As 2016 draws to a close, I have to admit that it changed my life in some important ways. I saw my debut novel, The Rogue Retrieval, published by Harper Voyager. I split with my first literary agent. I got a 2-book offer from my editor, and found a new literary agent. I caught the biggest fish of my life. And I moved with my wife, kids, and dog to another state to take a new job. These were all major events for me and my family. Things we’ll never forget.
When Brenda asked me to do a post on a special moment this year, one stood out. In mid-March, I had my first book event and author signing at a local bookshop in St. Louis. It took place on a Wednesday evening, in the special events room in Left Bank Books. My wife and her parents drove me there after a quick dinner. They noticed (and were amused by) a rare sight: Dan Koboldt looking very nervous.
Author Events Are Terrifying
Here’s the thing: I’m a relatively [over] confident person, and a comfortable public speaker. Hazards of the day job, I suppose. When you’ve presented your research to a packed room of 500 fellow scientists — a couple of whom are Nobel prize winners — a small author event shouldn’t faze you. The only problem was, it did faze me. I had no idea what to expect. Every author daydreams about sell-out crowds with lines around the corner, but I knew that wasn’t realistic. For a new author, equally if not more likely that no one would show at all.
We had the room decorated in a Vegas casino theme. We had a stack of my books at the store’s front counter. We also had about five minutes until the event started, but every chair was empty. It was the perfect setting for an embarrassing public disaster. I thought I’d done a reasonable job of spreading word about the event, but come to think of it, no one made a firm commitment. It got to that point where I started avoiding eye contact with the bookstore staff.
My First True Fans
I’d just done the math on how much I’d have to shell out to buy the stack of my own books — it seemed like the right thing to do — when a woman inadvertently wandered into the event room and took a seat. I thought maybe she was lost, or just taking a break. Turns out, she worked with my cousin, who’d invited her to come to the event (and arrived a minute later). Then a friend from work showed up with her husband. Then one of my buddies from Codex, and one of my fellow Harper Voyager authors. Before long, the event room was full.
The most amazing part of it was this: every single person who came was personally connected to me in some way. They were relatives, co-workers, friends from church. These people hadn’t come for my book. They showed up for me, to support me in the pursuit of my dream. They did more than simply fill the seats. They took my nerves away, because I knew everyone in the crowd. It was no longer a high-stakes presentation to a faceless crowd. More like… telling a story at a dinner party of intimate friends.
The bookstore sold out of books, and the event coordinator sent a very complimentary e-mail to my publisher. Just like that, twenty-five “true fans” made my first author event a success.
The online writing community is an incredibly supportive. We understand what it means to swim against the relentless tide. But there are others around us who lift us up and keep us going. Our spouses, our children, our friends and neighbors. Every author has some of these, and their personal support is no small thing. To a new author like me, it’s everything.
Dan Koboldt is a genetics researcher and fantasy/science fiction author. He has co-authored more than 70 publications in Nature, Science, The New England Journal of Medicine, and other scientific journals. The Rogue Retrieval is the first book in a trilogy with Harper Voyager. Book two, The Island Deception, will be released in April 2017.
Dan is also an avid deer hunter and outdoorsman. He lives with his wife and children in Ohio, where the deer take their revenge by eating the flowers in his backyard. Follow his adventures at dankoboldt.com.