Sitting At A Table

I’m not a marketer and I’m an even worse self-promoter.  I was raised with two younger siblings with Duchene’s Muscular Dystrophy, both in wheelchairs, both with many constant needs and cares.  I learned at a young age to put myself somewhere behind their necessity and it followed me into adulthood.  I’m great at being positive about others, about their works and assuring them they are doing a great job and stay persistent.  I’m not quite the same when it comes to applying those things to myself.

Sitting at a table, trying to sell something you created, is a humbling experience.  So many people simply walk by grazing over your wares, careful not to make eye contact with you, trying to act disinterested.  At first, you try to say hello to each but learn many don’t want a conversation, or sales pitch.

I’m terrible.  I really don’t have a sales pitch.  I hardly thought about what I would say when people did come to the table.

Interesting thing was, as the day wore on, I developed a pitch and I realized it about halfway in.  I found myself repeating nearly the same thing to each new potential customer, often in the same order.  I’m sure there is some kind of psychological explanation for this.  For me, I simply found a way of speaking that was comfortable for me – and I’m no speaker.

As the day wore on and the activity began to die down, I decided to walk the floor and speak with the other authors attending the fest.

First thing I learned was, after doing this for a year, I had more experience than many others.  For some, this was their first rodeo.  They were asking me questions about how things usually go and if this one was going well.  What kind of expectations I had.  What kind of expectations they should have.  It was kind of surreal.  I didn’t see that coming.

A few tried to lay a sales pitch on me, really trying to make a sale.

One of the first things I learned doing my first fair was, most authors are there to sell and they aren’t there to buy – not saying they won’t but it’s not why they are there.

We discuss what we’ve written with each other but rein in the sales pitch part.  It’s becomes a kind of peer group, support group, everyone trying to embolden one another (even cry on each others shoulders if sales are lower than expected.  🙂 )

In all fairness, I probably did some of that on my first time out, so it didn’t bother me that they did it.  Once you realize you are all in the same boat, a bunch of struggling artists hoping to find some recognition, an audience, you end supporting each other, patting each other on the back, telling them to keep plugging away – you are doing a good job – it’s what you love doing so keep doing it.

In the end, a self-published author sitting at a table has to realize these moments are not about making lots of sales.  It’s all about making contact – human contact.  You are trying to connect with strangers and get your name and product out in a world filled with names and products.

And let’s face it, as authors, we are competing with authors who have huge publishers and lots of advertising money thrown behind each campaign.  We can’t keep up with that or compete with that.

For us struggling artists, sitting at a table is a way to make a human connection and find one or two, maybe three or four new fans.  Baby steps.  Baby steps.

And as uncomfortable as I am with this whole sitting behind a table, speaking to strangers, throwing out a sales pitch, I discovered I’m not alone.  Many I spoke to were just as uncomfortable as I have ever been, some hardly able to really tell me much about their books, some not even having business cards or book marks or something for people to take away and think about later.  Some were alone with no one to talk to if no one came to their table.  I can only imagine they had a really long day because there are times where there is no one – just a room of people sitting at their tables.  I think some even had some dreams dashed, looking so downcast, hardly lighting up when I approached and introduced myself and asked them about their book or books.  They looked beaten, tired and ready to go home.

It was then I realized how truly blessed I am.

My wife came with me and was by my side the whole time.  One of my daughters and one of my grandchildren was there as well.  I had loving support, people to smile and laugh with when no one was stopping at my table, just walking by, trying not to be noticed.

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I have to hold onto that.  I have to remember why I wrote the books in the first place.

Humbly, I have somethings I want to say, some stories I want to tell and I have a beautiful family that is willing to listen to them and appreciate them.

I didn’t start writing to get rich and sell lots of books (although that would be nice).  My reasons for writing were much humbler and sitting behind a table at an event like this, reminds me of that foundational truth, that humble beginning.

What you have to offer is not for everyone and that’s okay.  That’s okay.

I wrote this idea in at the end of The Crystal Crux – Blue Grotto when Guidus Salvatore remembers Umberto, an old stableman who taught him how to whittle.  Your experiences in life are going to leave scars.  To become a master at anything takes time, patience.  And in the end, no one will see the struggles you went through to get to where you got.

“People will look at the completed work and not even notice the hazards you faced and had to overcome.  They will see only a skilled master and his art.  The hindrances will be invisible to everyone else.  Only you will know the truth.  Yours scars will remind you of everything you have been through and that is the real value in all you do.  How much do you appreciate it?  How much do you love it?”

  • Allen M Werner is author of The Crystal Crux Epic Fantasy series and several other writings.  These can be found everywhere books are sold.
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