I was pleased to bond with several of the GLAWS members who volunteered to provide hospitality to people interested in joining our group and to help those of us who paid for a selling and signing place at the booth.
I also learned a thing or two about my author colleagues. Most were lovely and friendly but kept to themselves and their customers during our signing sessions. However, the woman next to me used her space as well as mine until I told her next time she needs to pay for two places, not one. She didn’t bat an eye and just leaned over my table space to yet again sign one of her posters for someone. But I won out in the end. My friends in charge arranged for me to have some extra selling time.
When I came home after my first afternoon at the festival, absolutely exhausted from being on my feet for three straight hours, I made up my mind I wouldn’t pay to be a part of that festival again. It wasn’t worth it. I only sold one book on Saturday.
But I went back on Sunday with a newly enlivened attitude, and before it was even my turn to set my selling space up, I sold a book. Friends who had seen my event invitation on Facebook came and bought—what a great surprise. And once I was up and running, I sold two more books almost immediately. I think my new strategy of asking for the sale worked. When I saw interest, I just asked, “May I sign one of my books for you?” and sure enough both of the women who bought said yes.
Unfortunately the sales ended there, but not the conversations. As always when people find out what my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, is about, I hear their personal stories of suicide and mental illness. Or they are therapists and work with people at risk. One man asked me why I thought suicide was so prevalent now. Another told me how selfish it is to do that hurt to one’s family and loved ones. Another asked my credentials. I said, I’m just a mother. I wrote my story. My credentials came from living through it and surviving a suicide death in my family.
Here are a few book fair lessons I learned:
- Bring plenty of bookmarks. Stand up in front of your display and pass them out. Then you’ll be ready to speak to interested people face to face – they won’t have to look down at you in your seat.
- Introduce yourself as the author of the book they are looking at. People like to meet authors in person.
- Don’t expect to recoup the money you spent for the booth space. I almost did, but that’s because I am selling a hardback edition.
- Learn how to ask for the sale. My pitch worked twice – so I plan to use it again.
- Be prepared to keep smiling and keep talking. Even if you don’t get the sale right then, the odds are you’ll get some later. After all they still have your bookmark.
- And, if I decide to go back next year, I won’t go both days. It’s too much standing.
- Plan to have a good deep massage afterward.
Causes Madeline Sharples Supports
Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center, Culver City, CA
Vistamar School, El Segundo, CA
Crossroads School, Santa Monica, CA (Endowment in...