I think I’ve mentioned before that MSB and I so enjoyed selling books at the festivals last year, that we’re going to go to more festivals this year and take along with us more titles from more authors.
Although we’re both looking forward to this, we’re well aware it’s a losing venture. Even with the 20% we get from each book we sell–even if we sold every book from every author we carried–we won’t cover vendor fees and travel expenses unless I sell out of my own books every time too. If I do, depending on the vendor’s fee and the price of gas, we may be lucky enough to break even.
That’s why we’re considering this a labor of love.
I started preparing for this year’s festival season by asking on the ACFW main loop for submissions from authors with small publishers or who have self-published, and I’m reading each submission. I know bookstores don’t do that, but I have several reasons:
- 1. Distribution is hard for these authors outside the internet. When we concentrate only on internet sales, we’re dismissing a huge chunk of the reading public who wouldn’t know how to shop online if they wanted to. (Yes, believe it or not, there are people who have lives outside of cyberspace.)
- I want the name of our bookstore to be associated with the best books. Carrying only small- and self-pubbed authors presents a risk to this goal.
- Consumers ask questions. If they’re gonna pay cash and carry around a book–or bunches of books–on a hot day with the sun beaming off the asphalt and enough people to kick the temp up another ten degrees, they want to be sure it’s money well spent. A buyer can look at a crafty little gizmo and see what they’re getting, and be satisfied with it–they can’t do that with a book. So they ask questions, and I like to answer them. I believe that being familiar with the titles we carried last year helped sell the books.
I’m tickled pink with the number of submissions I received during my call in December. We have a terrific variety written by both male and female authors with audiences ranging from children up. It’s going to be hard to limit myself to ten titles, the limit I think, that we can handle in the small space we have to sell in (not to mention having to carry these suckers from where we have to park to where we can set up!). So far, I’ve gone through three of them, and two are terrific, and I’ll share more about them later in the week.
The kicker is, I don’t know how many festivals we’ll be able to go to. A couple that I had in mind don’t allow “manufactured items”; in other words, they’re for arts and crafts only. It’s a shame the books don’t fall under the category of “art.” They should. Others we’d hoped to get into have vendor fees from $250 and up, and we aren’t even looking at the big festivals. Some of these fees I’ll probably pay because of the location–places MSB and I have lived and still have friends and connections.
The first festival, if we can get on, is in Walnut Springs, Texas. Get this: Walnut Springs Rattlesnake Roundup! I’m excited about this place, not just because I live in Texas and have never been to a rattlesnake roundup, but also because some of our books are westerns–historical, romance, non-fiction–written by such authors as K.M. Weiland, Heidi Thomas, Terry Burns, and, of course, me.
The Canopy Bookstore is one of the things in my “all-things-writing” career that MSB and I can do together. He can’t edit with me, although he serves as a great resource periodically when I have logistics questions, he can’t write my books for me, he can’t do my cyber-promotions no matter how much I’d love to hand that job off to someone. But he can sell. And he does enjoy working these festivals. We’ll probably learn through trial and error how to turn this into a winning venture for everyone, but right now, we’re just looking to have fun.