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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Festivals and Book Fairs

Remember when you were a kid and you and your sister, brother, neighbor, or schoolmate decided to make some money by selling lemonade, cookies, watermelon, or stuff you thought your mother didn’t need? Well, the adult equivalent for a self-published author is a street fair or book festival where you rent booth space or set up your own table and sell a few of those books you have stacked in your garage.

How simple it was to mix up a pitcher of lemonade compared to the effort that went into writing and publishing your own book! However, the selling process is so similar it’s scary. Put product on table, smile at passersby, sit and wait. Rearrange product to make it more visible, wave at passersby, stand up and wait. Put up a sign. Look at your watch. Whine to your partner and wait.

When someone does stop, you explain as quickly as you can why your product is superior to what that person has at home and definitely better than someone else’s product. When you get a smile or polite nod as your potential customer walks away, you absorb the sting of rejection and say, “I understand,” “Maybe next time,” or “Thanks for stopping by.”

Once in a while you actually make a sale, and you gush all over your customer with effusive thank-yous and compliments, assuring this wonderful person he or she will be happy with their decision. Then you try to remember exactly what you said or did to clinch the sale. You use this method several more times, usually to no avail, sigh, and resume wait mode.

I did my third Third Thursday, a Klamath Falls street fair, this past August. Third Thursdays take place between the hours of 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. when Main Street is closed to all but pedestrian traffic.  In 2010 I sold twenty books thanks to getting the word out that Brute Heart was hot off the press that month. I sold most of the books to friends or acquaintances—sort of like selling three glasses of lemonade, one to your Mom and the rest to your next door neighbors. I didn’t do as well in Klamath Falls the next two years. I guess everyone I know in that town has already purchased my novel because at my second Third Thursday, I sold ten books, and this year, seven.

At the Florence Festival of Books this year, an event held in Florence, Oregon the last Saturday in September, I sold five books. This was a well organized book show, lovely venue, but a four-hour drive from Bend. Even if I had sold more books I won’t be going back, simply because of the drive. I still plan to participate in other festivals and fairs as long as they are relatively close by.

I have fun at these events and don’t feel my time is wasted. I get some fresh air, have interesting conversations, hone my “elevator pitch," eat a corn dog or (God forbid) an elephant ear, and since I don't believe my novel is a lemon, I even sell a few books.

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