I’m thrilled to announce that I’m a featured presenter for the Rhode Island Author Expo and will share 7 Fresh Ways to Use Journaling to Tap Your Creative Genius as a Writer. I invite you to join us for some fabulous—and free!—panels, presentations, and networking.
For today’s post, I interviewed the Association of RI Authors (ARIA) founder, Steven Porter, and ARIA Vice President Tabitha Lord. They offer insights into some of the highlights of the upcoming Expo, the benefits of attending, recent trends in publishing and more.
Features of this year’s Rhode Island Author Expo
Lisa: What are some of the aspects of this year’s Rhode Island Author Expo you’re especially excited to share?
Tabitha: I’ve had the pleasure of organizing the program for the Expo, and I think we’ve got an excellent line-up of speakers and panels. New this year is an idea called a ‘kaffeeklatsch.’ I borrowed the concept from World Con! These will be small group, round table discussions with select authors, and they’ll be a little more intimate than the panels and presentations. You can get to know that author better and maybe even gather a few new writing tips.
Steve: Each year, it gets better. The quality of the books is fantastic. The best part is catching up with all your favorite writers and seeing what’s new. Also, I’m looking forward to hearing Julie Gerstenblatt talk about her book, Daughters of Nantucket.
Lisa: Oh, I love that book. Julie is such a captivating speaker—a combo of inspiring, offering excellent insights, tips, and advice, and she is one of the funniest people I know. Her presentation will be a real treat. Any suggestions for our readers in getting the most out of the author expo?
Tabitha: Check out the program, either the online or the print version, and make a plan, especially if you want to get to a panel or listen to a presentation. I’m also a massive fan of giving signed books away for holiday gifts and receiving them, too, LOL, so I like to shop the Expo with that in mind!
Steve: There are a lot of tables, and it can be a little overwhelming. Take your time. Go slow. Not all the table displays are flashy, and not all the authors are extroverts. Some wonderful books are hiding just below the surface if you make it a point to say hello to everyone.
Is the Rhode Island Author Expo for You?
Lisa: Who is the Expo for, and who attends? Is it only for Rhode Islanders, or are others welcome?
Tabitha: Everyone is welcome, and it’s a festive day. In addition to the books and the guest speakers, there’s a raffle and, of course, Santa!
Steve: Everyone is welcome. The Expo highlights the best Rhode Island writers have to offer. We tend to get as many writers as we do readers. Bring the whole family. It’s free. The only admission requirement is that you must love to read.
Presentations and Workshops
Lisa: Are there any particular presentations or workshops you are especially looking forward to and why?
Tabitha: This year, there’s a nice mix of topics, from the ever-popular ‘World-Building’ panel to discussing the importance of diverse representation in literature to a talk on ‘mind-mapping’ your story ideas before diving into the writing. I encourage everyone to check the schedule and plan!
Lisa: What trends are you seeing in publishing right now? What are the most effective strategies and opportunities to sell books nowadays?
Tabitha: Innovative publishing platforms like Wattpad, Inkitt, and Kindle Vella encourage writers to share work directly with readers at no cost to the author and allow authors to begin building a network of reader fans. It’s an exciting concept, and these platforms monetize their most popular writers differently. I think the younger generation of writers are more comfortable using these platforms, and certain genres have more success than others, but they’re certainly worth checking out. Regarding effective new strategies, TikTok has a whole community of ‘BookTok’ -ers, and advertising and marketing through social media still allows authors to reach readers directly. Something to remember, though, in my opinion, is that any strategy for publishing and marketing requires research and then commitment. Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor is a successful marketing and promo plan!
Steve: Despite all the technology at our fingertips, meeting readers face-to-face is still the best way to sell books. There is something special about meeting the writer of a book you have read or want to read and gaining that bit of insight no one else knows. That experience can’t be reproduced online.
Social Media for Authors
Lisa: Many writers don’t enjoy social media. What’s your advice to authors who want to reach readers but are reluctant to spend time on social media — feeling either overwhelmed, frustrated, or just not enjoying it?
