Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Romancing the Librarians

Today I am all on edge. Tomorrow, I am scheduled to go speed dating, and the mother of all blizzards is pummeling Southern and Eastern Ontario, threatening to derail my travel plans and spoil the fun. Who on earth would drive 450 km. down the 401 in the middle of a Canadian winter with a garment bag of elegant clothes and two dogs stashed in the backseat? All for the chance at a two-minute pitch.

Me, that’s who. And about twenty other Crazy Canuck mystery authors, although not all of them will be driving 450 km., certainly not with two dogs in tow.

In this modern world of online dating, speed dating is like a breath of fresh air. It’s hard to woo readers in cyberspace. Hunched over my laptop in my solitary garret, I can write blogs, post on Facebook, websites and listserves - even tweet on occasion! - but who knows if any readers are won over in the process? It’s increasingly rare to actually meet or talk to book lovers, except in equally disembodied cyber replies. And I miss the human touch. Call me old-fashioned. I like the eye contact, the exchange of smiles, the little shrugs and hand gestures, the inner glow that comes from sharing an idea or a moment.

Hence my excitement over speed dating, which puts the human connection and the chemistry back into book promotion. I first tried it last June at the Bloody Words Mystery Conference in Toronto. The conference organizers, looking for a novel way to connect authors and readers, experimented with a variation on the match-making technique. They put two authors at a table with eight readers, and gave each author two minutes to make their pitch. Once both authors had finished, they rotated to the next table, and so on through ten tables. Two minutes may not seem like a long time, but it’s long enough to get a feel for an author and the type of books they write. Long enough to decide if you want a second date.

Everyone, readers and writers alike, emerged from the hour exhausted but exhilarated, chattering excitedly about the experience. For shy authors, the ice was broken and connections were forged. Readers felt they could now put a face and a personality to a book cover. The event was a huge success.

Such a success that Crime Writers of Canada proposed the idea to the organizers of this year’s annual conference of the Ontario Library Association, being held in Toronto this week. I signed up in a flash. There will be up to 160 librarians participating. That’s 160 devoted book lovers and industry professionals who will meet me, listen to me, and learn about my books. In my two minutes, I plan to talk not only about my Inspector Green series, which, after eight books, may not be big news, but also about my brand new Rapid Reads book starring handyman Cedric O’Toole, which is due out in April.

Librarians, and booksellers, are an author’s best friend. They peruse the catalogues and choose the books, they know their clientele’s interests and skills, and they make countless informed recommendations every day. Furthermore, they are themselves avid readers who share commentaries and reviews, both formal and informal. Each librarian listening to an author’s pitch on Thursday will make a difference in that author’s life, for better or for worse. First impressions will be crucial. So all of us authors will be dusting off our charm and polishing our silver tongue in hopes of that all important second date.

Luckily for us, there need be no winners and losers. There is room on the shelves of libraries for us all. That’s the kind of speed dating I like!


Rick Blechta said...

Okay, if you're bringing your dogs, I'll bring some of my tropical fish. Let's about my dwarf gourami, a couple of cardinal tetras and a guppy?

Safe driving!

linwik said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Linda Wiken said...

It's an excellent event...good for CWC. And for you, daring as you are, to brave the elements. Have a safe drive and hope you get many long-term relationships from this!

hannah Dennison said...

I agree! Despite the increase in cyber-dating - you can't beat meeting your future readers face-to-face. Malice does the same thing and although it's daunting, it's so much fun and really does garner new readers.Travel safe!!Good luck!

Mary Jane Maffini said...

And in a last minute plot twist, I'll be joining you. Something about snow causing my flight to be cancelled at the last minute. I agree Barb, librarians and booksellers are always worth a trip.

Donis Casey said...

I hope that's not a picture of you slushing through the snow on your way to an event. If it is, that is dedication!