SO. Exciting day yesterday. My first book sales and signing in 2020. The setting : Ottawa’s Byward Market. Perfect sunny day. Light breeze. Large crowds throughout the day, surprisingly busy. Masks in abundance, despite the outdoor venue, beautiful personalized masks, colourful summer clothes, many high-end shoppers (by the bags). 5 of us local authors wonderfully situated in a crossroads walking square, with lemondade stands, cafe beside us with lots of patio seating, even Ottawa-famous Beavertail pastry stand on site. An indie author selling her books, one of which was a new release, couldn’t have dreamed of a better place to hawk her wares. Anticipation was high, contactless payment method tested and working, a nice shady tent. Ready.
First the good news. People were chatty, interesting, took handouts and business cards, helped themselves to the free packaged rice krispie squares provided in honour of my first signing of my food book. (First We Eat. Food, Life, and More Stories) I made a sale in the first hour (of the 5 scheduled). Joyous to be out in the world talking to real people, meeting other authors I’d only met virtually for the past forever (it seems). All were following pandemic rules to use the many hand sanitizer stations, not crowding each other at all that I observed.
Then the bad news. Slump. People still dropping by, passing through, families browsing, couples hand-holding, elders with walkers even. A wonderful people-watching event, for sure, but readers? Buyers of books? Here’s some sample conversations:
“Are these rice krispie squares free? Are the books free?”
“How does one become an author? No thanks, not buying, I want to write my own book.” (This after at least 15 minutes of chatting.)
“Have you heard? The Internet says government is spraying us with chemicals to reduce the world’s population. And they control the weather. You must read these people on the Internet.” And of course he provided the names with paper and pen from his large backpack.
“Oh Mom, this book would be great, the memoir is like Grandma’s life! Her father was in the military, too!” (Camp Follower One Army Brat’s Story) “Maybe later dear, let’s get ice cream and a Beavertail and come back. Thanks for your card” (IMO, this is a missed parenting opportunity, but who listens to old ladies?) Of course they didn’t come back. The ice cream and beavertail cost more than a book.
“Can I email you money later, after payday?”
And so it went. The quote of the day: “What’s an author?” Right up there with, “Sorry, I don’t read.” To which I boldly reply, “Yes, that is sorry.” and in my head, “And something you should be ashamed to admit.” Sigh.
I’d like to end with good news again. My second and last sale of the day went to an excited woman who exclaimed, “Oh! I bought your book here last year! Of course I want your new one.” Some things make everything feel alright again.