These days, in today's world of publishing, "getting published" and having one's book appear on a wide variety of established sales channels has gotten much easier, while garnering author name and book title recognition so interested readers can locate an author's work has gotten much harder. While publishers struggle with the vastly increased approaches to publication including self-, vanity, POD (print on demand), electronic and traditional publishing models, distributors for ways to identify and market the "best" of these almost exclusively different publications, and booksellers for ways of grappling with the literal flood of new publications, authors are left to seek an answer to the "new" definitive question, "How does one establish author name and book title recognition in today's rapidly expanding markets?" Another way to phrase this key question is "How will a publisher, distributor, bookseller, book contest/festival/convention help me make rather than always pay money for this?" 

Personally, as a publisher and author, I always ask myself how many books will an agent, publisher, distributor, bookseller or event sell, and will it sell enough to recoup the actual costs of my participation. Marketing today is billed as a necessary "investment" to gain author name and book title recognition, but is it really? For me, an "investment" is something that is a guaranteed return for what I pay, with the distinct possibility of multiplying that effect indefinitely. Most marketing is not an investment, but in my book, a "gamble" and as an author, I don't like gambling with my royalties. 

Mystery writer Laurie Hanan, author of ALMOST PARADISE (Savant 2011) has a great idea: Putting on the spell as a volunteer at a local writer/author conference. Ms. Hanan attended one such event and reports:

"As an author, I make it part of my work to look for author/book conferences I can attend. I was recently offered the opportunity to work as a volunteer at 'Spellbinders', a combined conference and convention designed to bring authors and screenwriters together in my locale. When looking for local volunteers, the Chicago-based directors contacted Sisters in Crime, a mystery writers’ organization with local, national and international chapters. As a longtime member of Sisters in Crime, I readily accepted.

"The day before the conference began, workers were briefed in the conference headquarters, an oceanfront penthouse suite with a glorious view of the pacific. Lunch was served, and the directors went over our responsibilities and work schedules. Then we did a walk-through of the area where the conference and convention would be held.

Starting at 7:45 the next morning, we welcomed attendees and panelists to the resort and got them registered. The first day of the convention was more of a festival, with local artists, merchants and publishers selling their wares. After manning the registration desk in the morning, I took over the Spellbinders book booth, where I helped sell books by authors speaking at the conference as well as my own books. These included local and internationally-known authors. That night, volunteers attended an outdoor cocktail party complete with fabulous food and drinks, a local band, and a fireworks show. My husband, son, and editor joined me at the party, and we had a spectacular time.

The second day, I once again manned the book-selling table, and was honored to have the opportunity to chat with all the 'famous' authors as they came by to check on their book sales or just to say hello. Volunteers joined speakers and attendees at a special dinner that night, but I was exhausted and headed home.

"The sessions were open to volunteers, as long as there was coverage for the registration desk and book table. Most of the time I was happy enough selling books, and only attended two of the talks. I heard three well-known authors discuss 'how to make your thriller thrilling' and a local author and university professor speak on 'opening pages that wow'.
Throughout the conference, local agents as well as agents to top publishers were available for 'pitch sessions.' One afternoon, I attended a 'Pitchapalooza', where those brave enough stood in front of everyone and pitched to literary agents and their pitches were critiqued. This was followed by 'Scriptapalooza', at which screenplay writers pitched their best ideas to Hollywood agents.

"The third day, the conference wound down with some morning 'classes' followed by a closing brunch. Volunteering for Spellbinders was an experience I will never forget. The time spent with authors, agents and volunteers resulted in valuable contacts and, more importantly, friendships that I hope will endure for a lifetime."

Speaking or volunteering at a heavily-attended writer/author convention can be not only a good "investment" in terms of book sales, author name and title name recognition, but a fun one, too.

Thank you, Laurie Hanan for your valuable insight.

Daniel S. Janik
Savant Books and Publications