Promoter Richard Mori is to be congratulated for at least having tried to mount a successful, live, “in-person” book fair. After a few initial hiccups, such as scheduling the event for 2019 rather than 2021, and the uncertainties of Covid crowd-control requirements hovering over the event until the last minute, the venerable Concord Antiquarian Book Fair (now rebranded as the Northern New England Book Fair) went ahead.
And man, was it fun standing around in the parking lot waiting for setup to start, shooting the breeze and swapping lies with my colleagues!
Fun for about half an hour. Then we went to work and I started scouting the fair, which was probably a bad idea. I bought a few things, but most of my purchases were made out of a sense of obligation. I mean, considering the trouble it took to schlep my books up here, I felt I needed to buy something to justify my efforts. This kind of attitude, as you might imagine, can result in significant waste of money and time. On the other hand, I actually sold a few things, which NEVER happens to me in Concord.
The first live show of 2021 was upside down! Is this a sign of things to come?
Twenty-two customers, mostly old white guys, some with canes, lined up to pay $5 each for the privilege of attending the opening of this year’s event – the first live book fair, to my knowledge, on the American book fair circuit in over a year. During the next 10 minutes another twenty stragglers came through the door.
Attendance stayed at about that rate until noon, after which the numbers began to decline.
This is an image of the floor of the Concord Book Fair. It was taken about 3:30 pm on Saturday afternoon, June 5. There are 15 customers present. The rest are dealers.
Richard says the total gate for both days was around 300. And, indeed, many of the customer faces were as familiar as the dealer faces.
It was all good, except for one major flaw.
The next day, Sunday, admission was free. This is an image of the book fair floor taken at 11:15 am on Sunday.
I counted fifty-six attendees, fifty-eight if you include the dogs. One could make the argument that the free-admission Sunday brought in nearly three times more people than the number who paid $5 to attend on the first day of the fair. One could also make the argument that it was stupid to schedule this historically slow event for 2 days.
There is no way on God’s green earth this little show should have lasted an extra day. (The first day was hard enough!) As colleague Tim Stevenson points out, a “2-day show” is actually a 3-day show for most dealers, who will arrive on Friday to scout the fair and set up. (7 am Saturday morning is not usually a good set-up option for full-time dealers.) So, an extra day of meals and hotels, and another full day devoted to sitting on plastic chairs under fluorescent lights staring at the gray concrete floor, all so we could… Could what? Sure, people sold things on Sunday, but who’s to say those things wouldn’t have sold on Saturday if that was the only day they could have been purchased?
Richard told me, for the record, that “Some dealers said they wanted a 1-day fair. Some dealers told me they wanted a 2-day fair.” I asked him to show me which dealers wanted the 2-day event. He said he couldn’t remember who they were.
He also told me that customers and dealers alike thanked him for doing the work and taking the risk to promote this book fair, and you can count me among them.
Thank you, Richard. Let’s do it again next year!
Just make sure you keep forgetting who those dealers were who wanted a two-day show.