Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Book stall at homeschool seminar

A few weeks ago I was invited to set up a stall to sell my "Quenarden" books at a homeschool seminar to be run on May 17th. I accepted the opportunity although I was secretly doubtful if I'd sell many. My books hardly ever seem to move at formal venues for reasons which I'll mention soon. Anyway, I'd already donated free copies of my first Quenarden novel, "The Prophecies" which were in the showbags provided for the seminar. So I printed up several copies of my discussion questions in booklet form. (Anyone who's interested could find these questions on my website anyway). But I thought that if I gave away a set of discussion questions with every copy of Book 2 or 3 I sold, homeschoolers might like that.

It was pouring with rain on Friday when Emma and I drove down to the city to set up our space. We're not used to wet weather at the moment and the Freeway was covered with thick fog at 3.30 in the afternoon. Motorists were made to crawl down from the hills into the city at 80kph, which suited me fine. When we managed to find the Adelaide Deaf Centre, which was the venue for the seminar, we had to dash across with heavy boxes full of books getting soaked. We set up the table with our pretty tablecloths and ornate boxes to give what I hoped would be a "Quenarden-ish" sort of effect and then drove home again.

Next morning was still very blustery. I made 2 stops on the way down. I dropped Logan off at my sister's place to spend the day with his cousins, and then Blake off with my parents who live close to the city. Now, to cut a long story short, although I chatted with several browsers and made my voice hoarse, by the end of the day I only made one sale of one book for $15.00! And as I had to pay $13.00 for the hire of the trestle, my profit for the day was only $2! Of course if I remove the cost of petrol making two trips down and back, not to mention a couple of books I bought from other stalls, the venture actually cost me money. Still, as Andrew says, this P.R. sort of thing really needs to be done and we might make more sales out of it in the future.

Although trestle tables groaning with goods and curriculum filled the auditorium, I don't know if any other sellers earned much money either. I'd been looking at those 2 books I finally bought for hours before I actually purchased them. Here's my theory on why I think it's harder to sell at formal venues. There are just too many other sellers doing the same thing. When a huge choice is involved, potential customers decide it's too hard to make decisions and opt to hold on to their money instead.

We read the story of a family of jam and preserve manufacturers who set up 30 samples of every single flavour they produce. At the end of the day, although they'd received many compliments they hardly sold one jar of jam. Next time they only put out two flavours for sample; apricot and strawberry. As a result, sales of all 30 varieties soared and they made record profits! Surely this can't be coincidence. I've made more sales of books at places like my launch, where the only person selling books is me. I guess it's nice to take every opportunity, although I'm now always cynical about how much I'll sell.

Anyway, the day wasn't a total write-off. I did win a raffle door-prize of 3 teenage novels tied up with pretty string along with the free showbag of goods (which included my own Quenarden novel! Just what I needed. Another one of those!) So although I was sort of exhausted and demoralised as far as my own efforts were concerned, life's still grand! Never quitting needs to be one of my mottoes.


  1. Andrew is right - this type of PR thing is necessary even if it doesn't result in a profit. I think you are right about too many choices but you need to get your name out there. Good job! The effort is what matters. And it's very possible you'll get orders from all the novels you put in the showbags. Be optimistic!

    I'm reading a book about writing at the moment and I'm learning a lot. The author stresses that you write because you love to, need to, and it makes you happy. If you don't make time to write, you aren't a writer. And you don't usually get rich. All great advice and not really surprising, right?

    How fun that you won a raffle! God's little gift to lift your spirits. In my opinion, this day wasn't a write-off - it was a necessary step toward furthering your writing career. You learn from every experience.

    Got your message tonight - thanks so much! I found it very interesting. I remember last year when your P.M. was elected, we don't get much Aussie news but I always listen up when we do (on the radio). Glad he seems to be doing a good job. As far as our elections, all I can do is pray for our leadership - it's in God's hands. And I'm so glad my message made sense. There is more that could be clarified but you got the overall picture. It's so complicated, to me anyway. But then, government usually is!

    Take care and stay dry!

  2. Don't get too discouraged. It is important to get your name out there. I often feel the same way about our church, a lot of work for little "profit". But you never know what God is doing behind the scenes and we sometimes need to be reminded of that.

    I keep meaning to pick up some of your books because I am sure my boys would love them, and I still hope to someday. The study guide sounds great! I may just work it into our "big change" to school next year.

  3. I have never liked those situations. I have done t-shirt designs for a juggling convention and card designs at various events. I always feel like I'm selling my ego right along with my artwork. I've usually broken even, but not without a huge chunk of stress.

    You make me think of a book I read called "The Paradox of Choice." The book says exactly what you observed: When you have too many choices, you freeze and have trouble settling on anything.

    I'm so glad you have Andrew to support you through all of this. Don't forget you have supportive friends as well!

    Peace and Laughter!