I sat next to Marian in the Children’s book section, a probably 60-somehint African American woman with a shock of gray hair that exploded like a plasma ball from underneath her hat when she removed it. By the end of the four hours I knew more about her life and hobbies than anyone else at the fair. Marian did most of the talking, though I was anything but silent. She had travelled the world, we exchanges stories about Japan and how everyone sought her autograph there back in the 70s.
She was apparently a fixture in this particular library, as everyone seemed to know her, so it was only right that I was the next to be drawn into her world today. She made a comment about samurai and “did I have a man-bun?” I turned to show her my pony tail and she laughed. At one point she alsmot accused me of being metro and we both laughed about that.
I ended up buying one book, Sideshow, a romance story about an aspiring opera singer. I admit that I was first drawn in by the cover, a beautiful ethereal photograph. The subject matter, while not something I suppose I would normally seek out, somehow resonated with me.
My friend Brian was there with his Novel, Chip Dip. There was Claudia with two books of Popcorn recipes. A man who had training and showing exotic animals for almost as long as I’ve been alive. Another author who was at the last fair in Plymouth with a table full of wire- and perfect bound books.
Several people came up to the booth and only one seemed to have no other motivation than to get a raffle ticket out of me. “I’m trying to win something for my cousin,” he said. At least he was up front about it.
The traffic wasn’t terribly heavy, but several people did stop by and leaf through the book while I rattled off an ad hoc ramble about the subject matter of the book. I couldn’t seem to get it straight in my head each time. By the end I was jokingly saying, “it’s a book about a little elephant… who goes on adventures”. True, but not really selling it well.
It didn’t matter. The rainbow of origami elephants drew them in, and several put on the headphones and listened to the audiobook for more than a minute. One woman gushed over the prints and the artwork but only signed up for the mailing list.
One librarian approached me and mentioned something about reading at schools. I acted enthusiastic, but the idea sort of terrified me, because at the moment I can’t imagine reading Zōsan to a classroom of kids. It’s a bit long for that sort of thing, though I could limit it to the first chapter, which is the best cliffhanger-intro sort of piece anyway.
I did a couple of rounds and like the last time, it was awkward to strike up conversations with most of the people, but at least with a couple of them, we sort of hit it off and talked about both of our journeys to this point. The convoluted path to publishing, the abhorrent cost of digital four-color printing and how in the hell does anyone find time to market themselves?
Not so with Marian. I admit I first felt a captive audience, while I was setting up she would pepper me with questions every half minute or so. She is one of those people you don’t mind talking to because all her inquiries are in such earnest, and you can tell how genuine she is. She’d been to several different countries in her lifetime, she said, but still somehow hadn’t made it to D.C. We laughed at the irony.
That is one of the best parts of these fairs. I gave away more origami elephants than anything, but I did sell two more books to complete strangers. But when it comes down to it, what’s really great is when you find another person that you can connect with on any level.
I had daydreams of the books flying out of my boxes, as I’m sure many attendees do, and when it came time to clean up at 4pm the stark reality that I had only sold one book weighed in. But that is one more book than I had before, and even though it didn’t always translate into a sell, there seemed to be bonafide interest in it. And at least I had Marian to make the whole thing fun.