Writing a book is one thing. Selling a book is an entirely different matter. My first children’s book (called Good Morning, Door County) has been in print for just two months now. I’ve had a lot to learn about marketing and retail. It doesn’t come easy or naturally for me.
I spent three long days over the 4th of July weekend manning a booth at a local craft fair. I passed out stickers to kids and held out copies of our book to literally thousands of people that walked by. Would you like to look at a copy? Here’s a brand new book- want to read? Kids, do you want to see the book I wrote? Can you find the hidden cherries on the page? Do you like the happy cows? Do you visit Door County often?
Of course, one really can’t say these things sitting down. Enticing people to look at my book meant standing up and being friendly. So that’s what I did for three long days.
Here’s what was wonderful.
- I had kids who stayed at the table and read EVERY single word.
- I had kids tell me they loved my book.
- On the beach page, where there are numerous children pictured, two sisters put a name on every one of those people. . that’s you in the hat.. and that’s Aunt Alice, and that kid is Charles….
- A mom took a picture of me, the author, with her daughter. Her six year old was pretty impressed when I signed a book especially for her and thanked her for buying my book.
- Three siblings fought over who got to carry home the family copy. They each wanted their own copy.
- I witnessed some pretty great parenting. Some pretty patient moms and dads, despite the crowds and the general exhaustion from having watched a 4th of July parade or having walked several blocks from their car or hotel, took the time to either read the entire book to their children or let their child read to them.
- People who want to write books of their own wanted to talk. I had conversations with some pretty creative people.
On the other hand…
The life of a vendor at a craft fair is not something I want to continue.
Many of the vendors travel from far away and spend their weekends setting up these temporary stores. They hope for crowds with disposable income, for a good “spot” in the show, for good weather. They second guess why sales rise and fall. Some are happier than others. I’ve decided it’s a hard way to earn a living.
People also get a little territorial. (I made a mistake of walking part way into my neighbor’s booth area to give a very bored-looking little boy a sticker. This was apparently a big “no-no” in craft show etiquette. Of course, when I was corrected I apologized. But with my very thin skin, I didn’t sleep well that night, and I felt bad that I had offended.)
Thankfully, many stores have agreed to sell the book. Most shopkeepers started off with 10 or 12 copies, to see “how they’d do.” But now, within weeks, they are ordering more, so maybe this means my craft fair days are winding down.
Even so, I still have a lot to learn: invoices, book keeping, tax records, spreadsheets. Who knew that being an author meant learning about sales?
When we moved to Wisconsin, I had hoped to write, and I have. Writing the text of Good Morning, Door County (32 pages) was not very complicated, and I have to admit that sights like this make me pretty happy to be an author.
My other writing projects will likely be a little less marketable. (I’m not really expecting a book of poems and essays to make it to the NYT best seller’s list.) I’ll write because I like to, and, well…because I need to. And I’ll sell, but don’t hold your breath waiting for me to like it.