Inside the Booth at Book Festivals
April-May and September-October seem to be the prime months for yard sales and book festivals. Certainly I do my share of both as vendor and buyer. On either side of the table, you can learn, enjoy the experience, and at book festivals, meet authors and publishers at all levels.
This weekend, my husband, Dr. Roger McIntire, will be one of the authors at the Gaithersburg, MD, book festival helping to staff the Maryland Writers’ Association booth. He’ll be talking about his practical books for parents and will probably be the only nonfiction author at the booth. At the same time, I’ll be at the Sisters in Crime booth at the Prince George’s (MD) Spring Book Festival in Landover, MD. Offerings at the SinC booth will, of course, be mysteries of all kinds.
Authors like us enjoy telling people about our books, sharing experiences with the people who come by, hearing from those who have read and enjoyed our books, and connecting with other writers and publishers.
Those are the good moments. There are disheartening moments too. Our friendly smiles are ignored as people pass by, afraid to look at our booth for fear of engaging or worse, actually buying a book. My husband watches people fighting and hitting their kids and sneering at the idea of a parenting book. And unless we are actively out there bringing people to our booth, we won’t sell a thing. Most exhibitors are considerate of each other. Rarely does a person at one booth grab someone away from another booth. It happens, though.
My tip to you: Stop by and visit at the booths. Hardly anyone will give you an arm-twisting sales pitch. After all, we’re not selling time shares.
Sometimes the festivals offer amazing programs. We were enthralled one year as kids, eight to ten years old, I think, competed in a story-telling contest. With expressive gestures, emotion, and enunciation, they told their stories perfectly.
Weather is a factor since most festivals are outdoors, rain or shine. Several years ago, the Kensington (MD) Day of the Book valiantly tried to keep going in a deluge. Most of us booksellers gave up early. One year, the sweltering temperature at a book festival sapped all the energy out of everyone. No one could muster much enthusiasm that day. And at another festival, booths were set up on Friday evening, then a windstorm came through and destroyed most of the canopies.
For the exhibitors, it can be a long day, especially if they’ve been shunted to some far-off corner with little traffic or the festival was poorly advertised.
But whatever happens, wherever it is, a book festival is a much better thing to do on a weekend than mow the lawn.
Eileen has ridden a camel in the Moroccan Sahara, fished for piranhas on the Amazon, sailed in a felucca on the Nile, and lived for three years on a motorsailer, exploring the coast from Annapolis to Key West. Eileen has many years experience writing, editing and designing all manner of publications for nonprofits and professional associations. She is now co-owner of Summit Crossroads Press, which publishes books for parents, and its fiction imprint, Amanita Books. The inspiration for her 90s Club mystery series springs from meeting a slim, attractive woman at a pool party who was the only one actually in the pool swimming laps, and she was 91 years old. Since then, Eileen has collected articles about people in their 90s—and 100s—who are still active, alert and on the job. She often speaks at retirement villages on “Old Dogs, New Tricks.”