Self-published and small-press authors connect for book signing event

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Author and (self-appointed) marketing guru Carolyn O’Neal organized an area author book signing. “Buying local also means local authors. Books are biodegradable, eco-friendly gifts. And you can have a book signed by the author, or dedicated to a friend as a gift,” she says. Photo by Farine Benz Author and (self-appointed) marketing guru Carolyn O’Neal organized an area author book signing. “Buying local also means local authors. Books are biodegradable, eco-friendly gifts. And you can have a book signed by the author, or dedicated to a friend as a gift,” she says. Photo by Farine Benz

For many artists, the act of promoting their own work can feel counterintuitive, a business that necessitates turning outward to the public after so much time spent turned inward in order to create. For this reason, local author Carolyn O’Neal says with some surprise, “I’ve become, oddly, a marketing guru.” Her firsthand experience with marketing began last year when she launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication of her novel, Kingsley, a work of eco-fiction about the last boy on Earth. “It’s a lot of work to market the book, more than to write it,” she says.

But once she started building relationships with local and regional bookstores she reached a point where she’d booked herself almost every weekend. She pondered what to do next and came up with the idea of cross-marketing with other self-published and small-press authors for a one-day book signing event, which takes place on Sunday at WriterHouse.

While Charlottesville has no shortage of big-name authors who sign with large publishing houses, O’Neal says, “I specifically wanted authors who didn’t have a thousand other avenues to publicize their work to be included in this. …And two of them are launching their books on this date, so it’s a celebration.” Those two authors are Pamela Evans and AM Carley.

Evans, a preschool teacher, will be signing and selling her book, The Preschool Parent Primer, alongside picture e-book authors Marc Boston and Amy Lee-Tai in a room designated for young readers and their parents. Evans’ book grew out of the classroom notes she has accumulated over the last 14 years at Chancellor Street Preschool Co-operative regarding challenges and solutions. Each chapter begins with a list of key factors on which she elaborates with examples and anecdotes. “It’s not so much telling you what to do but sharing best practices, examples and resources,” Evans says. She also details what to look for in a preschool and what kinds of behaviors are appropriate for children of this age.

Evans decided to self-publish after receiving what writers affectionately call a “positive rejection.” A small press told her they liked the book, it just wasn’t in their wheelhouse. Rather than changing the concept of the book to tailor it to a publisher, she decided to move forward with that bit of encouragement and publish her original concept according to a timeline that worked for her.

Meanwhile, professional writing coach Carley is debuting her book, FLOAT: Becoming Unstuck for Writers. Similar to Evans, Carley’s book grew out of the notes she kept for her profession, helping writers develop their books. “It’s different for each writer,” she says, “but I noticed patterns that kept coming up for different authors and thought, ‘People could want to know this stuff.’”

The title is an acronym that stands for Focus, Listen, Open, Analyze and Tool. It is a craft book with exercises to stimulate the writing process, and each is independent of the other so the reader is free to pick and choose. It’s a practice in “having a conversation with yourself or asking for help from the cosmos, or however you want to frame it,” Carley says. “The point is that there are ways to pull in inspiration…that work for each writer. They often find that they can solve their own problem. This is to jump-start it.”

Perhaps what sets this apart from other writing craft and prompt books is that she keys the exercises based on their impact and how connected the reader is feeling. “We’re all living with a tension between our hardwiring to want to connect with others and our primate need to distrust everyone,” she says. “They’re both in there so how do we negotiate that?” Her answer regarding the creative process is to start with a tool based on how connected you’re feeling on a given day.

A total of 12 authors will be signing their books. “We had more people who wanted to join us,” O’Neal says, “but we’re limited by the space.” The range of books by participating authors includes a coffee table book on Wintergreen, a travel memoir about Italy, mysteries and political fiction.

“Carolyn is our curator,” Carley says with a smile.

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