Two friends and I purchased a table at the Greenville, South Carolina Holiday Craft Fair last weekend and we took our books. We have all had a recent release and thought it would be a good place to sell them, or at least get some exposure and hopefully pick up some new readers.
It doesn’t seem, in this age of instant communication, social networking, tweeting and so forth, that exposure would be a problem. But it is. E books are a huge thing, and since just about anyone can post a book on Smashwords, Kindle, Nook, the inventory has swollen. The E stores are flooded with them but browsing is a problem, finding a good, well constructed, well edited book is a bigger one. You almost have to know the name of the author or the book you want to make sense of it all. Barnes and Noble overflows with books. Even if you know what kind of book you want, the selection is vast. Most casual browsers never get past the front table. That’s where all the “blockbusters” reside and that’s what most folks end up with. The library is no less daunting but at least it’s free. If you don’t like the book, you can take it back. Only, how do the librarians choose what to buy on their limited budgets? Good reviews from major reviewers, and, occasionally, word of mouth or a request from a patron. So, how does a “mid-list” author stand out? Get known?
We thought the Craft Fair might be a way. Hundreds, maybe thousands, were expected to pass through over the three days we would be there. We could reasonably expect a few sales and even more contacts during that time, couldn’t we? Not knowing what to expect, we bundled up our books, our crime scene tape and white tablecloth and set off. Were we successful? I’m not sure. I really don’t know how to measure success under those conditions. I do know we sold a bunch of books, and I gave away more than two hundred bookmarks. I talked to just about everyone who took one. Some asked about my books, others tucked the bookmark into their bags for, I hope, a further look when they got home. We got very brazen, calling out to passersby, asking if they liked to read, or did they read mysteries. The results were mixed. Many said they never read. Others just smiled and kept going. Quite a few said they read but not mysteries. Too scary. After trying to say that cozies are not very scary I gave up trying to disassociate myself from Steven King. People like what they like. Many did come over to the table, and were interested enough to ask about the books. Ellis Vidlar, Linda Lovely and I write very different kinds of stories, so there was a wide choice, and many bought. More took a bookmark and said they would order on line. Maybe they will. And will those who stopped to chat, remember our books and us? Don’t know. But I think it was three days well spent. Eye to eye, person to person, it’s always been a very good way to stand out. People were kind, courteous, and mostly interested in what we had to say. Not all, of course. There was one woman who stopped in the middle of the aisle, looked at all the titles on display, and loudly commented, “I’ve never heard of any of you,” and stomped off. Oh, well.
I’ll be at Books A Million in, SC, Saturday and Fiction Addiction, also in Greenville, the Saturday after that. You see, I still believe in person to person, eye to eye. And, if I run into that lady at another event, who knows, she just might remember me.
Merry Christmas, everyone.