Man, that was hard!
This November 11-13 will be the first live Boston Book Fair in three years, and I’ve sorta lost the knack. (Booth 406. Stop by and cheer me up.)
I’m mean, I’ve been back on the road since last winter, doing live book fairs in California, Hartford, New York, Greenwich, etc., but I had two great collections to peddle back then, so there was no question about what to bring, and little question who would buy it. This time the process involved scouting my own stock and trying to remember where I’d tucked those special items away. Then writing up descriptions, printing them out, matching them with the books they describe, and trying to figure out how the whole mess would fit into my measly half booth… I never have enough stock for a whole booth because I sell this stuff too fast.
Or, let me amend that last remark. I sell stuff, all right. But mostly through my website, and not at book fairs. In fact, over the years I’ve learned not to be discouraged by dismal book fair sales numbers. I’ve had to accept the fact that, for me, book fairs are mostly buying, rather than selling, opportunities.
Here’s how it works:
I go to a book fair and, while I’m not selling anything, I buy books, manuscripts, and ephemera relating to – as we’ve been describing this specialty for decades – “The Sea and Its History.” Then I take that newly-purchased material and put it away somewhere, then I buy more books and put them away with the other stuff, until I have enough for a big ABAA/ILAB book fair. Then I dig it all out and, as I’ve outlined above, catalog it, lug it to the book fair, and hardly sell any of it. Then I take all the unsold book fair material back home, put it in a catalog, and sell 2/3 of it. Then I put the unsold material from the catalog away, where it is gradually enhanced by other purchases from subsequent provincial book fairs. Then, when the next big book fair looms, I haul it all out and repeat the process.
I just issued Maritime List 317- Selections from the Library of Gary Eckstine, so maybe I should just cut to the chase and refer to my Boston Book Fair booth as Maritime List 318..