Normally, I don’t think anything of not “making the cut” for a signing event. I’m midlist, I don’t draw tons of readers to an event, and signings are, at the core, financial endeavors. If the authors you have signing can’t draw a few hundred readers, then you won’t be able to pay for the damn things. I get it, I really do. But this weekend there was a signing virtually in my backyard and I wasn’t on the list. That was a blow to the ego, but the simple fact of the matter is: there are far too many writers in romance, and far too many writers asking to go to things like signings. In a crowd like this, if you’re not huge, you just aren’t seen.
We like to think that there are no gatekeepers in publishing anymore, but the truth is that there are gates everywhere, and most of them are damn near impossible to scale. But, as I sat sulking over that obstacle–the entrance to a signing in my own backyard–one of my favorite online book clubs started talking about meeting up at the same event. Several of them were going, and said, “hey, Selena, you live there, right?” “I do,” I told them, and before long, we were planning to get together. Like magic, there I was, a writer not doing a signing, but with a group of readers who wanted to see me.
So, on Saturday afternoon I grabbed another local author friend and we met up with twelve really lovely women who I’ve known only online for the last two years. We had drinks and appetizers, and we signed books for them, and found out about their children, and their jobs, and even met two members’ mothers. We took pictures and did a live video to post to the book club page, and it was really fun. It was also more reader contact than signing a hundred pieces of paper shoved at you during a mass event could ever be. And it was proof that you can take online relationships into the real world.
I was honored to be part of the larger trip that some of these women had taken. One came all the way from Australia, others were doing various new things–flying, traveling alone, getting tattoos. And though they didn’t know it, they were part of my own journey in my career. Because my takeaway from the weekend was this: find a new road. No matter what the situation, no matter what gate is blocking your path, find a new road. Can you exactly replicate what you’re missing out on? Probably not. Can you find something equally valuable and satisfying? Yes. Without a doubt, yes. I found a new road to meeting readers, and I’m so glad that I did. And now I’m going to be looking for those paths less travelled in all things. Finding creative ways to get to where I want to be. Because for a midlist writer, the gates can seem insurmountable, but you can either throw down your pen and give up, or you can forge ahead, blaze your own trail, and discover new joys along the way.