About two years ago, I decided to focus on selling books directly to readers at live events – places like festivals, gift shops, artisan markets, and book clubs. It’s not the easiest or more effective way to sell books, and it’s physically hard work when you do an outdoor event and have to haul and hoist a vendor tent. Outdoors, the weather can shut you down, with no refund on your vendor fee. And finding the right indoor venues, like gift shops, with sufficient foot traffic can also be challenging. While the weather won’t shut down these indoor signings, shoppers often stay home during storms or heavy rain. Also, if you happen to do a signing when there’s something else big going on, then you may not have the attendance you’d hoped for. (I’ve written a previous blog on why I’ve backed away from bookstore signings. Read it here.)
It’s hard to rely solely on these live events. These days, you have to also have an online presence. But live events are what keep me passionate about my work. Otherwise, writing and marketing books becomes a J.O.B. No thanks. Been there, done that.
During the past few weeks, we’ve been pretty busy with live events and have met many wonderful readers and potential readers. (Note: I said “we” because my husband is also my business partner who accompanies me to these events.) I’ve had loyal fans approach me to say how much they’ve enjoyed reading my books. Many people at these events have never met a “real” author and are excited to have the experience. Since my books are all inspired by actual South Carolina events, many enjoy hearing about what sparked the ideas for these stories, and we’ve had some lively discussions.
Yesterday, I was at an artisan market selling books. I met a man who came up to my table and said he didn’t read fiction but was interested in hearing about my work. After I told him about my Enid Blackwell series, he said he held a doctorate in physics. I asked him if he did work on black holes, and he affirmed he did. I then asked him if “time” actually existed. He smiled broadly and pulled up a chair. “You’ve asked the wrong person,” he said. Actually, I had asked precisely the right person.
During live events, there are always periods of rush and lulls. Since it was during one of the slow periods, he proceeded to tell me what time is and how it’s measured. Some of it was above my comprehension level, but I got the gist of it. I took his card and immediately began thinking about how I could incorporate what I’d learned into a story.
I could go on and on about other people I’ve met, but one person stands out above them all. He was a young man, I’d guess mid-twenties, who came to a recent festival. He was physically challenged by some kind of neurological disorder, perhaps MS or something similar. But his mind was sharp. He asked about my books, and after I explained them, he told the other person with him that he wanted his money. I couldn’t hear all of what they said and was trying not to eavesdrop. The person with this young man was trying to discourage him from buying my three-book set. I heard the person say, “Just get one if you want it.”
The young man and his companion eventually drifted away, and I assumed that was the last I would see of them. However, a short time later the young man came back to our vendor tent and announced he wanted to buy the set. However, when he counted out the money, he realized he did not have enough cash. I wanted to give him the third book, but resisted, because I didn’t want to appear in any way that I felt sorry for him. He bought two of the books, which I signed and personalized, and he walked away.
Less than ten minutes later, the young man came back to our tent. He had more cash and wanted to complete the set. I was so overcome with emotion at this point, that I was almost in tears. I discounted the third book significantly and signed it. As he walked away, slowly because of his physical condition, I wiped the tears flowing down my cheeks.
I’ll never know why that young man wanted my books so badly. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that the fictitious victims were about his age. Or maybe there was some other reason he connected either with the stories or with me. For whatever the reason, I will always remember him and his determination.
What I do know is that this young man personified the reason I love doing live events.