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Festival of Books

We happily survived (and thrived at) the Los Angeles Times’ Festival of Books and were utterly overwhelmed by the wonderful response to our organization. Local authors Heidi Mastrogiovanni, Patricia Smith and myself (Sandra Ann Miller) had the pleasure of meeting many other authors, aspiring writers and booklovers interested in collaborating with the Society to grow a larger, louder voice for Los Angeles local authors. We are excited for what’s next.

L.A.L.A. is busy planning the Society’s event calendar, anticipating an active year with author meetings, reader events and writer roundtables. If you haven’t already, please sign up for the newsletter so you’ll be informed of what’s coming up. (Please also follow BookSwell, which lists upcoming literary events in L.A. so you don’t miss anything.) If you’re more into social media, we are more active on Twitter at the moment.

We’ll have our next author meeting on May 18th to further discuss our needs as a group so we have a better plan of action to engage with readers and bookstores, and support up-and-coming writers. A password to the Eventbrite page will be provided in the newsletter. Please feel free to reach out via the Contact page if you missed the newsletter (out on the 25th) and want more information.

We are also planning to go back to the Festival of Books next year and encourage all local authors to participate however they can. While we’ll have limited space, we will offer opportunities to show at our booth. There is also the Independent Author Pavillion offered at the Festival that provides a more affordable option. We also hope to collaborate with other groups in Los Angeles so we can direct visitors to other like-minded booths. (We greatly enjoyed being a few “doors” down from the folks at Made in L.A.)

The Festival is a big weekend with a lot of activity and requires a good deal of energy. For those planning on attending in 2020, here’s my best advice:

  • Sign up early to save on the cost and start saving now (this is not an inexpensive event; be ready to request a booth/pay for it this December)
  • Plan out your costs (from tablecloths to additional signage, swag and books, there’s a lot to get…don’t forget bookstands)
  • Get promotional items that are easy for people to pick up as they pass by (bookmarks, business cards, postcards, buttons)
  • Invest in items that will help you get noticed by  and you can use again (like a standing, retractable banner)
  • Announce your attendance when the booth has been secured and regularly up through the Festival dates; you’ll have a lot of competition
  • Get plenty of rest before (they are long, active days) and get there early on Saturday (traffic getting in is nuts, Sunday was a little easier)
  • Wear comfortable shoes, comfortable clothes (layers!), and be camera ready (everybody Instagrams)
  • Bring plenty of water and snacks (you probably won’t be able to leave the booth much)
  • Have a friend/colleague or two to help out/cover the booth when nature calls
  • Invest in a trolley (like this) for easy transport; have all your items in boxes or bags for quick loading and set-up
  • Have a sign-up sheet (or two) and pens ready for people to leave their information (having one at either end of the table helps for when there’s a rush; legal pads work great for that) as well as a container for those who want to leave business cards
  • Powerstrip for phone charging, music playing
  • Square or other credit card option to make for easy purchasing
  • String, tape, scissors, hand wipes, tissues, paper towels, sunscreen, hand lotion, band-aids, etc.
  • And the Starbucks on campus is NOT on the Starbucks app so if you order on that to bypass the line, you’ll have to cross the street to pick up your needed caffeine (and you will need extra caffeine on Sunday)

The vendors we used were:

  • Vistaprint (business cards — for each book, cheaper than bookmarks; postcards, also cheaper than bookmarks; retractable banner — the economy version worked just fine in the sun, save those dollars)
  • Sticker Mule (buttons)
  • Amazon (tablecloth, bookstands, trolley)

How did we do? More than 200 postcards were taken, 180 buttons (sadly, I didn’t do a tally of business cards), and more than 115 authors, writers and booklovers joined our list (with more signing up through the website, thank you!). We’re thrilled that so many people were interested in L.A.L.A. and learning more about the authors here in Los Angeles, whichever side of the book they’re on.

We’re excited to get to know you, too.

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The Slow Build

We are coming up on the one-year mark of the L.A.L.A. Society’s inception. It has been a very slow roll-out, but I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing. While it’s nice to have a project take off right away, there is something to be said about being deliberate. Taking the time to watch and listen. Being patient with other’s schedules and priorities. Creating a solid foundation and clear vision that will sustain the efforts of all involved.

We are excited to be at the Festival of Books next month (find us at Booth 830). It will give us the chance to meet even more booksellers and readers, and get to know more local authors. We look forward to a summer of exciting events and celebrating several book releases this fall and winter.

If you haven’t signed up for the newsletter yet, please do. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. We want to get to know you and hope to see you at the Festival of Books.

What’s Next

The first L.A.L.A. Society event, “Coming to Terms with Amy Dresner and Sandra Ann Miller,” is in the books. Much gratitude to Sandpiper Books in Torrance for hosting us, and for the wonderful readers and writers who attended. It was exactly what we hoped it would be: A conversation. The interaction and laughter were wonderful. We feel it was a great success.

Of course, that leads to the question of What’s next? That would be meeting more of you, Los Angeles Local Authors. We need to get together to see what events we can create around your work, pair up authors to center conversations on, and find out how best we can engage with readers and booksellers.

Recently, Publisher’s Weekly posed the question, “What’s Wrong with Fiction Sales?” They stated:

“The most commonly shared view is that it has become extremely difficult to generate exposure for novels. Fiction, more than nonfiction, depends on readers discovering new books by browsing.”

That exposure is exactly what the L.A.L.A. Society wants to create. Instead of browsing pages, let’s help the readers of Los Angeles meet its authors. Because L.A.L.A. events go beyond a book launch, we can keep that conversation going (as well as that back catalogue), create a community of readers, writers and booksellers, and foster those important connections.

With that, we respectfully ask you, kind author, to introduce yourself to us. Please reach out through the Contact page or join the email list (that pop-up is around here somewhere). We only use the list to announce events, and we hope to grow those to monthly gatherings. If possible, we’d like to pull one together in November to hear your thoughts on what’s needed, what you would like to do and how we can help make that happen. Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, too.

We look forward to meeting you, having fun and expanding our successes.

Your Invitation

About six months ago, I was in that in-between space of releasing one novel and starting the next, wondering how I was going to keep the promo/release/write/promo/release train going. Writing is hard and can be isolating. Promoting one’s work (and oneself) is hard and can feel humiliating. (Not a lot of writers are extroverts, you know?)

Growing one’s audience–without a huge stroke of luck and/or a full-time publicist–is the biggest challenge for most authors. There are a lot of books out there. How does one get the word out and still get out new work?

It occurred to me that there is a strong population of amazing authors in L.A., and there’s a rabid nation of avid readers in our fair city looking for books by new (to them) authors. Why doesn’t someone introduce all of these wonderful folks to each other?

Of course, that happens weekly. There’s always a reading for a new release at your favorite bookstore where you get a chance to ask that author a question or two, have your book signed and then wait for the next release. But what about that pesky in-between? There are months (years) between book releases for most authors, leaving the already-written tomes hiding in plain sight.

But what if there was a group of authors who did events for readers? Not just for new releases, but an ongoing conversation writers and readers could (should) have. Wouldn’t that be something unexpected in Lala Land, when so many believe we only read screenplays and movie reviews?

That’s the idea for the L.A.L.A. Society. A place for it to start, anyway. If you are a local, Los Angeles author, an aspiring writer, book lover or someone who keeps meaning to read more, please join us. Let’s get to know one another.

Sandra Ann Miller is an author and publisher (SAME ink), native of Los Angeles and a founding member of the L.A.L.A. Society.