This weekend was supposed to be it for me. Book Bash was going to turn my life around. Six months in the making, and the day to alter all future days finally arrived. Fifteen minutes into Book Bash – my first book signing – I could tell that my high expectations would let me down once again. I don’t know why this always comes as a surprise to me.

As someone with an (obviously) overactive imagination, pretty much every day in life is a let-down in some way. Most days, it’s not very impactful, like the café at work is out of grown-up mac and cheese, or my AppleTV won’t connect to iTunes when I sit down to watch my one allocated hour of TV a day. Yesterday was different.

Earlier this week, it dawned on me: what if I didn’t sell much? What if no one comes to my table? What if I just spent thousands of dollars for this event and end the day with the same amount of boxes to ship  that I did when I left? I knew it would be devastating. I knew my head would not be in a good place. That’s half the reason that I extended my vacation time to include Monday through Wednesday of this week. Wound-licking time.

After two and a half hours of sitting at a relatively full table of things with very few people stopping by as I looked at the steady line for the author to my left and another for the author who sat two tables away on my right, I fought to hold back tears. I had spent the day giving away not only the free samples and the free business cards/bookmarks, but also the buttons, postcards and books that I had hoped to sell to make back some of my money. I had to just to get my name out there, because there were so many good authors there – popular authors – that I couldn’t distinguish myself among the throngs of people.

Readers were creative with things to sign. Many had their Kindle and Nook covers, some had photo mattes, others had good old-fashioned autograph books like we had in elementary school, and even more still had fully assembled scrapbooks. Some had pages already decorated with pictures of my books, and others let me sign empty pages in the back. People were not looking to buy anything for me to sign, and I caught on to that quickly. I think three people bought my full-sized books, and I was grateful, although it was difficult for me to muster a smile at that point. (But I swear, I am grateful!)

I realized that Book Bash would not be a good money-making event, but it would be a good way to market myself to a lot of people who are in my target audience. That’s why I decided to start giving things away.  (Well, it was one reason. The other was so that I wouldn’t have to ship 11 boxes back to Texas.) I don’t regret this decision, and I hope that I get a few new readers for that. Some were surprised they didn’t have to pay for the prequels, and I truly think they appreciated that, so maybe they’ll put some energy into giving my books a shot.

All that being said, the best parts of this trip – and honestly, some highlights of my LIFE – were the moments that I met the readers I’d been communicating with for the past few months. Of course, some members of the close knit “bubble” (as we’ve come to call ourselves) came to meet me Friday night, and it was like meeting up with old friends. Diana, Casey, Jo Ann and Annie were exactly like I thought they’d be, and they accepted me. That had been one of my biggest worries. I also got to meet Janet, who won tickets to Book Bash from me, and it was cool to see Shamika and Millie and know EXACTLY who they were when they walked up to my table. (Facebook is amazing, people.) They were all so sweet. There were other readers – some authors, even – who had read my books. Many of them told me how Emi’s story had touched them, how they related to certain things, how the books are truly different than anything they’d read, and how much they loved them. When perfect strangers come up to you with tears in their eyes because of something good that you’ve done, there really isn’t any other feeling that can compare. I just wanted to hug them all. (I’m tearing up now just thinking about it.)

THANK YOU to all the wonderful people that I was fortunate enough to meet. The biggest lesson I learned is that it’s not about making sales or recouping costs. It’s about making an impact on peoples’ lives. It goes both ways. While readers feel like my books have touched them, those readers have given me back moments that I will savor for the rest of my life.

So what’s next? I think my head can finally return to the thing it’s good at: writing. For the past few months, I’ve had a difficult time really getting into Livvy’s head or Renee’s head. Those are the two characters I really need to focus on to release another book. I thought I’d be depressed if this didn’t go as expected, but when I finally felt the weight of Book Bash off my shoulders some time last night as I had a drink with people I will forever call my friends, there was a distinct realization: I finally felt like Livvy could worm her way into my brain again, and I knew I would be okay.