On Saturday I attended my second book fair. The first book fair was when I had just my first book available: “Easy Does It”. I sat out in the rain near a lake while parents ushered cranky kids right past me and bought books on Jesus and Good Cooking. I vowed after that experience to never attend a book fair again. It was humiliating. I felt like I was begging people to buy my work. All I needed was a cardboard sign saying “Hungry writer. Please buy my book” and a tin can. But I decided to give it another go. When the Grand Rapids Public Library decided to host twenty-five local authors (and I was included) how could I turn that down? It would be a terrific event! I could sell my books, do a reading, meet people who read my work. I immediately ordered supplies: extra books and band-aid promotional swag. I promoted the event on Facebook, on my website, my big ol’ face was even in the paper. With 25 writers also promoting the event, we would have easily a few hundred people there. Right?
I vastly overestimated. It was awkward, awful, and a smidge humiliating. What I thought was an opportunity to read our work, was more of a flash discussion on publishing, which I whole-heartedly did not want to discuss. So we sat outside while writers and attendees abandoned the book fair for an hour and a half to talk ‘shop’ AKA BSing.
Kealoha was with me and he made me laugh (except when he analyzed the meaning of 'bad boy' and where did that come from and then I just felt tired). When people came by my booth, they’d grab a band-aid dispenser, smile awkwardly and then go talk to the nonfiction dude sitting next to me. The mostly above-age-seventy group (of maybe fifty or so people) weren’t interested in romantic comedies. Except one woman. She reads romances while she works out her bad knee on a treadmill because you don’t really need to think when you read a romance. She passed on my book though and chose another’s (a friend of mine, so I’m glad she at least sold something).
Another woman stopped by, read “Blunder Woman” for about twenty minutes, laughed, said “You are really good”, and then proceeded to flip to the final pages of the book, read the ending, and then said thanks and walked away. I gave her a band-aid dispenser of course too.
The most action we got was from men admiring Kealoha’s fancy sign with the phone code things that you can take a picture of and go to a sight. They took pictures of the display so they could copy it.
Another woman stopped by, read the titles of my books and asked “So…uh…do you write comedy?” I said yes. She said "Hm."
We sat there. I tried not to get depressed. I tried not to think that this was just another sign that I’m writing things people don’t want to read. I’m exhausted by endlessly promoting something people don’t seem to care about. I feel like I’m pleading with people and shouting “But I’m funny! This book will make you happy!” It feels sort of like elementary school when you want to be in the popular group, but you can never BE in the popular group because to get in the popular group you can’t WANT it.
We sold one book…to a friend of Kealoha’s. I think he arm wrestled her to get her to come down. * sigh * (She was very nice though. I’ve met her a few times. She’s funny and she geocaches.)
So. What’s an awkward novelist going to do? I’ve got book four just waiting for a publisher, but if I can’t get people to read the first three, who’s going to read the fourth, besides my mother-in-law, mom, and Kealoha?
It IS depressing.
I know the book fair wasn’t the perfect venue for me, but it seems like neither is online, my blog, my publisher’s site, Amazon, or Facebook. People just don’t want the books…and there comes a point when I have to stop pushing so hard. You can’t force people to read your work. You can’t force them to buy it. The only thing you can do is give them a free band-aid dispenser and hope they think of you.
Wah. I’m whining. I know it.
The event itself was lovely and the library did a great job, there just weren’t enough people there, and certainly not enough interested in romantic comedies.
I’ve got one more last chance with “Foodies Rush In” and then we’re self-publishing it, and I’m not writing any more romantic comedies for the foreseeable future.
For now, I’m writing stories. Sci-fi and Young Adult and whatever else occurs to me. Stories are short, manageable, filled with energy, and it doesn’t break my heart if someone doesn’t want to read it. I can always write another. In fact, I wrote two new stories this weekend. That’s got to count for something. Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe my best work is in front of me, the work that people will line up to read.
You gotta keep hoping. That’s what I do.