I'm back from my third Author's Row in a six week period. Let's face it. Unless you have a big New York publisher, if you are an indie or small press writer, you will be doing all of your own publicity and these Authors Rows are part of it. So many self-published writers now assail libraries for book signings, the librarians gather them all up and have one big event as do places like Barnes and Nobel, except the libraries don't take a 40% cut of your sales. Even our local book store is reluctant to have signings now unless the author can guarantee a turnout--or at least chip in for refreshments and advertising. But, there are Authors Rows and then Author Rows.
The one I recently returned from did everything right. We were supposed to be in tents outside, but when chilly, wet weather was predicted, they moved us indoors, and not just to a far off meeting room, but in lines down both sides of the library. They held story times in a room on one end and had speakers and even an Elvis impersonator on the other which kept the flow of people moving back and forth. Tables and chairs were provided. A lounge area set aside for authors contained fruit and cheese platters, pastry trays, granola bars, hot coffee and tea and other beverages and a place to sit and eat something. A jambalaya lunch was provided as well, but my favorite perk by far--a cadre of teens who helped lug my heavy box of books to and fro and even went back to make sure my I'd locked my car. I'd also asked to sit by a fellow author and friend. As we were asked to stay from eleven to four, our conversation passed the time.
I drove two hours to this event, about the longest trip I am willing to do alone, but they made it worthwhile. How many books did I sell? My usual three. I handed out a lot of book cards with my information on the back in hopes of future sales and made conversation with many who may or may not look my books up later and get the e-books on Amazon or elsewhere. I also paused to speak to other authors whom I see at all these local events on my way back and forth to the bathroom. Oh, I must mention they did have folks to sit at your table while you did so and thus, you could go more than once if necessary. They didn't sell anything, but guarded your books and change sack.
I also noted the newbies, mostly indie authors, who had piles of their books that no one wanted, usually inspiring stories of their lives or those of their mother's or a first book of fiction that no one will buy because they never heard of you. I watched the disappointment form on their faces as no one stopped at their tables (unless they'd invited relatives) and no sales were made. They pulled out early, probably realizing they'd have stacks of these books still in their closets when they die. Hey, not making fun here. You should see my storage area. An accountant said I should write the space off on my taxes. Heaven knows what my family will do with my backlog. I did leave an hour before closing, but mostly because of the long drive and the shortening of daylight.
Of the two others I attended, one scattered us around the library and those in the meeting room got the added perk of having some authors doing readings, though that didn't seem to draw an audience. Spaces were first come, first serve which I think caused some resentment, again among new authors who didn't get there ridiculously early to claim a good space. We also had to haul our own tables and chairs, which seemed odd in a library that does lots of programming and craft classes. We were offered snacks and beverages in the lounge, a nice touch, but if it hadn't been nearby, I might not have gone. I am no longer able to haul furniture to further my career. This being close enough, my husband came along to do the setup, then retired to watch football at home until the closing. Number of books sold--none. Mostly people stepped around us as they perused the stacks and checked out free books.
I had the most sales at the most grueling of the events, outdoors from nine to four, must tote your own tables, chairs, etc. Bring a lunch or buy one from the food vendors. The temperature soared to ninety-five degrees. A bottle of water, a Coke Zero, and a large snow cone kept me from dehydrating even though we were under trees. A person handed out homemade fans of the type once given away by funeral homes. We used them. It's a big arts and crafts fair that really brings people out. I made all four of my sales before noon. The crowd thinned as the temps soared, and I bailed at three when the heat was at its worst. My parting words-I'm getting to old for this. I'll probably be there next year.