I participated in the Leimert Park Book Fair on Saturday, June 25, and it went a lot better than I expected. As a member of the Greater Los Angeles Writer's Society [http://www.glaws.org/html/mainmenu.html] I was in one of their two booths. Elizabeth, my friend and publicist came along to help - a definite necessity.
The traffic getting there was terrible and once we arrived we had to circle around for about a half hour to get a parking space in the supposedly author's parking area. That was both a good and bad sign - good that the fair was well-populated and bad for authors needing to be at our assigned booths at our alloted time. I was due to be there between 3 and 5:30 pm, and I just made it.
When we arrived, Elizabeth and I put up my three posters: of the book title, the flyer and Paul's Putting a Face on Suicide. (GLAWS already had a copy of my book and a promo card on a shelf at the back of the booth that I had provided in advance.) And while I was arranging books on the table - I brought eighteen along in a rolling suitcase - Elizabeth stood in front of the table and began passing out bookmarks. Once I finished setting up, I went out in front of the table too. Both of us stood for the entire time giving out bookmarks and talking to passers by.
And it was a lot of fun. Everyone was easy to talk to. And I even made a sale. Others seemed interested so I gave them information about buying the book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. One young woman, who is bipolar, said she’d like to read the book and get a mother’s point of view, and an older woman told me about her bipolar daughter. Another young women told me almost in tears that she had mental illness in her family. As always I am struck by how many people are affected by mental illness and suicide in their lives.
However. I learned a huge lesson on Saturday. I have to have a pitch that doesn’t come across in a negative way. The author next to me was selling romance novels and she, as she passed out her bookmarks, asked, "you like to read romance novels, right?" And she was off and running.
Here are a few other lessons: have lots of bookmarks, flyers, and brochures. People love giveaways. They never refuse what's offered. Be prepared to stand. Sitting behing a table inside the booth won't attract anyone. Also, if you have posters, bring tape for hanging them. I only brought binder clips and stick pins and they didn't work on the canvas booth sides. And of course have a very positive pitch.
However, I got what I wanted out of my first book fair experience: a little networking with my GLAWS colleagues, lots of contact with passers by, one sale, a list of stuff I need to do better next time, and many laughs with Elizabeth. Will I go back to Leimert Park again? Maybe not. In fact Tony, the GLAWS president, said all around sales were poor, so maybe GLAWS will opt out next year as well. (The woman with the positive pitch next to me only sold four books total - and she had three romance books to sell.)