article discussing why a self-publisher or independent publisher of fiction should monitor craft fair participation and take part in those fairs which prove profitable

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Small Publishers Association of North America

Issue 3/2009

Continuing Thoughts on Marketing at Craft Fairs

As stated in newsletter 01/09, Iím focusing on craft fairs, now more than ever. I get invites now. Yeah, I know itís because Iíve gotten my name on a list of craft-fair participants, which organizers pass around to one another and which they use to send out their newsletters/invites drumming up business. Thatís great, saves me looking for places to go.

All that said, some fairs are better than others. Not necessarily better across the board, but better for certain things. I sell books. I love the little country fairs out in the small towns of Mississippi. For one thing, when Iím out there with country folks I realize Iím not alone in my conservative values and there are more Mississippians than not who remember who we are and where we came from and why. And yes, those folks can and do read. Some of íem even buy my books.

Regardless of how much I might enjoy the company, I am forced to admit that the craft fair needs to pay for itself. I have never failed to make my booth money back, but I recently did go out of town and paid for two nights at a motel. Though I made my booth fee, I did not earn enough to offset the cost of those two nights. I compensate myself with the simple fact that I did manage to get my books in the hands of six new readers. I would have done better to have gotten up and on the road about four in the morning and arrived in time to set up on the day of the fair. I should have also packed up and driven back that same night. The trouble with that is, Iím no spring chicken, driving at night is tough on my eyes even on brightly lit, familiar roads. Most of my stateís county roads are unfamiliar to me.

Hey, craft fairs are a lot of work, no question about it, but right now, theyíre necessary. As a result of this recent, minor setback, Iíve begun keeping a careful log of each fair. Regarding the aforementioned fair at which I lost money, the weather wasnít good. Could have been worse, but still, thereís a good chance a gloomy, rain-threatened day kept customers away. I think Iíll always try to give a fair two tries before writing it offóoh, but four in the morning is soooo early. Another thing Iíve done is to apply for a Visa Choice card which offers points for staying at certain hotels and general spendingóso I put my food and gas on it, too. Iím hoping that tact will provide a free night here and there, but letís face it, the more craft fairs I participate in, the more times Iím not going to cover expenses. Itís gonna happen from time to time, and Iím resolved to that. Nevertheless, I intend to keep records and try, as years pass, to minimize those lossesóand take as compensation those new readers no matter how few. Even if only one buyer likes my work, he/she will tell someone and the word will spread just a little farther inland. Yes, folks, itís going to take years to develop a loyal following.

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