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  • Writer's pictureMaurice Rubio-McMillon

My First Author Event

My First Author Event graphic, featuring Nolli The Creator

Since Damn Boy George & Thanks for the Heartbreak! was released on June 19, 2023, more than 90 copies have either been sold or downloaded in the US and UK markets. The title has earned more than 14 five-star ratings and reviews from readers, one of which incredibly captured the essence of what I had hoped the story would impart to readers – understanding the complexities of being a mixed, gay male in America.

Get Ready With Me

Maybe you consider that a success, maybe you don't.

For me, it's been a learning experience, and my takeaway is that I need to better understand how to communicate what my story is about – because that is my greatest challenge every time I attempt to share it.

Since I am weeks away from my first author signing event, the Victor AE Jordan Local Author's Book Expo, I'm thinking even more about how to talk about my story and prepare for the event. Join me in this blog as I run through what I plan to bring for my set-up and how I plan to tackle some of the questions that are likely to come up.

My First Author Event Checklist

If you're like me and new to tabletop displays as an author, let me offer you some insight. I'm going to list the top must-have items that I believe elevate an author booth to exceed expectations for readers and potential buyers. This is based on my prior experiences at tradeshows, conventions, and as a vendor representing a college bookstore for 18 years.

Damn Boy George Novel Sell Sheet for My First Author Event
Example of a Sell Sheet
  1. Custom Table Cloth/Table Runner - if you're at an event where you can use a custom tablecloth, then get one. If you cannot afford one, go for a custom table runner to lay over a plain tablecloth. This will immediately elevate your booth and communicate your style and personality as an author.

  2. Sell Sheet - A sell sheet is an excellent tool for your book. It encompasses your book's front cover, a few lines that describe your story's themes or topics, and delves further into a synopsis, reviews, and/or any other details worth mentioning like a shortened author bio. It also includes all ISBNs and contact details for quick reference by potential buyers.

  3. Reviews - Word of mouth is still king in advertising, I don't care what anyone says. The words of other readers will reinforce all your efforts. On one sheet, list your favorite and best reviews (noting a name and where the review was taken from). Set this up to be a tabletop sign, or make it into a beautiful banner, and this will increase your credibility as an author.

  4. Price Listing - Create a smaller sign (5 x 7) that advertises your book's price. If you are using a payment application like Square, then I recommend also including a pay link QR Code that enables purchases to be made from the buyer's phone.

  5. Promotional Incentive - If you have the funds, I recommend that you include an incentive with the book. Incentives can vary from something generic like an interesting bookmark to something unique like an art print of the book's cover or interior images. A good incentive brings the conceptual work into physical reality as something tactile and relevant, something that represents your work and lets someone express their connection to it beyond the book. However, other incentives could be less physical, like access to a prequel short story, or being invited to become a beta reader for your next book. Whatever you choose to offer, make a sign and make it clear that it's an exclusive for the event, meaning that buyers can't get this offer when you purchase online.

  6. Bookmarks - Unlike a promo incentive bookmark, these are specifically to advertise your book, like a functional flyer. One side can feature artwork from your cover, while the other side features details from your sell sheet, including the full book cover, a couple of paragraphs about your book, availability, ISBNs, and a QR Code for purchases online.

  7. Business Cards - For an author, these communicate how readers can learn more about you, your style, and your stories; it lists where they can connect with you on social media, check out your website, and more.

  8. Sell Digital, Not Physical - I picked this up while working in the college textbook industry. Most states do not charge sales tax for digital books, so publishers sell digital books and give away physical copies, reducing the perceived cost of the book. Stealing this, when I sell a book at an event, I am selling an author's digital copy (PDF) and giving away an autographed paperback copy as a gift with purchase. This disables the collection of sales tax and keeps my LLC structured as a digital content business. I do not sell physical products. Period.

What Is Your Book About?

Damn Boy George & Thanks for the Heartbreak! in essence is about... life and relationships; how relationships partly define us, how individual choices affect other people in profound, oftentimes unexplainable ways, and how sometimes those effects last a lifetime. Although it is a work of fiction, it's based heavily on my real-life experiences, one in particular that is now immortalized.

