Geralyn and I were given free rein to handle the event as we pleased. We decided on an open Q&A where we’d each give a quick summary of our careers to date and answer a list of questions, allowing attendees to jump in and ask their own as we went along.
It started out with our brief recaps of entering and winning the contest, which is sponsored by the state’s libraries and is open to self-published authors only. We talked about what it’s been like to appear at libraries in the Chicago area and beyond. We touched upon our latest projects and how we were coming along. And then came the questions from those in the room, several of whom were authors themselves.
Which is when the magic happened.
I’ll confess: when I arrived, I wondered how we were going to fill 90 minutes. Soon enough, I wasn’t thinking about the time at all until I looked at my watch and realized we only had 15 minutes left—and we had to leave space for our host to explain the 2017 contest.
A creative community sprang up out of nowhere. Discussions ranged from how young people read nowadays to why the best way of working is whatever gets you to “The End.” One woman wondered how the kids reading her book would ever know what a cold-water flat is. (I told her I think it’s fair to expect readers to do a bit of research rather than having to explain everything to death.) Another had more nuts-and-bolts platform and publishing questions.
By the time we’d finished, I’d agreed to help Geralyn with Scrivener, and we’d all seen what happens when you put newly empowered authors in a room and get them talking. In the past, the conversation might have been all about how to write a query letter and land an agent. Now it was about writing and editing a story, then getting it out into the world and finding an audience for it.
None of us have identical processes. Each of us is in a difference place, career-wise. Nobody’s blowing the doors off in terms of sales, and that’s perfectly all right. In this new world, as Hugh Howey has said more than once, you’re never a failure unless you quit. You’re just someone who hasn’t succeeded yet.
As any self-respecting Spider-Man fan knows, with great power comes great responsibility. And in the world of indie authors, we have both for the first time. We have the power to pilot our own careers and the responsibility to learn and grow while doing so. That’s far preferable to waiting for someone to choose me and treat me fairly.
It’s a great time to be indie. And this afternoon in Elgin, that was as clear as Indie Author Day.