Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lesson #1: You Never Know

Emily has been learning all about The Writing Life: Selling Books, especially the first lesson which is: You Never Know.

So we had that signing at Barnes and Noble, heady stuff, with lines of people waiting patiently to meet us, dozens of books sold, and the manager coming by to personally thank us.

Then we geared up for the fair. The Lane County Fair is always one of my biggest events of the year and I always make sure I'm there on Seniors' Day, Wednesday, when my biggest fan base comes by to say hello and buy books. I've sold up to 50 books on Seniors Day in past years. So several months ago, when I first got the email from Bill the organizer, I signed up Emily and myself for Wednesday. And then I made sure we both ordered lots of extra books for the day.

Wednesday was a very hot day. We headed for town after lunch and parked in the field by the fairgrounds and shlepped our boxes and water bottles over to the gate and then past the monster truck corral and over to the big main building and into the Atrium, a large room with a glass roof, and there we found our spots along the crowded Authors' Table, between Bob Welch and Dan Armstrong.

The afternoon wore on and things went steadily downhill. Sitting in that glass-roofed room on a day when it was 101 degrees at the airport was not to be described. I think there was a faint whiff of air conditioning out in the hallway at some point, but it was lost in the heat and crowds, and as soon as people entered our room they gasped and exclaimed because it was even hotter than the rest of the building.

I was afraid Emily would faint so I kept her supplied with water. She had on this nice blouse but it was tight across her back and she said if she only had a loose t-shirt she thinks she'd be ok. So I went into the huge booth area where you can get cool gutters and chamois cloth and energy rocks, and found a plasma-donor booth with free t-shirts--in size XL only. I took one back to Emily and she went and changed, throwing fashion to the winds, and came back with this blue t-shirt that hung on her like a sack, but she felt much better.

So there we were, sitting and waiting in the heat, and very few people came by. It turned out that the fair was under new management which had decided, just the week before, to suddenly switch Seniors' Day from Wednesday to Thursday. Furthermore, they had neglected to list the specific times that each author would be at the fair. So all those wonderful people who normally come to say hello had no way of knowing when we'd be there. And all the slots for Thursday were full, so we couldn't come then.

We talked a bit about packing up and going home, but writers are a tough lot, and we just knew that if we did, someone would get off work early specifically to come see us, and we wouldn't be there.

[Since we stayed, this person didn't show up, of course, and we sat in the heat and tried in vain to catch the eye and interest of hot, bored people who walked by.]

It was very sad and disappointing, and now we both have lots of inventory on hand that will probably just sit here for a while.

But I think the lesson is definitely getting through to Emily: You Never Know. I guess I needed a refresher course as well.

Quote of the Day:
"But it may have been better this way, because just think of all the older people who would have keeled over in that heat."
--Dan Armstrong, who is more considerate than I am, about the change of dates for seniors


  1. Well described, Dorcas. If there's a special hell for writers, I think we just got a taste of it at the Fair.

    It was good to meet you and Emily. That, at least, made for a good day.

    Dan is a very nice guy.