Today I spent a couple of hours at a reading by an author friend. The events are monthly, and take place at an art gallery and wine tasting room. Cool setting. Each month I learn something new from authors. I’ve been so impressed with the areas of knowledge and new ideas brought forward. The authors and their guests, in turn, have discovered this art gallery and tasting room, which they might never have done. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the number of people who attend these events are scant. There were six of us today.
Here’s where a bit of levity may go a long way. Attendance at readings, and artist events in general, is usually hit and miss. Cue the old, “Signing in the Waldenbooks” video.
Today’s speaker, Nebraska author, Margie Lucas, began with a story about an author who was to present a reading where only one person showed up. But knowing one person might just make a difference, the author gave the best speech he possibly could… to that one person (then went on to win the Pulitzer because of it). Today’s speaker did the same for those of us present. I assure you, it was not a waste of her time. Her words made a huge impact on all of us and the ideas she introduced were things I’ll be thinking about for a very long time.
We live in a world where we’re bombarded by ideas, information, and things to do. Yet, it wasn’t so far back in history… within my lifetime… when to learn the news, you watched it on TV at noon and six, or read it in the paper or magazine articles. If you wanted to know about an author’s ideas and insights into writing books, you might learn about it in a library book, or an article, or go to an event where the author read from their work, signed their books, and spoke to the people there.
But now? We can google an author’s name and find their website, their amazon page, read articles they’ve published, read their blog, their Facebook page, follow what they’re tweeting—so, when an event comes around on a Sunday afternoon where one can actually go meet the author and hear them speak… well, hey, it’s Sunday… there are many reasons not to go.
No one understands this more than I do.
What little spare time we have is precious. After all, we work all week, then on Saturday, often, we catch up on house and yard work. Sunday is the one day we can do whatever we want! We can watch football, take a nap, take grandkids to the zoo, see a matinée, have family over for dinner, go to a museum… we have that one day to relax. And people need that day of freedom from obligations. Who of us doesn’t relish a quiet Sunday?
So, who ends up going to the reading or signings? Usually, it’s the friends and family of the author; the people who love them. But, that’s not a writer’s target market, is it? It’s the proverbial “preaching to the choir.”
Maybe people would come if it weren’t on a Sunday. Yet, my Saturdays are almost always busy with football games, making food for Saturday night gatherings, or weekend projects.
Let’s face it. There is no magic day of the week. Even if one wants to go to an event, there are often other obligations, or illness, or church, or being out-of-town…
…honestly, excuses aren’t required or expected. You come or you don’t. It is what it is. Everyone who plans an event must understand the size of the audience cannot be guaranteed. This blog post’s intention is absolutely not to cuss people out for not attending events.
This post is to opine and ponder, ‘cause that’s what writers do.
So (here’s the pondering part), what is the point of even having events such as this? Are speaking events relevant anymore? Do we just keep having book signings and readings because it’s what’s always been done? Or do we keep racking our brains trying to figure out the magic combination of how to get people to the events we create. Librarians, book stores, and those of us who try to promote these events make posters and post cards, Facebook event pages, we send press releases to the newspapers, we post about the event on blogs and websites and group pages. We email it, we invite friends and do everything we can that doesn’t cost money, (because it’s a free event and spending money on advertising would have to come from somewhere and probably wouldn’t bring in but a few people anyway.)
This isn’t my first foray in planning events which feature artists in small town America. It’s always a trick to get people to come. One can offer food, drinks, music; one can encourage community involvement, try hard to plan it for a time that works for most, talk about it until you’re blue in the face… and in the end, there will still only be a handful of people who attend.
So, why do it? What’s the point?
Well, here’s the point. Today I sat in a group of six intelligent women and had a mind-stimulating conversation about the history of women and how religion has swayed the way cultures all over the world have come to treat them. How we’ve come to treat each other. And how we feel about ourselves.
And we talked about how to affect positive change.
Now those are some big ideas for a Sunday afternoon. The coolest part was we discussed it all without whining or male-bashing—our conversation based on ideas and facts. It was educational and, well… very cool because of the way the speaker lead the discussion. I love solution oriented conversations, but they’re often hard to find. Positive energy is powerful. It’s like sunshine breaking through the clouds. Such a treat.
So, what will come of that small conversation? We shall see. But I know this: it was worthwhile. A small group of quality can be plenty… or as a friend of mine likes to say, enough is a feast. And in the end… everything is food for thought.