On Saturday, I had a table at a craft fair/vendor event that ran in conjunction with Carlisle’s Ice Fest. This particular event was a benefit for a young cancer patient, so I figured even if sales weren’t great, as they usually aren’t at these things, at least the money was going to a good cause.
The event began at 9:00AM, and we were told that we couldn’t get in to set up until 8:00. That really didn’t concern me, as I only sell my books, and it really doesn’t take long to set up my display.
But here’s where the day took a bit of an unpleasant turn.
We were notified by the person in charge that the event was going to be on the second floor of the venue. Okay, so what’s the problem? Well, first of all, getting inside the building was a trip. Here are the instructions we were given regarding unloading and getting set up:
All spots are on the 2nd floor you will unload your vehicle onto an elevator take it up stairs unload it come back downstairs and move your car will have A-line forming in the front and a line in the back.
And this is what it looked like trying to get maybe thirty vendors unloaded and parked:
Now, add to this the fact that the elevator we were to use was a small, one-person elevator that had to be operated by someone in charge of the building. Remember, there were around thirty vendors unloading, taking their things up, and coming back down, not to mention the fact that several vendors had to make multiple trips on the elevator. Needless to say, very few, if any, had enough time to be completely set up by the 9AM start time.
Quite a few of us finally decided to just go park in the main lot and haul our stuff in by hand and carry it up the stairs. I was among that group—thank heavens for the kindness of one of the other vendors, a gentleman who offered to carry my table and crate full of books upstairs.
At this point, many of the vendors, myself included, were grumbling about the entire turn of events for the day. A few of the words being tossed around to describe our experience up to this point were “$&!^ show” and “cluster%$&,” and a few of us considered cutting our losses and just leaving.
The venue itself wasn’t that bad. It was quaint and charming, although the heat didn’t work so well. Thankfully, it wasn’t any colder than the thirty-seven degree high temperature for the day.
The only sales I made were to other vendors, which is also quite typical of these types of events, but I made enough to cover my table cost.
Now, here is where events became a bit serendipitous.
A woman stopped by my table and began asking questions about my books—questions that were a bit more than potential-reader inquiries about plot and intended age group. My head is still spinning from the huge amount of information she gave me, but let me do my best to sum it up.
The first thing she did was to write down information for a weeklong book festival held at a local library in October (Celebrate the Book Festival at Bosler Library in Carlisle, PA, if anyone is interested). This event attracts authors, illustrators, publishers, and other industry professionals, and she said it would be a great place to network and maybe sell a few books.
Next, she gave me information on the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, including cost of membership, the various national chapters, the conferences they hold, and the benefits of membership.
After that she pointed me to two local writers’ groups: Pennwriters, which I am already familiar with, and Writers Wordshop at the Bosler Library. I told her that I already belong to a critique group that I am quite happy with; the only drawback is that with it being a church-based group, I cannot share much of what I write (paranormal fiction). She encouraged me to find a second group where I can freely share my main genre of works.
Finally, she gave me a bit of homework to do. She advised me to sit down and write a query letter, a pitch page, an elevator pitch, and a two-sentence Library of Congress description of each of my books. Admittedly, a couple of these I hadn’t even considered, since I am independently-published and have no need to pitch to an agent. However, her advice was food for thought, and I’ll undertake those tasks, if for nothing else, to hone my skills.
The whole point of this bit of a ramble is that sometimes the events an author—or any other independent business owner—signs up for don’t result in many, if any, sales. I’ve lost count of the times when my costs far outweighed the money I brought in.
However, I constantly have to remind myself that if nothing else, these events provide the chance to network and make important contacts. Today handed me a very fortuitous opportunity to meet someone in the business who gave me a goldmine of information on the craft of writing and the publishing industry.
I thought I was there to sell books, but I wasn’t. I firmly believe that God put me there to make those connections. For what purpose? At this point, I don’t know. But I do know that I’m going to follow up on the information and the opportunities I was given and see where they lead.