Steve: There is a difference between a “writer” and an “author.” As a writer, you can do what you want, write what you want, and even throw it all in the fireplace when you are done if you want to. As an author, I believe you have a responsibility to your readers. If your readers are on social media, you have a responsibility to figure out how to use it on at least a rudimentary level and interact with them whether you like it or not. That is your reader’s expectation, and you have a responsibility to meet it.
Other Training and Workshops
Lisa: ARIA offers monthly training and events. Would you like to give us a glimpse into any other upcoming trainings, workshops or events?
Tabitha: The ARIA Writing Academy is brand new this year. We’re currently offering 90-minute webinars via Zoom for the reasonable price of $30 for non-ARIA members and $25 for members. These webinars pack a lot of information in a short amount of time! So far, we’ve offered programs on Publishing, Editing, and Social Media Marketing. We’re opening the Academy to guest instructors next year, so our selection of topics will expand quite a bit. Here’s a link to the ARIA Writing Academy for anyone interested in checking out the classes.
Lisa: Steve, you started ARIA a dozen years ago. What was your original vision, and how has that manifested, changed, or grown over time?
Steve: My original vision for ARIA, now in its 12th year, was so small. I was hoping to get at most a dozen authors together to co-market and promote our books. Just before COVID, we had reached a membership well over 300. We weren’t prepared for such rapid growth. But I’m proud of how many authors we’ve helped and how many readers we’ve reached. With new president Mike Squatrito now at the helm, the future is bright.
Volunteer Opportunities at ARIA
Lisa: ARIA depends on volunteers. What are some of the volunteer opportunities at ARIA?
Steve: At the Expo, we always need volunteers to help at the door or keep an eye on an author’s table when they are away. Within the organization, we always need help with social media, organizing our participation in festivals, and fundraising. There’s always plenty to do.
Lisa: How has your involvement in the ARIA community affected your experiences as an author (and publisher)?
Tabitha: Through ARIA, I’ve met fellow writers who have become some of my best friends over the years. Writing in a vacuum can be lonely and discouraging, but meeting people on a similar creative journey makes all the difference. I’ve also learned so much from my involvement in the ARIA community. There’s always someone with more experience or just a different kind of experience that I can learn from, and they are always willing to share. The networking opportunities are invaluable.
Join us at the Rhode Island Author Expo on Dec. 2. I’ll be presenting at 12:15, and you can find me at Table 80 other times!
Steven R. Porter
Steven R. Porter is the author of two novels: the critically acclaimed Southie crime-thriller Confessions of the Meek & the Valiant and the award-winning historical novel Manisses, inspired by the rich history of Block Island. He is also the co-author of Scared to Death… Do It Anyway, a guide for individuals who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks.
Steven speaks frequently to schools and libraries about his books, trends in independent publishing, and special topics in writing and book marketing. He served as Director of Advertising and Public Relations for the 176-store Lauriat’s bookstore chain through the 90s, and today, he and his wife Dawn own Stillwater Books and the independent press, Stillwater River Publications, in West Warwick, Rhode Island. He is the founder and recently retired president of the Association of Rhode Island Authors (ARIA). You can also find Steve on Facebook.
Tabitha Lord’s HORIZON science fiction series has received several independent book awards, including the Writer’s Digest Grand Prize 2016. Her short fiction has been featured on StarShipSofa, Tales to Terrify, and various anthologies. Under the pen name Maggie Clare, she has also published a series of romantic suspense novels. Rebecca Friedman of RF Literary represents Tabitha. In addition to fiction writing, Tabitha is the Vice President of the Association of RI Authors (ARIA), a partner at Author’s Buzz, and a partner and senior writer at Book Club Babble. She’s presented at writing conferences and moderated numerous panels at Comic Cons nationwide. Previously, she taught middle school language classes for over a decade. Now that her four children are grown, she can be found roaming the country with her husband and menagerie of lovable fur babies in an RV while thinking up new tales to tell.
You can also find Tabitha on Twitter: @tlordauthor, Facebook: tlordauthor and Instagram: tabithalord