I participated in book fairs on Saturday and Sunday.
The fairs were a lot of work and sometimes grueling, but they were a labor of love. I had a great time interacting with the children and their parents, learning more about the business of publishing, and simply people watching.
It was the first time I’ve gone to one, and I did two this weekend in cities that are about 90 minutes drive apart. They were well marketed and very well attended by families but not well known by authors because it was the first year the events took place. It was an ideal situation for the sellers who were there. I’d heard some stories from authors with quality books who said their experiences with prior book fairs were disappointing and they sometimes sold only a few books. (That was probably still true for some of the authors at these two fairs.) I went in with low expectations, and was blown away by the volume of sales. It helped that I had over a dozen books to sell. My wife Heidi and I had long periods where we were doing non-stop receiving payments (her) and writing inscriptions in the books (me) on Saturday.
Sunday was in a more rural setting with a much smaller crowd. I went by myself. I sold a bit more than half as many books as on Saturday, but it was still quite worthwhile and I’d love to do both fairs again. I also made some great connections with several authors and learned a lot while sharing with them. I took a lot of notes about ways I could do things better if I participate in future book fairs.
I noticed on Saturday that an author of a single book was selling it like crazy on both days, and on Sunday I saw an author of four books including a children’s book who appeared to be selling her children’s book quite well (when many other authors appeared to not be selling many of their copies.) The books of the former two authors were so good that I bought a copy from each of them to read to our grandchildren. As for my books, while every title sold (and probably sold as well or better than those of many of the other authors there) four of my titles in particular sold very well and were responsible for perhaps 90% or more of my sales.
It occurred to me that books are HEAVY (DUH!) and if I participate in future fairs it would probably make more sense to bring fewer copies of the books that generate average sales and more titles that sell especially well. With that idea in mind I made a proposal to the two authors I’d noticed whose books sold especially well that at the end of the event I’d be willing to try as an experiment to buy a specific number of their books at a semi-wholesale price in an attempt to sell them at future venues at the price they charged. I told them I’d never sell their books at any venue where they were selling them. In this way they immediately made a bunch of automatic sales to a single customer (though at a discounted price/volume discount), they wouldn’t have to haul some of their books home, they’d potentially make more sales in more venues and as a result more quickly become known by more readers, they’d never be competing against their own books at a venue, and if the experiment works we can increase the volumes. They both enthusiastically agreed and provided signed copies to me, so I’ve just become a distributor of quality children’s books as well as an author and publisher. As an added bonus, they both seem to be very nice people. (I wouldn’t have made the offer if they weren’t no matter how many of their books they sold. Life is too short to work with people who make my stomach churn.)
I look forward to seeing how the experiment works out for all of us.