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Marketing Books in the Real World

What follows is a reflection about marketing "independently published" books. I am very incompetent in this area, I confess. I have been listening to several podcasts lately about marketing independently published books. (Translation: I am trying to figure out how to sell my books.)

I got the idea to sell at a farmer’s market. To be specific, I saw signs for the Rabbit Valley Farmers’ Market in Ringgold, Georgia. It is held by—well, I don’t know who is originally behind it. I called the number on the website, talked to the woman who runs it, and she said come along on Saturday morning, she’d have a table for me and she would charge $20.00 for a table for four hours. I would have to be out on the grass under a tent.

So far, so good. Why was I doing this? Because I had my Saturday morning free. Because I had driven 90 minutes to sell no books at all, so ten miles sounded reasonable. . Because I wanted to reach a new, new clientele. Because I'm desperate, maybe.

I arrived at 8:30 on a day threatening rain, which started about 9:30, causing all of us outside of the pavilion to scurry inside it and the “woman in charge” (Samantha) to let us come under its shelter for the duration of the market (9:00-1:00). Consequently not many people showed and she didn’t charge any of us the $20.00. I sold six books and made $57.00. Fifty-seven dollars I didn’t have before. Since I was scheduled to go to a baby resale market the next day with my daughter-in-law, I had a place to spend it.

So I asked to come back, and this last week I sold eight books. Samantha didn’t charge me again. “Why?” “You’re doing something different. You add something to the market.” Plus, she said her mother, who had bought a book the week before, really liked it. Over the last four months, I have managed to reduce my stock by 28 books—because I was out with a different class of people.

I usually go to writers’ fairs, etc. where everybody is shopping for books—or not. I wonder if it’s not more of a networking or a comparison fair: what does he charge for his books, how does she sell enough to come 200 miles to a convention or expo like this? Am I writing in the wrong genre? Why is everyone writing fantasy and weird science fiction/thriller/famous writer knock-offs? Why is no one here even looking at my books and I paid money for this table and I am not even getting my money back?

So, when the Rabbit Valley Market opens back up in April, I’ll be there the first week. What did I learn?

That I have been around higher education types too long and it has skewed my world view.

That I am judgmental about looks. There were some rough-looking types there, and they were caring for their children and looking for bargains and interesting just like anyone else.

That it was fun to talk to possible readers and to the other vendors. One lady is like the momma of the clan, helping everyone as she sells her candied jalapenos (quite good, by the way). I helped a woman with ideas about how to have her daughter’s book published (I think she was scammed by one of “those” companies).

That a sale is not always the goal. In fact, humanly speaking, it’s never the goal.

The Rabbit Valley Farmer’s Market is America, not a writer’s coffee klatch or a wine and cheese party.

I have some beta readers looking at my tenth So far, so good. One said, “you write well. Your problem is marketing.” Hummmm. I wish that were my only problem!

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