When I left New York in 1986 to move to Florida, I knew I'd go back some day as a published author. And I did, in November.
The seeds for this trip started nearly seven years ago, when I attended a gay & lesbian writers' conference in Washington, DC called Behind Our Masks. While there I made a number of contacts that have been very fruitful. I met Dan Jaffe, a talented writer whose background is similar to mine in many ways, and we became friends. When Dan edited an issue of Blithe House Quarterly, the online gay literary magazine, he selected a story of mine, "Refuge." And then he was kind enough to provide a blurb for the jacket of Mahu.
I also read a shortened version of "Refuge" at an open mic reading towards the end of the conference, and that made an impression on Carol Rosenfeld, a New York-based writer and attorney who is involved with the Publishing Triangle, an association of gay men and lesbians in the publishing business, and with Out Professionals, a gay and lesbian networking group.
Fast forward many years. This summer, at Saints & Sinners, I met Carol again, and she remembered that story, and was kind enough to give Mahu a good review, as an advance reader for Insight Out Books, the gay & lesbian book club. She also said she'd be willing to help me organize an event in NYC.
Fast forward again to November 2005, when I gave a reading and discussion at the gay and lesbian community center in Chelsea. Only four people showed up, but I did sell two books-- a 50% conversion rate!
I learned from this experience that I have to be very aggressive at publicity for every event, even those organized by others. I assumed that the sponsorship of several different organizations, including GOAL, the organization of gay and lesbian police officers, would draw a crowd. I did send out some press releases and get into some events calendars, but as a first-time author with a largely unreviewed book, it was hard to get any additional publicity.
Even so, I thought the event went well and I enjoyed having dinner with Carol afterward. My event on Saturday, though, was a much bigger success, mostly because I leveraged my personal mailing list to get my friends to show up. About twenty people came to a reading on Saturday night at Partners in Crime, a charming little mystery bookstore on Greenwich Avenue in the Village. The store provided a lovely space at the back, with chairs and a comfy sofa, and a fabulous poster in the window advertising the reading.
The event organizer, Chandra, did a terrific job of getting the books and poster in place, and told me that the day after the reading she'd sold two books based on the poster.
Location also mattered-- the event at the Center was in a fourth-floor room,up two flights at the back of the building, far west in Chelsea. Partners in Crime has a good location in the heart of the Village, with lots of foot traffic.
Would I go back to New York again? Absolutely-- but with lots more advance planning!