In today’s environment of Social Media, Self-Publishing, and author marketing, many writers generate book fairs. For me, these events provide the opportunity to meet the public, learn more about readers, and if lucky, actually sell a copy or two of The Artist’s Paradise.

Last week I attended a book fair in a local mall. The cost was only $35 and the commitment to remain open to the public from nine to four. The mall provided a table and selected the space for our book displays—next to the food court.  As a relatively new author, one book published and a second novel half-completed, I filled my table with holiday cheer, candy canes, and my single book. Authors with five to six different novels, such as my husband, author Bill Wetterman, outshined my presentation and sales numbers. I vowed to get to work and complete  my second book.

My experience at the book fair was amazing. No, not due to book sales, but to the opportunity to get to know new authors, learn more about authors I already knew, and meet the most fascinating mall customers. Such great insights to real people for future stories I will write.

People I met Fred-A man in his late 80’s or early 90’s.

His spry step gate was steadied with a cane. Noticing Fred staring at the thriller and mystery books on Bill’s table, I moved in to pitch his books. “Like Thrillers?” I asked. Fred stopped, eyelids drawn into narrow slits, and raised his cane as if a weapon. “No. Never. No clutter enters my mind,” He held out a newspaper he carried under his arm. “I plan to read some articles. Here, let me show you.” He spent the next ten minutes pulling the paper apart, pointing to different articles, and explaining the content. His intelligence and knowledge of scientific and world news impressed me. Then he leaned closer and said, “I send articles to my grandchildren. Things they need to know about. And I send them money, lots of money, too. Keep that a secret, okay?” I confirmed my ability to hold his information in confidence. He smiled, tipping his baseball cap, and bent into a modified bow. “So nice of you to listen to this old man. Thanks.” He turned and headed toward to elevator. This wonderful man will be seen in my third novel. What a role model 

Agnes-A wiry 90+ lady

Returning from a short break, I found Agnes, sitting next to my sales-table, audibly breathing at a rapid pace. She appeared out of breath and reeked from her cigarette smoking. Smiling, I leaned over to meet her face-to-face and asked, “Are you alright?” “Got a heart condition. Had to sit. My girls done wore me out. Okay if I sit a minute?” “Of course. Can I get you a drink of water?” “No. Just let me be.” After assuring her that she was welcome, I asked, “Christmas shopping, today?” “Yep. Looking fer a gift for my boss.” “Boss?” It seemed as if so many older seniors were working these days when they should be able to enjoy retirement. “What do you do?” “Used to drive a delivery truck. Got laid off. Now I wait tables at Barry’s” “You’ve had a long career.” “Yep. Just turned ninety-three and won’t never stop. I gotta cause—WW II vets.” “What an important cause. How do you support them?” “Collect money for meds, mostly. But this year I talked my boss into a free Thanksgiving meal for all WWII vets in our town. Great turnout. I’m working on getting them a free Christmas dinner, hope he agrees. Maybe next year we can get other diners to do the same.” “They must have really enjoyed being recognized.” Her toothless grin said it all. We continued to talk for another fifteen minutes, then her daughter and granddaughter returned to take her home. Pointing to a five foot-brunet, teen, she said, “This here’s my little Lucy. She’s got me talking to her about my WWII memories. Doing a memory book or something like that” As they shuffled toward the mall entrance, I knew this sweet woman had just earned a walk-on part in the book I am currently writing. It has a military theme. Jeopardy Mills, the protagonist, is searching for her hidden past and for a father she never knew. Yes, he was a Vet killed in action.  

Sharon-A woman in her mid-forties out shopping with her daughter Patsy.

The affection flowed from these two women. Sharon loved Romantic-Suspense, my specialty, and Patsy devoured Thrillers. I encouraged Patsy to check out author Bill’s table and engaged in small talk with Sharon. She shared with me that her daughter was a writer. “Patsy hopes to be published one day. She is really good but not sure how to proceed.” “Is she in a writers’ group?” “No. Not really. She gets her friends to read her work, but nothing professional.” Bells rang. Get this girl connected. “We’re in a professional writers group. Most of the authors at the book fair today belong to our group or some other one. Would you like some contact info?” “Thanks. Yes.” Sharon picked up my novel, read the back page, and hesitated. Then she put the book back onto the table. ”Looks like a good book, but with the holidays and all…”

“Do you have a Kindle?” Her eyes sparkled. “Yes. Is your novel on Kindle?” “Of course. Here, take my card, The Artists Paradise is only $3.99 on Amazon. If you do purchase my book, please write a review. Any review is welcome—good, bad or average. Your thoughts are important to me. I want to give my readers a good read. Your review can help me with my next book.” Promising to order the book as soon as she got home, she grinned and joined her daughter in their bonding time at the mall.

I may never sell more than a few novels at a book fair, but the interaction with readers is invaluable. A special thanks to all those who have read and reviewed my novel, and all those who have picked up several copies to give as gifts this Christmas. I love you all.


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