, RWA, and usually MWA make it super easy for you to network with literally hundreds of librarians at their booths. Sisters in Crime and RWA ALWAYS have booths at PLA and ALA conferences and as a member you can sign up for slots to sign books or just staff the booths and meet the librarians. Everyone loves you instantly because you're giving away books - you can't beat that as an icebreaker. And librarians particularly love mysteries and Sisters in Crime - you really feel like a star.

I find that I pick up a lot of appearance and signing invitations as well, and I end up getting reviewed or promoted on library blogs because people have actually met me.

For me it's one of the top three promotional efforts I make all year.

Next report: World Horror.

- Alex