Last week I had a conversation with a nice man who anticipates his self-published novel arriving at his house any day now. “Once they arrive,” he asked me, “what do I do next?”
I thought about this conversation Saturday as fellow KaBooM members and I sat in the middle of Main Street in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, in 90-degree sunshine. Our umbrella tent provided some shade but was unable to keep us from noticing how heat shimmered above the asphalt or how good it felt to pour cold water over our heads and let it trickle down our necks.
Harrodsburg’s first Festival of Books and Arts coincided with an unseasonably warm June day in Kentucky, which meant that the crowds of book buyers were thinner than might have been expected, and, as a result, sales were lower. Had the newly-published novelist been present, he might have been disappointed by the results of his day and the undiminished stack of books in his trunk.
I concluded that you have to attend book fairs and local festivals for a multitude of reasons, not all of which include selling lots of books and making lots of money. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t.
Those other reasons might include the following:
- Meeting other Kentucky authors. We were happy to chat with the famous and the soon-to-be-famous authors and publishing house representatives who happened by.
- Noting how other writers go about making a sale. Those authors who sell books are accessible and inviting when browsers happen along. They make eye contact. They chat. They answer questions.
- Checking booth arrangements for clues to success. Another writer also sold bracelets; Accents Publishing gave away pocket-size notepads. A basket of candy can help attract potential customers; if you are afraid the candy will melt, a vase of flowers is eye-catching.
- Figuring out what equipment to invest in: Umbrella tent? Portable chair? Cash box/credit card swiper? Tablecloth? Display signs? Cart on wheels? Long-suffering friend, spouse, or partner who will help you with all this stuff?
And most importantly, recognize that you won’t sell out every single Saturday. Marketing your book is a time-consuming and time-spanning endeavor. You may have to convince yourself that the best reason to attend was to get your name and the name of your book before the public eye one more time.