At the beginning of April I had the very great pleasure of attending my first-ever Pride Festival, and not only attending it, but running a NineStar Press table as part of Pride’s Arts Expo! It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now, but for various reasons it hadn’t fallen into place until this year.
The registration process for the Expo was easy, but then I had to obtain a tax license through the State. Surprisingly that wasn’t too hard either, and soon I had confirmation that my booth application was approved. I just have to say, NineStar, through Raevyn McCann, was amazing! They were supportive from the very first moment I proposed doing this. They sent me a huge box of NSP books to feature on the table, as well as some swag to supplement what I had of my own. Other authors also sent me swag, and Raevyn and I worked out a drawing for people visiting the table to win free books.
I made lists, refined them, organized and re-organized, and finally the big weekend arrived. Pride was being held at a large, beautiful park, and I was so pleased to see my booth placement was in a large entertainment tent next to a lake.
With the help of a librarian friend of mine and her book display experience, we set up a really pretty and eye-catching table.
Finally the Pride Festival opened for business. At first it was really slow, not a lot of foot traffic. The book drawing turned out to be a fantastic icebreaker, though. Everyone likes to win something, so the colorful sign and entry slips I made brought a lot of people over to check it out. The free swag helped, too. Unlike book cons, Festivals like this don’t offer a lot of freebies so the rainbow pins and bracelets that I had were very popular. As the afternoon wore on, foot traffic increased, and at last I made my first sale, a complete set of my Resilient Love series!
The guy who bought them even wanted me to sign them. I was thrilled.
At one point a woman walked up, and she perused the books on the table, picking some up and putting them down. At last she said, “I see lots of covers with men on them. Do you have any with girls?” I showed her the lesbian contemporary romance we had, and the lesbian sci-fi.
She snatched it up, and spent a long time reading the blurb and flipping through it before buying it. A little while later I sold two copies of the lesbian romance, and the girls who bought them actually hugged them.
Right then and there, my focus turned from “Look at me! Look at my books!” to “What kind of story do you need?” I had trans men and women stopping by, and a fully made-up drag queen bought a gay vampire story. It was eye-opening, and humbling. To be perfectly honest, all of my experience as an author up to that weekend has been at book cons, where the focus is on women reading m/m romance. At Pride, there were people who wanted to see themselves in these stories and were thrilled to find these books actually existed. As the day wore on, I wished I had more lesbian romance, more trans romance, because there was a sincere interest and yes, a need. People were asking me about queer YA, about queer children’s books. I was asked if I would come to Tucson Pride, too, because their Arts Expo coordinator had never heard of publishers like NineStar or Dreamspinner and thought it was fantastic.
At the end of the weekend I’d sold a total of twenty books, but the numbers didn’t matter. Instead, I talked and laughed with people from all walks of life, saw people enjoying themselves in a safe space—a space they welcomed me into with open arms. I’d seen families, and diversity, and sex and love. And best of all, I was able to steer a handful of people in the direction of the stories they wanted, and needed.
Because of all these things, I consider it a huge success.