Monday, November 7, 2011

Book Fair - Lessons Learned

Since I wrote my last post about going to participate as an exhibitor at the Ventura County Author Book Fair last Saturday, November 5, I thought I’d follow up with some observations.

 The Good Things

·      I sold seven books.
·      I gave away lots and lots of bookmarks.
·      Many people shared their stories of suicide and mental illness in their families when they came by my table, and I got to tell them about the Putting A Face On Suicide project when they admired Paul’s poster.
·      I was at a table at a good location in the room. It faced the center of the room, I felt sorry for the folks who sat at the room’s perimeter and had to face the wall.
·      I had a successful reading – I spoke about the book briefly, read the piece about comforting someone who is grieving, and I read five poems
·      I met some wonderful authors – one who works in oncology who told me a statistic I never knew, that many people who are diagnosed with cancer commit suicide. So she took a lot of my bookmarks to put in her healthcare facilities’ three offices.
·      I also met a poet who studied with Jack Grapes and someone else who recognized Ben and Marissa when she saw the wedding photo in my book. She said she had recently met them at a birthday dinner. It’s amazing what a small world it is.
·      Carol, my cousin who lives in Westlake – quite near the book fair venue – came and brought me lunch, a wonderful turkey, avocado, and cranberry sauce sandwich. We don’t see each other very often so it was a great treat to spend time with her. She also stayed at my table giving out bookmarks while I was reading. Unfortunately she couldn’t hear the reading from where she was in the room.
·      And I met Larken whom I knew virtually through our Facebook Putting a Face On Suicide Facebook site. She makes out the volunteer admin schedule every week. She wrote me a few weeks ago to tell me she got my book for her mother because of the suicide death of her brother just two months ago, and since she doesn’t live too far, she came over to meet me in person. We talked for a couple of hours and she kept telling people who came by how wonderful my book is – that she couldn’t put it down. It was like having my own personal fan club right there with me.  Now I feel like we have known each other forever.
·      Another plus of the day was that Bob dropped me off, helped bring in my stuff, and went to visit a couple of our friends in Santa Barbara while I was working. He returned right at closing time to help me pack up and then drove me home.  So we both had a good day.

A Few Minuses

·      The fee to exhibit was way too high. And since I signed up late – I didn’t know about it until the early bird discount was over – I had to pay even more although I did get a discount since I’m a member of GLAWS
·      Not enough people came through. It was advertised that 1000 folks or so would turn out, and a couple of the other authors and myself thought there couldn’t have been more than 300 the entire day. So I don’t think there was enough advertising, making me wonder what they used the exhibitor’s fee for.
·      Most of the people who came were budding writers who didn’t come to buy books – some even said they had no money with them. They came to pick the brains of the writer’s there.
·      A lot of the exhibitors were self-published. Maybe that’s why I did well. My book is so professional looking. It doesn’t have the self-published look.
·      A lot of the exhibitors were also selling their talents as instructors, as publicists, as writing coaches, as self-publishing gurus, as editors, so it really wasn’t an author’s event.
·      And for such a large fee we really didn’t get a lot in return. We had to bring our own tablecloth and easel and even buy our own water. I felt it would have looked a lot more professional if tablecloths were supplied and they all looked alike. Some folks didn’t even bother to cover their table and some had tablecloths that were so short everything under the table showed.
·      And I thought the worst part was that we had to honor 20 percent discount coupons they gave to people who bought tickets to any of the workshops. So on top of the high fee, I was out another $15 because of the coupon discounts. Supposedly the person with the most coupons got $25, but only one person could take advantage of that.

With all that said, I need to look long and hard about whether I’ll do this particular book fair event again. I might decide to only participate in the ones GLAWS, the Greater Los Angeles Writer’s Society, sponsors. GLAWS provides the tablecloths and its fee for being an exhibitor is much, much less.

But, a year can make a lot of difference. I’ll see how I’ll feel then.

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