Authors and Drag Queens

This is the third and final part of a series looking at the “theory of marketing your book” vs. what “actually happened.”

In other words: Here’s what the marketing theory said to do–but how’d it go?
Check out Part I here. And Part II here.

PART III
PRIDE: Authors and Drag Queens

My book event was put on by Pride Toronto and Glad Day Bookshop, and held at Yorkville Public Library in Toronto.

It was titled “Authors and Drag Queens” and frankly, I had no idea what age the audience would be, or how I would hold my own in the midst of what I knew would be some “big personalities.” (And I ain’t talking about the authors.)

It was marketed by Glad Day as “Family Story Time.” There was no age specified, so we knew it could be kids from toddler on up. My book is middle-grade. (Tagged Out is about a baseball team that has to decide whether to “accept” their new player, who is gay.)

Yorkville Public Library PRIDEI got there about an hour early, to check out the library. It was bedecked in Pride colours, which sets a nice tone for the whole event because you know that behind those pillars will be inclusion and acceptance and pride.

After checking it out, and dropping off my foam-core Tagged Out signs with the lovely librarian, I headed to Starbucks with a friend. I told her I still wasn’t quite sure who would be coming, and therefore what excerpt I should read. My book is for kids aged about 11 to 14. We chose a couple of excerpts and I rehearsed them.

It turned out that the kids who came were toddlers. That was great for the first speaker, Catherine Hernandez, who has a picture book. Her talk set the bar HIGH, lemme tell you–she blew the roof off the joint! She has a gorgeous voice, and she led the kids in interactive finger games, songs and then she read her wonderful book M is for Mustache. She was ah-maze-ing and she had the kids eating out of the palm of her hand.

But OMG, what was I going to do? I couldn’t get up there and read a serious excerpt to toddlers–it would be over their heads… and, BO-RING. My mind was spinning, as I threw PLAN A right out the window.

One thing kept me going–the vibe from the crowd. The parents there were super-supportive and I could feel the energy in the room. It helped, too, that Michael Erickson from Glad Day was also incredibly upbeat. He was doing all the games and singing, right along with the kids, which really made me feel as though I had someone in the audience on my side.

In the end, I completely rewrote my plans and decided to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame with the kids and parents (who, thankfully, knew all the words). So we did that a couple of times. And then I had the kids stand up and we all mimed pitching and hitting a baseball. A few of the kids, in particular, got right into it, which was great. I did a very, very short reading, just to give parents a taste of the book but I got off the stage as quickly as possible, not taking up all of my allotted 10 minutes. I’d done what I wanted to do–entertain the kids and showcase my book–and now the stage was better left to the other performers: author Robin Stevenson and performers Fluffy Souffle and Fay Slift.

Robin read from her book, PRIDE: Celebrating Diversity and Community; she chose some great stories about kids, and told them in a fun way.

Authors and Drag QueensBut for sure, the drag queens, Fluffy and Fay, were two of the highlights of the event. Fluffy was fun and entertaining, and read the kids a picture book they loved. And Fay, who is a kindergarten teacher and many of whose students were there, kind of brought the house down. Fay Slift (say that out loud to “get” the name faster than I did) read a book called Red: A Crayon’s Story, by Michael Hall. It’s about a blue crayon who is always told to draw red things, like strawberries, and when he can’t, becomes frustrated and despondent. Finally, he realizes how much nicer and easier it is to draw blue things, like water and blueberries, and how good he is at it. We all got the excellent message of it, and I’m not gonna lie, there were a few tears.

SO… back to the book marketing and selling part of things. How did it go? I think it was a success. The event was well-marketed by Pride Toronto and Glad Day Bookshop and the five authors and performers. Even though it wasn’t really the ideal audience for my book, I managed to make it work and come up with an appropriate and fun activity. And Michael sold a lot of books at the table off to the side of the room. I also got some great publicity photos and video, which I’m using in various ways.

It helped that I stayed open to the idea of doing an event with a crowd that wasn’t quite old enough for my particular book, and it helped that I embraced the idea of the drag queens even though I knew their energy would probably steal the show–which it did, in a good way.