Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Printers Row Lit Festival

Like many another author I was at Printers Row last weekend. My publisher, Echelon Press, had a tent as usual (sort of), and had invited a number of authors to be there selling our books. I went in my secret identity of Author Guy, book seller to those who have the good sense to buy my books. Years ago, I started out trying to sell my own books at craft and gift fairs, but I ran into many people who said they didn't read fantasy. Since I'd paid for the table and wanted to make that money back, and since it seemed to me that someone who wanted a mystery wasn't going to buy a fantasy novel anyway (and therefore I wouldn't be cutting into my own sales), I went to Echelon and got everything they had in a variety of genres. That was five years ago and my table now carries everything Echelon makes and a few others besides.

Had I been in Chicago as myself with just my own books, I would have lost a ton of money on hotel fees, tolls, gas, etc., just to be there. As Author Guy I brought my entire collection of books, and I had on my table everything Echelon did that wasn't already being represented by its own author already. That took a good many titles off my table, let me tell you, since we had at least 10 other authors there, but even so I was still overflowing. Fortunately I have some folding racks, so I could go vertical where there was no room to be horizontal. We were placed at the worst possible corner, because that's just how good I really am. I learned a long time ago that book selling means getting the customer to come in and check out the product, and part of my function was to get people from the far side of the street to come in to see us.

Oh yes, we were reduced, as many vendors were, to a mere half tent this year, so we had four tables, two facing one side of the street and two facing another tent with an lane in between. Most of the business was on the street sides, naturally, and part of my work was to get those people to come into the lane and check us out. I've been doing this for years and I'm good at it. What was most pleasant was that some of the authors at our other table in this lane, Sam Morton and Margot Justes, were directing customers to me from the other side! Go Team Echelon! Sam even came up to me on Sunday, when my voice was starting to go (did I mention it was very loud?) and offered to get me a soda because he could hear the hoarseness of my voice. Gotta love Sam.

The event itself is a blur of faces and people, interested and eager to get our books. Many of them knew the Echelon name from previous Festivals and deliberately sought us out to see what we had new. Some even came looking for me, and I wasn't there last year! People were coming before the event even began and flooded us on all sides. We ran out of small change in the first morning! It started to rain a little bit Saturday afternoon, but that didn't stop anybody, although I was surprised to see that a lot of the vendors covered their products over with thick blue tarps! How could the people see anything? We had transparent plastic sheets over our books so the customers could still see covers and we could hand them out at need. A little bad weather doesn't stop Chicagoans.

Sunday started out much the same, although it had a little rain at the beginning of the day, which blew over quickly and left us alone the rest of the time. Some of our authors left and new ones arrived unexpected. Robert Walker, author of PSI Blue, showed up and signed the copies of his book that I had on the table. While we were chatting a customer arrived, looking for exactly his sort of book (FBI search for a serial killer using a psychic team)! I handed him a copy and let Robert take it from there. Good timing. At South Carolina I ended up describing Austin Camacho's Blood & Bone to a customer, in front of Austin Camacho! He thought I did a perfectly fine job, but I'm still leery of doing that. BTW, PSI Blue and Blood & Bone are really cool books, and I recommend them completely.

Getting there was a different story, not to mention getting back. First of all, being a flatlander, I really need to work on my driving skills in mountain environments. Going through PA and the Appalachians meant that I was constantly being accelerated by every little downslope. On the far side of the mountains we hit some large downslopes, and I was accelerated rather badly and ended up with a speeding ticket!

On Saturday I went to park the car in a local parking garage, only they had no directions on what I was supposed to do, and I guessed wrong. Another citation. The nest day I went to a different lot that had directions, as well as another man, an employee at the Hotel Blake, who showed us how the system worked.

On the way back we got sidetracked in some mysterious fashion and ended up going very south into PA on the return trip. It was very pretty, where we ended up, and it was also very pretty going up Rte. 220 to get back up to I-80, but we still lost an hour or more on a trip that was already 14 hours long. Then when we got back to New Jersey our tire developed not one but three separate bubbles! Fortunately none of them popped, and changing the tire was straightforward. But you can bet I was ever so glad to be home again.


Mary Cunningham said...

Sounds like you had a very interesting trip back! Yeah, those mountains in PA are fun. We've traveled the Turnpike and I-80.

At least you had a very successful event!


Norm Cowie said...

I did those mountains on a BMW cherry-red BMW motorcycle ... nearly got blown off the road whenever a semi went by.



Mary Welk said...

Great blog, Marc. Glad you got home safely, even if you did take a detour. Those PA mountains can be killers at night when the fog rolls in. Good thing you made it through them during the day.