OTTUMWA — To convince yourself the world might be willing to read something you've put down on paper is a challenge; to write regularly until the book is done takes discipline. But to sit at a booth asking people stop and flip through your work? That takes a special kind of courage.
The Ottumwa Public Library held an Indie Author Day event at the Hub Coffee Shop on Saturday. In a community some still consider a small town, library director Sonja Ferrell got interest from at least 14 independent authors from the area, with 12 showing up on Saturday.
"I know it can be hard, but it depends on the type of person you are," said Evan James Clark. "I really don't mind putting myself out there."
Clark has so far stayed with the science fiction genre. But he said that, in general, there's a commonality he has noticed with nearly all books.
"The public may say science fiction is about rockets and robots, and those elements can certainly be part of the story. But stories are about people."
He had two books for sale, including Halcyon Park: While some might say it's about augmenting human beings by using technological parts, the story is really about the challenges faced when a man comes home from the military. He moves in with his brother, has trouble finding work and faces being degraded because society wants to ignore the need for the type of soldier they turned him into.
According to an invitation from Ferrell, "This is an opportunity for the indie community to come together [with] the library to help local self-published and independent authors get discovered and for readers to find new books written by fellow community members."
Clark said getting a rejection letter from a publisher is much more difficult than striking up a conversation with a passing reader. In fact, there's a benefit, too. Selling a Kindle copy on Amazon may feel good as a writer, he said, but there's no feedback required. At a fair like this one, someone flips through the book and either puts it back or takes out their wallet. That's a pretty good sign they like what they see, Clark said.
Around the spacious room hidden in the back of the coffee shop, other authors spoke with potential readers. A few even supported their neighbors with a purchase or two. The authors work in several genres: Taken as a whole, action and adventure seemed high on the list, as did history. But there were fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, romance and inspirational fiction.
Besides asking for help finding some local authors (known or unknown) at the library, locally owned book sellers will often carry books of local interest, especially those showing Ottumwa as it was in the past. Traditionally, the selection of Ottumwa-themed books at area shops increases around the holidays.
Senior staff writer Mark Newman can be contacted at MNewman@ottumwacourier.com.