I had the unique experience this weekend of using speed dating techniques to sell my novel Dragon Chica to independent bookstore owners and staff in Los Angeles. Yes, it’s the famous SCIBA Authors Feast and Trade Show!
This was my first time to be invited to the event sponsored by the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association.
Here’s how it works: Authors are sent into a cavernous banquet room at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel & Spa (more on this later). We are assigned to go two at a time to a large, round banquet table sponsored by an Independent Bookseller. Then while the bookstore people eat, we get to tell them about our books. When the course is over, someone literally gets on a microphone and orders all the authors to move to another table. (We get a list with a map of where we’re supposed to go in advance.) So it was Salad, move, Entrée, move, and Dessert, stay. And yes, everyone calls it “speed dating” (tongue in cheek, of course…Kinda.)
We’re allowed to eat in advance, because it could get pretty gross if we were chowing down and talking at the same time, but in fact in the authors’ dining room ahead of time, that’s what we all did anyway. Talked and ate at the same time. Perhaps the organizers figure (rightly) that we writers can’t gross ourselves out when we’re talking about books. Organizers warned everyone not to drink too much of the free wine either, but an author experienced with this event encouraged everyone to drink up while we could. (She had the right idea…I think if we’d brought the wine bottles with us, it would have gone even betterl!)
As it turned out, the noise level in the banquet room was pretty high, so I found myself basically shouting in bullet points across the table at the indie booksellers. “Girl power!” “Khmer Rouge survivors!” “War! Love! Family! Refugees! Nebraska!” “Cambodian cultural rebirth!” Yeah, I can shout pretty fast. ( I also managed to remember to tell the owner of Skylight Books of L.A. that Lac Su had highly recommended her store to me as well as tell the man from Book Soup that Leonard Chang loves his store.) Reps from the wonderful Diesel Books and fantastic Books Inc. were also there.
Then it was time to move on to another course, another table.
The best part for me was getting to meet so many cool writers and hear about their books. (Plus we all got a box of books and Advanced Reading Copies at the end. Book swag! Sure, sure, let the movie stars get their free iPads and designer whatevers, but as for me, I love a box of ARCs!)
So what are some of the cool books that you can look forward to reading this fall and winter? Oooh, where to begin? USC history professor Deborah Harkness has written a historical/fantasy novel called A Discovery of Witches about demons, vampires, witches and humans based on her extensive knowledge of 16th century science and medicine. She calls it “Harry Potter for adults.” In it, she says humans have one special power the other creatures do not: we have mastered the dark art of denial. (Love that!)
Claire LaZebnik, who has got to be one of the wittiest people I’ve ever met, has a new book out called If You Lived Here, You\’d Be Home Now about a single mom who has to juggle her desire to remain a wild-child at heart with raising her young son. (And from all reviews, it sounds as witty as Claire is in real life.)
For those who like detective stories, P.G. Sturges has a real winner coming out this winter called The Shortcut Man, about private investigator Dick Henry who finds his own girlfriend involved in his newest client’s messy case. (There’s already talk in Hollywood of trying to get George Clooney to star in the movie version. Having heard the story of The Shortcut Man from the author himself, I think this would be a pretty cool vehicle for Mr. Clooney. Check out the website. My summary won’t do it justice.)
And for everyone who loved CatDog (and who didn’t love CatDog?), creator Peter Hannan has an illustrated children’s book coming out this fall called The Greatest Snowman in the World, showcasing his delightfully quirky vision and unique artistry.
And now for a few words about the venue. Ahem, wow. L.A. is really different from San Francisco. At the hotel for this book conference, they actually offer five different “non-surgical facelifts,” four different “ultra facial enhancements,” and six different kinds of “body therapy” including “Japan ritual,” “purifying Moroccan clay wrap” and a “detoxifying seaweed wrap.” (And to think, I get psyched when a hotel offers free HBO!)
Needless to say, I didn’t try any of the spa treatments. Like I said, I was very happy to get my free box of books! (Muchas gracias to my publisher, GemmaMedia, for sponsoring me to attend the SCIBA this year!)