Why Did You Write This Story?

Original poem that became Damn Boy George & Thanks for the Heartbreak!
Cast Away Shame, Part 1

Originally, I was going to share this story as a 3-part poem in a coffee book that explored trauma and love through visual art and poetry. I had almost completed it when I realized that so much of our story was left unspoken and lost to space, time, and the use of this particular medium. The layers that make up the journey are essential to understand the depth of meaning behind those words, and to tell a story like that I needed to write a novel. So, in reality, this story is about how I was personally affected by someone choosing to walk out of my life, but equally important and profound, how my internalized homophobia helped him make that choice.

Choices, bonds, and treatment impact more lives than just yours. It's the core of what it means to be a part of a family, a community, and a society. There is a social responsibility we all have to one another, and it's the payment for the rewards of sharing this world. If you have not reflected on that, then this book may be the beginning of an eye-opening journey for you.

It's Young Adult, But It Isn't

Categorizing this book was a great education in publishing. While many of the topics held within the story are culturally age-appropriate for 16 and up, the YA category encompasses pre-teens too. On my sell sheet, I mention that this novel is for readers of all ages, but I have had some feedback that said otherwise – though they probably didn't read the book and made assumptions based on the title and relation to LGBTQ+ culture.

This book deals with heavy topics and it uses coarse language – things that most adolescents are faced with every day, ready or not. You – parent – have been warned. If you think you're child cannot handle topics of homophobia, alcoholism, racism, suicide, and coarse language, then I recommend that you do not buy this title for your young adult; however, my second book (currently in the works) may shed light on the great disconnect between what pre-teens and teens talk about versus what society declares as age-appropriate. So look forward to that!

How Does Boy George Fit Into This?

One of the first questions I usually get asked is, "Who is Boy George?"

Boy George is a singer-songwriter from the 80s, most known for his music developed with the band Culture Club. You may know their hits such as Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? and Karma Chameleon. Once I hum a few bars and offer up somelyrics, people know.

Anyway, Boy George fell out of popularity in the 90s but ironically has been making a comeback recently with new music (he has a song featured in Argyle), visual art, and a memoir. Still, what's he got to do with this story?

Boy George performed live at North America Pride hosted in Fort Lauderdale, FL on February 11, 2023. I attended the event with my partner and cousins in an attempt to throw the manuscript on the stage for him, but we didn't get close enough to the stage for any success. Seeing him on stage was inspiring and reminded me of what it means to have the courage to just be yourself in a harshly judgemental and condemning world.

Boy George is indirectly responsible for a turning point in the life and character of Sid 'Aswad, the protagonist in this novel. His role in this story, and by extension – my life, is pivotal in that he was the inspiring spark of courage that Sid needed to confront the very real and very relevant issue of homophobia.

Why DAMN Boy George?

The title was meant to associate LGBTQ+ themes and humor with the story, while also hinting at the underlying sadness that fuels it. I was going for something like Too Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar by using an atypical naming pattern.

More to the point though, Sid both appreciates and faults Boy George for what happens at a key moment in his life. His sentiment in the story is like saying, Damn Boy George... for giving me the courage to be honest and all the sacrifices that come with the truth.

Additionally, the lyrics from Culture Club's hit song, Do You Really Want To Hurt Me, inspired the artwork featured in the story called Culture Rebel, which also has varied meanings both for the story and in real life.

Join Me

Thank you for reading along and learning more about this unique novel. If you live on the Treasure Coast of Florida, or are willing and able to travel here, I invite you to join me and 25 other authors at the Victor AE Jordan Local Author's Book Expo on March 9th, 2024 from 3 - 7 PM at MVP Event Hall in PSL (337 SE Port St. Lucie Blvd).

Entry is FREE but tickets are required to gain entry into the event. If you miss me here, stay tuned. This is only the beginning.

Up Next

I've documented my path to becoming a self-published author and will be releasing it in three parts for anyone who needs guidance on the process. Look for the part 1 to be released within the next two weeks.

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