What I Learned at a Book Fest

now playing on my laptop: Alaska by Mogli (thanks Kristin)

I recently attended the Southern Kentucky Book Fest in Bowling Green and had a fantastic time. In addition to wandering around in dragon themed leather armor and heading to White Squirrel for the greatest burger ever (hello spiced apples and blue cheese), I was lucky enough to talk to my lovely fellow writers and a TOOOONNN of amazing readers.

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I write fantasy that teens and adults both seem to enjoy (thankfully!), so I participated in Friday’s teen day when area schools bring middle and high school students to the book fest to attend workshops and buy books. Saturday was the open event, and I talked to more adult readers during that 9-3 session after doing a talk on Fight Scenes.

Here is what I learned.

Readers want to quickly understand where a book fits into their current mind shelf. They are constantly asking themselves: Does this book I’ve never seen sit next to Percy Jackson or Salt to the Sea on my mind shelf?

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A quick synopsis is great for readers, but not nearly as quick and consumable as a few good comparative titles. And the titles need to be VERY well known. They need not be exactly right. Just very much in the same genre and with the same tone and feel.

This may seem like an obvious thing, but for us writers, we can lose touch with the basics of getting our stories into the right hands when we’re caught up in the details of publishing. We should keep these comparative titles in our heads during plotting, drafting, revising, and on and on. It’s not a copying thing of course. You know that. It’s just remembering and focusing on where this story sits on that mind shelf. Humans have a strong need to categorize. It helps us problem solve quickly. It’s a good thing most of the time. (I try not to do it with people if I can help it, because people are complicated.)

What are some books that sit side-by-side on your mind shelf?

 

The comparative titles (not all are books!) for my series that readers seemed to latch onto are as follows:

(I didn’t come up with these. The readers at the book fest did.)

The Uncommon World SeriesLord of the Rings, Percy Jackson, Pirates of the Caribbean, Graceling, The Hobbit, Eragon

The Edinburgh Seer SeriesHarry Potter, Supernatural, Shadowhunters, X-Men, Avengers but with ghosts (lol)

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