I hadn’t done one before – a book fair. There’s a lot of that lately; things I haven’t done before – written a book, published a book, guested on an online co-operative celebration, read at a poetry night. A book fair was just another thing to add to the list.
This book fair seemed to be coming for a long time. Making a typical Fiona spur-of-the-moment decision, I agreed to share a table following an online conversation with a fellow Irish writer, Pam Lecky. Saying yes was the easy part. Then I had to scrape together the cash for a large box of books (Amazon postage to Ireland being a third of the total cost). There were posters to be printed plus bookmarks and business cards and the table layout to be thought out and planned. And it was some distance to be travelled and I’d never been to a book fair and I was totally clueless and so on and so on…
I could do this, I told myself. I could totally do this.
A day later, I am seriously impressed by my navigational expertise – I sailed down the M9, managing to take the correct road to avoid Waterford City and pulling in at the venue in great time. It was only on the return journey that my route planner instructions let me down and forced me into the city against my will but I eventually ended up on the correct route. I was exhausted from lack of sleep the night before and my subsequent OCD behaviour before I set out on my journey – all the checking and re-checking of books and other promotional paraphernalia.
But I had worried for nothing. First-time things are always built up to such ridiculous heights in our imaginations. Why do we do that? Why do we freak ourselves out with these ridiculous scenarios?
The venue was a helluva lot smaller than I had envisioned – a small but beautifully restored old church. I mean the trip was worth it just to visit Bunmahon, a picturesque spot beside the sea in Waterford. A place that I have earmarked for further investigation as I didn’t get to do any sightseeing yesterday. I stupidly thought that because it was a visitor’s centre that it would be a large place.
There were only a handful of us self-published authors pedalling our wares; Pam, Derbhile Graham and Tom Power who were also in our facebook group and another local author; Rose. There were, however, a sizeable amount of second-hand books. Pam and I shared a table, well I think we probably had two tables pushed together due to a cancellation. We both arrived at around the same time and quickly set about decorating our table. There were fairy lights and tea lights in glasses, chocolates in pretty containers and piles upon piles of shiny, new, beautiful books in enticing arrangements. We also had a plethora of posters in all sizes from A4 up to A1 that we had great fun trying to attach to the promotional board behind us with tacks, sellotape and sheer force of will. In no time we had the table primed and ready for the hordes of punters we were convinced were jostling each other to break down the doors at 1pm. There were about fifty visitors in total, and most of them were children, one of whom mine, my daughter Becky who came with her boyfriend Colm (who was instrumental in the production of my amazing posters). We interacted with people and made a few sales. We signed our book babies and sent them on their way to good homes. My fear of running out of stock was unfounded but the silver lining was that I had plenty for my next fair in my hometown in a few weeks.
The chocolates were a pull for the children and their parents followed , so I guess at a larger venue that little trick could bring sales. Watch this space for more chocolate-fuelled research.
I wasn’t the only book fair virgin at the event, my table-sharing friend Pam and Derbhile were also in the same boat. We all came with our expectations and took a lot home from the venture (including most of our stock of books) but we spent an enjoyable day in each others’ company, chatting and laughing about the joys of writing, publishing and life in general. We had never met in person before today although we had been in contact on various occasions online in the last year.
All in all, it was a good meeting of books and minds.
Thoughts for my next book fair? Piece of cake – I’ve done all the research, I have all the requirements. In fact, all I have to do is turn up with my books and my box of tricks.
I had fantastic help from my family especially Becky (who helped set up, provided a laminator for my bookmarks, and brought down the posters on the day) Jake, my son, who designed said bookmarks and Charlie who laminated them. Thanks need to be given to Doreen, my right-hand woman who lent me her two artist’s easels for stands, let me steal her fancy jewellery container for sweets,wear her boots and who provides coffee ( and the occasional tiramisu) while listening to my crap on a regular basis.
So there will be no more book fair angst.
And the next thing on my to-do list – Total World Domination.