Thursday, June 12, 2008
Chicago Printer's Row Book Fair Report
Despite disappointing sales, the Chicago Tribune Printer's Row Book Fair was a lot of fun. In all, I sold five books: two of Passport, two of Seven Archangels: Annihilation, and one of Firestorm of Dragons. (I could have sold two more of these, but it was kids interested in it and I had to warn them that one story is really PG-13 or more.) I passed out a lot of information, and on the last day, went to each booth and gave information to each new bookstore owner who had a booth. I hope it makes an impact.
It's very interesting having a Christian/Catholic table at a book fair. I had one person very interested in Emily's Hope until the woman found out NFP stood for Natural Family Planning. Another person looked at "Seven Archangels: Annihilation" and even though it's a fantasy story about angles battling Satan, declared. "The Exorcist was too scary for me--I could never read this!" (Catholic fiction=The Exorcist. Wow.) Another person called me "Sister." I was wearing a skirt, but are there any religious orders that wear fedoras instead of wimples?
I did meet a sister, a member of the Daughters of St Paul and learned a little about her order's publishing company. I also met the pastor of St. Vianney Parish and gave him a bunch of books for his parish's library. They want to hold a series of lectures on Catholic writing. Makes me wish I lived closer.
When things were slow, I did some readings of different books. One person loved Tannia Ortiz-Lopez's poem "Who Am I?" and took a flier. Hope he'll get the book. I had a lot of folks take fliers, so perhaps some later sales will come from it.
Of course, I was there with The Writers' Café Press/Lost Genre Guild, who applied for the table I was manning. Cyn and Scott are terrific people. We spent a lot of time hawking each other's books, keeping on the lookout for interesting people, swapping bunny ears for photos, and talking about faith in science fiction. Frank and I discussed free will as the true test for artificial intelligence and swapped stories on our latest projects while sitting in a drizzle waiting for Cynthia to come back from Menard's with a tarp. And Frank got me stuffed crust pizza from the restaurant that invented it. Oooooo--nibbled that all the way home!
Chicago weather had a lot of fun with us. We went early to my friend's farm in S. Beloit, and were treated to days of showers and severe thunderstorms and threats of tornadoes. Saturday of the fair, tornadoes hit the suburbs. Fortunately, on Saturday, we didn't get much wind and only a drizzle right around closing time. With tarps on the tables, we were fine for the night. Sunday started out with gusty winds and some drizzling. We didn't get a lot of traffic, so Frank and I decided to leave Cynthia to man the booths while we wandered the booths and peddle our wares to the booksellers themselves. While in the actual bookstore on Printer's Row, the sky opened up and we had a deluge with high winds--so bad, tents were sliding down the street despite being weighed down with barrels of water. When we got back to the booth, Cynthia had managed to get tarps on both tables--despite the wind blowing both tarps and her shirt up--and finally just sat on the tables to weigh them down. We piled stuff on the tables while she ran for the car. It slowed some as we packed, and by the time we'd finished, it had stopped. By then, of course, we were not just dripping but weighed down by the water in our clothes. We drove to the parking garage where my van was and changed clothes ducked behind the car doors. My felt fedora is still drying out and it's Thursday!
I went home and dried out the books--about 20 got water damage, though only 3 were in really bad shape.
Overall, the book fair was fun to do, but I don't think I'll ever try to sell books that way again. Everyone who sent me their books to sell has been very understanding--and frankly, I don't think any of the new-books tables sold much--but I feel awful that I couldn't do more for them. If there's ever a next time, I'll only have a few books to put on the table and hand out more stuff.
And maybe I'll sell ice water and umbrellas instead.