This is a shot of the vendor table at the entrance to the Base Exhcange at Whiteman AFB, where I did my very first book signing and public sales. Day 2 had me rethink the presentation, because we had placed the paperbacks on top of each of the images in the computer screen. So, I did a bit of innovation and hung the second banner from the bottom of the first, draping in front of the table. Duplication of the image to reinforce the branding, and it wasn’t cluttered with all the paraphernalia.
Go ahead and ask me.
Yes! It was fun! Connecting with people who are readers, striking up conversations with a common core of experience, watching eyes light up to realize the author of the books was right there to sign them…oh, that was a treat!
Wait. Let me start at the beginning…
My daughter and I were greeted with a warm smile and a welcoming attitude by Cherie Lyn E. Celli, Service Operations Manager for AAFES. She ushered us in and coordinated with her staff to provide a table, chairs, drape cloth, a set of boxes for our personal gear, and the Electronic Accounting Tablet (that ensures sales are logged for proper revenue stats to AAFES). I want to thank my daughter, Yvonne, for accurately keeping track of the sales and making the technology work as it should. Cherie also checked in frequently to ensure we were settled, that things were going smoothly, and to encourage us to have a good time while we were there.
The BX was also hosting a Pet Adoption day at the front entrance, which spawned some extra foot traffic into the main concourse. We got the benefit, because at least 25% of those passing by gave us a second glance. Neither my daughter nor I had to use any over-the-top strong-arm tactics to get folks to buy from us. Rather, we gauged their interest, used an appropriate opening line to start a conversation, and then worked toward common ground on a variety of topics. By being personable and engaging folks in a friendly manner, we developed their interest in what we had to offer, and thereby allowed them to decide to buy if they so chose.
Honestly, I was surprised at the number of folks who took us up on the offer. It was at least as good as I’d hoped for, as a newly minted Author with no real street cred to my name. But our explanations of the books’ contents, plus allowing them to handle them made a huge difference. Also, letting them know the Author was right there to sign them tipped the scales on several occasions.
Here’s the best part: I got to physically see and interact with individuals who will be reading the stories I’ve crafted, and those same people got a chance to learn a little bit about the guy who wrote the books. That was priceless. It’s the aspect of being a writer that makes me not care to focus on the time and money; it’s the part that makes my heart rejoice in The Process, especially the final stage where a Reader connects with an Author.
It took me by surprise, almost the same way the Wizard of Oz may have felt when Dorothy pulled back the curtain to reveal the man behind the magic. It was humbling and it was satisfying. It brought me face-to-face with other souls who love to broaden their horizons by delving into stories of could-be / make-believe / far-flung lands and imaginary characters they themselves might like to meet or even become.
These are the “people” who made my day(s): Jean, Preston, LeRoy, Janice, Cherie, Matt, Laurel (for her son, Nathan), Talayeh and her mother Gwinn, Bill, Skylar, the Juneman Family, Joshua, and Chris. There were other folks who were interested enough to say they’d check me out on Amazon, but didn’t have time to linger due to errands and schedules. Even those few who just smiled and gave a “thumbs up” to the books as they passed by kept my energy level humming about the whole prospect of being there. (Well, maybe the Starbucks had something to do with that, too…)
Let me tell you about some of the biggest kicks I got out of this event:
I watched Talayeh’s eyes light up when I told her I was the one who wrote the books, and reached out to shake her hand. Her mom, Gwinn, mentioned she likes to write, so I went down the path of “you can do this, too” and explained some of the steps it took for me to accomplish this. I painted the process in broad strokes, tailored to her age bracket, coaxing her to keep after her storytelling. I gave her a personal point of contact where she could share her finished project(s) with me, because I want to see how she succeeds.
Skylar was ecstatic to meet a writer in person, too. She told me she shares books with a couple of her friends; they swap different books among their group, so they all benefit from a larger variety of stories at only a fraction of the cost. Smart! I was so tickled after signing her book that I had her mom take a picture of us. Proof that she met the Author.
Joshua is a young buck in the USAF with a streak of anime / manga storytelling waiting to burst forth, though he lamented the fact he wasn’t skilled enough to be a writer. Ideas are GO, but grammar is NO. I encouraged him to gather around a core of friends who could help him with it: to be Beta Readers, to offer edits, to even help him visualize characters with sketches / drawings. I told him I’d be interested to see what he’s produced when he completes a story, and gave him a contact card.
Chris, Joshua’s buddy in the USAF, doesn’t write. He reads. I mentioned I was working on a Sci-Fi novel, The Seeds of Mankind, and let him preview the beginnings of it. While Joshua and I talked, Chris devoured the first three chapters, scrolling through the story on my laptop. He was so intrigued by the premise, the viewpoints of the different characters, and descriptions of the new world in a different universe, he adjured me to finish the story soon. He wants to read the whole thing. Okay. So now I have a deadline.
One of the vignettes I’ve shared with a lot of the folks who stopped by goes like this: It took me 40 years to get Chasing the Dragon from initial idea to final publication. One of my Readers blazed through the book in one day’s time. I’m obviously going to have to step up my game and learn to write much faster.
Yeah, so welcome to the world of a Writer. Always in demand when he / she does it right.