Thursday, August 1, 2013

Meeting Real Characters while Selling Fiction

To follow up on my post about the time I spent promoting my author name and books during Lakefair, I wanted to share some stories about the people I met during the event.  I also wanted to share some of my experiences since this is the first fair event I’ve taken part in as a way of marketing my work. 
Here’s a warning as a courtesy:  this post is a long one so grab a cup of coffee, or tea, or whatever your choice of beverage, because you’ll be here for a bit longer than usual.

So…where do I start?
One experience I enjoyed were the different vendors we met during the event, such as the two ladies who were in one of the tents next to mine.  Shannon is a photographer and had some of her photography on display, along with some jewelry for those who like to wear art rather than hang it on a wall.  Mary is also an author and was selling her own book, The View From My Roller Skates, a memoir she wrote about growing up in Olympia during the 30’s and 40’s.  Mary is feisty and young-at-heart and she reminded me of my feisty, young-at-heart Aunt Mariea (who would have gotten a kick out of Mary).  Shannon was a great tent neighbor and Mary was just plain fun so it was our loss when Mary had to stay home during most of the event due to the high temperatures we experienced each day.

As we made friends with our neighboring vendors, I also met many different people who represented various types of readers and who I thoroughly enjoyed meeting.  Here are just a few examples:
One of the questions I keep coming across from other authors who offer advice is…who is your reader?  What do they do…what do they like…that sort of thing.  It’s a subject I could post about in more detail another time but on the first day of Lakefair, I met Linda and Petey.  Both of them were hilarious in the way they expressed themselves, they knew who they were, had a terrific friendship and they showed very openly how much they seemed to enjoy life.  I loved the fact that Linda bought my book as a gift for Petey so that she could take it with her when she flew back home to California.  Later, I thought about the fact that Linda and Petey are very much like other women I’ve met who have liked my writing and my book.  This is good; I believe I am finally beginning to have a better understanding of the type of “reader” I might be writing for. 

Chris, one of the vendors two tents down from mine who was selling jewelry with her mom, decided to buy my book.  Her mom then took a break from making jewelry to pick up my book and read a few chapters…and then a few chapters more.  It wasn’t long before Chris came over to tell me she lost her help with the jewelry because her mom was too engrossed in my book.  I felt bad, of course (well, sort of) but I was happy to hear her mom couldn’t put the book down.  The following day, Chris’ mom came over to tell me she had finished the book!  I was thrilled to hear it but then all I could think was, wow…with readers like that there’s no way a writer can publish fast enough! 
Rosilyn, who completely cracked me up when she just about hid under the table after making a statement that embarrassed her but made every one of us who heard the conversation laugh so hard our cheeks hurt.

One of the male vendors, who purchased my book because his tent was slow and he needed something to do.  Hmm…I had to think about that one for a minute.  But it was great to see a male reader want to purchase my book, even if it was because he had nothing better to do. 
A cute lady named Val who had an accent (English, I think).  If memory serves me right, she was with her husband and he asked me if my book was “explicit.”  I began to rattle off that it was a murder mystery but there were no gory details to worry about – he cut me off and said, “I was talking about sex.”  Oh…well then, of course my answer was just “no, there’s no sex.”  This might bite me in the butt since some people enjoy romance books and sex scenes but he only nodded his head at me and said “good” before giving his wife the go-ahead to purchase the book.  This time, no sex was a good thing. 

A guy named Perry, who was at the fair with his son, made me feel like a real celebrity when he asked if I would take a photograph with him and his son.  I don’t know how the photo turned out but it was sweet of him to ask and I hope that my encouragement makes him take the leap and move ahead with his own writing career. 
I had to laugh at myself but was also more than a little embarrassed after a conversation I had with Mark and his wife.  They were a very nice couple and Mark is a screenwriter so the conversation was enjoyable but at one point, Mark’s wife made this comment to him about my book, “You’re mum would have loved this book.”  He turned to her and said, “You’re right, mum would have loved it.”  Seeing a sale slip through my fingers, I quickly assumed “mum” had returned to Australia or New Zealand (I forgot to ask where they were from) so I told them they could always order my book on Amazon and just have it delivered directly to her.  You can just imagine my embarrassment when Mark pointed towards the sky as he informed me mum was up in the heavens (where a book could certainly not be delivered!) but he was laughing as he told me he’s certain she may have already read the book anyway (from beyond even).  It took me awhile to get my foot out of my mouth after that one!

While these readers and many more made each day go by at a pleasant pace, there were others who represented various types of non-readers as well.  I actually had to ask my husband not to ask the basic question, “Do you like to read?”  Why would I ask him that?  Because I couldn’t stand hearing even one person respond by saying they did not like to read.  I heard that response only a couple of times and it was enough.  My husband then changed the question to, “Do you like to read mysteries?”  This was better because readers do have a preference in genres so I can’t hold it against them if they really don’t like to read mysteries. 
Here are just a few responses my husband got to that question:

One woman said she couldn’t read…I seriously hoped she was just joking.
One woman responded with the statement, “My life’s a mystery.”

Another woman pointed to her husband as she said, “I have a mystery right here.”
Smart alecks, every one of them, but some did make me smile.

But then there was this guy, who actually asked me, “How much for an unsigned copy?”  Um…I think my pause and raise brows before responding was enough of an answer but I had to follow through and inform him the price was the same, whether sign or unsigned.  *sigh*  If I ever do make a name for myself in this business, I wonder if he’ll remember that conversation.
I also earned visits from readers who had already purchased the book and just wanted to meet me or who had met me before and wanted to stop by to say hello.  One such visit was from Terrie, the Life Enrichment Coordinator who I met when I took part in a book club meeting at her work place.  She’s still hilarious and full of positive energy and it was great to see her again.

Of course, the event wouldn’t be complete if it weren’t for the appearance of friends and family who stopped by to chat or even offer their company for a little while.  The whole event felt more like day camping and it was fun to share it with others who know us and wanted to share in the experience with us. 
So there it is…my first experience as I attempted to peddle off my work to unsuspecting fair-goers who had to choose between so many choices of vendors, I’m sure it wasn’t easy.  But to those who did decide to support a local author, I thank you, and I appreciate everyone who made the long days slip by easily, making this new experience even more enjoyable.



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