Hangin’ with a “Rock Star” Author

November 16, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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There is nothing like hanging out with a major bestselling author like Diana Gabaldon (standing, second from left) to remind a fellow author that novels–especially historical novels–are sold one book at a time.

You see us here (along with several other attendees at the November Scribblers Retreat Writers Conference) smiling happily after a fabulous lunch at Coastal Kitchen, a local eatery on the causeway to St. Simons Island off the coast of Georgia.  We had just imbibed great quantities of local shrimp, blue crab cakes and hush puppies, not to mention the pecan pie.

No wonder we’re all smiling.

Gabaldon, the author of the nearly cult-status, #1 New York Times Bestselling novels, the  Outlander Series, is published in some 23 countries in 19 languages.  Even so, just like the rest of us, she continues to attend conferences as a speaker and does book signings all over the country and–thanks to her international audience–abroad as well.

The room for her presentation was jam-packed, but it struck me as I gazed at the pile of books for sale written by all the authors at the conference, including yours truly, that no matter who you are, books are sold as each reader makes his or her own buying decision.   I watched as audience members would pick up one of our hefty titles (Diana, whom I have known since we both were first-time novelists, writes books even thicker than I do).  Our potential customers would turn it over to read the back cover copy, and, in seven seconds or less, decide whether or not to make a purchase.

Trust me, whether you’re Diana Gabaldon, Ciji Ware, or whomever, it’s a humbling experience, especially in a recession economy. Fortunately, we all had enough people asking us to autograph our work to be extremely gratifying, but it was a timely reminder that it’s “book-by-book,” no matter whom you are.

That’s why another keynote speech at the Scribblers Conference had a huge impact on most of us in attendance, whether we were writers or readers.

Dominique Raccah, the dynamic CEO of my publisher, Sourcebooks, delivered an unforgettable “state of the state of publishing” presentation entitled Publishing in the Digital Age: A Time of Transformation.

Founding Sourcebooks in 1987 out of her home in Naperville, Illinois, Raccah has directed a continuously growing entrepreneurial creative organization that morphed into a general trade house passionately producing some 300 titles a year:  everything from bestsellers in fiction, poetry, parenting and study aids, to 14 New York Times Bestsellers and more than twenty national bestsellers.

Dominique Raccah currently serves as co-chair of the Book Industry Study Group working through the issues of digital publishing on the variety of e-devices currently crowding the market:  the Kindle, Sony Reader, the Nook.  You name it, Dominique knows all about it ,as well as the newest New Thing coming down the pipeline.

I’ll have more about her presentation in my next blog…but suffice it to say, it had Diana Gabaldon and the rest of us hanging on her every word!  I was so blown away by the exciting vision she painted of the future of publishing, I took to an old fashioned (rental) bike, and calmed down by taking in the lovely local sites…

For you travel bugs, this is the “Bloody Marsh” on St. Simons where the British defeated the Spanish in 1742 while trying to avoid incoming musket balls and snakes!

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