By Beth Terrell
This past Saturday evening, Tony Burton of Wolfmont Press hosted A Deadly Dinner in Calhoun, Georgia. I was one of eight authors there to participate in something akin to speed dating for authors. Eight authors, eight tables. At each table were a group of guests who had, for a variety of reasons, paid to have dinner with us. Even though I'm not well known enough to draw a crowd like this all by myself, and even though the three-course meal may have been the main draw for several of the guests, it was a heady feeling.
The event was held at the Harris Art Center, where volunteers had set up round tables elegantly draped in white and labeled with a number from one to eight. My fellow authors and I were each given a "super-secret, highly confidential" number (mine was 5), and as Tony introduced each of us, we went to the table with the corresponding number. This is the part that always makes me nervous (What if they don't like me? What if I can't think of anything to say? What if nobody else can think of anything to say?), but of course, everyone was charming, kind, and generous. Every fifteen minutes, Tony would tap his wine glass, and the authors would switch tables (since I had 5, I went to 6 next, then 7, and so on). Interestingly, each table had a character of its own. Some groups were interested in the writing process, others in the journey to becoming a writer, and some in other topics altogether. At one table, we talked primarily about horses. At another, we talked about teaching and education. At one, we discussed our favorite authors (present company excepted, of course). I also got a chance to trot out my new pen name--Jaden E. Terrell--and felt gratified when the responses were favorable.
After each author had made a complete circuit, we signed books and chatted with individual guests. I bought a book from each of my neighbors, both cozies, which I don't usually read. I chose one because I loved the cover and the other because the protagonist is a guardian angel named Augusta. Since I had a great-aunt Augusta, and she was the closest thing to a saint I've ever known, I knew I couldn't leave without that one. Especially since the title included a Jabberwocky. How can you not buy a book called "The Angel and the Jabberwocky Murders"?
I thought about that on the way home. I think of my book as appealing to people who like hardboiled PI novels, but just as I bought two books I wouldn't normally read for wholly personal reasons, there may be people who don't like PI novels, but who love Nashville-based stories or horses or children with Down Syndrome. Or modern-day cowboys or men named Jared. I've read that one of the first things you should do when coming up with a marketing plan is to go through your book and write down all the things that might appeal to a group of people other than your primary audience. Until I realized I had to buy Mignon Ballard's book because it reminded me of my great-aunt Augusta, I didn't really understand the power of those connections.
My fellow authors were Gerrie Ferris Finger (a former AJC writer and author of The End Game), Mignon Ballard (who writes the Augusta Goodnight mysteries and nine other novels, with Miss Dimple Disappears debuting in November), Randy Rawls (author of the Ace Edwards, Dallas PI series), Marion Moore Hill (author of the Scrappy Librarian Mysteries and the Deadly Past Mysteries), Mary Anna Evans (author of the Faye Longchamp archaeological mysteries), Fran Stewart (author of the Biscuit McKee cozy mystery series), Kathleen Delaney (Author of And Murder for Dessert, Give First Place to Murder and Dying for a Change).
Of course, the roster would not be complete without Tony Burton, who worked tirelessly to bring it to fruition and make it special. Thanks, Tony. See you next year?