It began as a trickle of visitors who rushed right past us and the other booths selling books to buy postcards and other non-book items at the Strand Bookstore booth next to ours, and at Book Beau across the aisle. Then, by mid-morning, the trickle had become a steady flow, and people began noticing the other booths as well. Besides the anticipated hordes of female millennials, some of them in very short jeans or jeans with holes in the knees, there were moms with kids in strollers, people in motorized wheelchairs, black women with buns atop their head, young guys in skinny jeans, bored older males accompanying enthusiastic women, one woman in a burka with only her eyes visible, and clusters of girls in head scarves who giggled and darted about like other girls their age. Many had totes with lettering: I READ YA, ROGUE BOOK NERD, GET LOST IN THE STACKS.
|Our aisle at a quiet moment, with me on the left.
|No, I'm not sticking my tongue out; it just looks that way. Note my
new motto: GEEZERS ROCK. And the little card pinned to my shirt:
NORMAL? NOT ME. I'M A NEW YORKER.
|A busy BookCon scene.
Female millennials aren’t interested in my books. No surprise.
People want things. Postcards, magnets, totes – something they can hold and show to others: souvenirs.
Buyers want the author's signature. They often asked me timidly, almost apologetically, if I would sign the copy they were buying, and were deeply grateful when I did.
The crowd effect. If one person comes to your stand, it may attract another, then another; a stand with no visitors attracts no one. (A thought for the future: bribe your friends to come and pretend to buy books.)
Gimmicks don’t sell books. Silly signs and banners and free bookmarks and whirligigs get attention, but only books sell books: the cover, the blurb, the content, plus a few cogent remarks from the author, if desired by the buyer and appropriate.
No claustrophobia. The Javits is vast; no matter how great the crowds, it never felt crowded.
Since I obviously wasn’t going to achieve my goal of 40 or more sales, alas, prudence dictated that I take home 10 books, so as to ease the final take-home load Sunday night. But Silas and I vowed from then on to scan the attendees' badges and get contact info; preoccupied with other matters, we’d forgotten to do this consistently.
Unique was the visit of Sweet Young Thing, who looked at my books, took to one of them, and asked if she could have it.
guilt at having destroyed her innocence. The big publishers often scheduled book giveaways at a certain time, and she had probably taken full advantage, thus fostering the illusion that all the books were free.
Whenever there was a flock of attendees close at hand, I flashed my silly signs:
Usually they brought smiles in passing, and some people lingered to see the whole series. But one older woman came over and asked, "Why are books sexy?"
"Because they're fun," I said.
She looked unconvinced, so I went through the whole series of signs.
"That one is better," she remarked and then, a sign or two later, "Ah, that one I like." Having settled the matter in her mind, she walked off.
Some of our neighbors continued to puzzle us. The booth promoting TRADE SECRET TRILOGY / 13 CUTS had few visitors; we still didn't know what they were up to. And for some reason the two husky men in black T-shirts manning the Kirin Rise Studios booth across from us had put away their crowd-drawing whirligig and sat in their unvisited booth hour after hour, seemingly unperturbed.
In the booth right next to me, on the opposite side from the Strand, was Janelle Gabay, who lives with her husband and three children in Florida and exhibited for the first time at Chicago in 2016. She has authored two self-published books of fantasy science fiction where mortals and immortals mix -- thriller fiction that should appeal to the young women flocking to BookCon. First Born (2016) and its sequel, First Awakened (2017), will be followed by a third novel so as to create a trilogy. Janelle says that driving long distances inspires her; her office is her car, with voice dictation a must. She is another great example of an author who bypasses the gatekeepers to get her books published and into the hands of readers, and all this while raising a family. World, take note: Indie authors make things happen.
Yes, we were worn out, but at least we didn't have to go back for the big Monday move-out, when all the vast carpeting is rolled up, empty cartons are returned to exhibitors to be used again, and the super-glitzy stands of the big publishers are dismantled and their books and other stuff carted of by forklifts to the loading docks nearby -- an epic spectacle that I had once hoped to view but now was happy to forgo.
5 Pleasuring, 7 Bill Hope, and 14 No Place for Normal: New York. So the self-published New York stories did best! Yet to my and Silas's surprise, several women who bought only one book took Pleasuring. And how many leads did I capture? With Silas’s help, 14. It should have been more, but we got distracted the first day and forgot about this strange high-tech phenomenon known as lead retrieval.
Lead retrieval works. On the second day, when we asked everyone who bought a book if we could scan their badge to secure contact information, no one objected. As a result, I know their name and e-mail address, age range, and genres of interest.
Aisle traffic is essential. Though I had posted my exhibitor profile online, no one sought me out because of it. My sales were all a matter of chance, of people coming into the aisle and for some reason noticing my books. My sales (though maybe not everyone's) depended completely on traffic in the aisle. With a more central location on the show floor, I would surely have done better.
Is there a young adult option? Could some (not all) of my books appeal to young adults? They weren't written with this in mind, but my first sale on both days suggests this possibility, and the genre preferences expressed in my lead retrievals confirm the widespread interest in YA. Something to ponder.
So much for me. And BookCon? At its busiest, it was wild, it was crazy, it was New York -- just the kind of event that this blog celebrates. EMBRACE THE MADNESS said one of my signs; to the best of our ability, and with a full blast of energy, we did.