I did of course have help. Mum came, and did a brilliant job enticing people to buy. She had her new phone with her, and took lots of photos. Son 2 had shown her how to use it (it’s a smart phone – too smart for me.) Unfortunately he didn’t also teach her what to do should it fall out of her pocket and into the next cubicle when using public loos! Luckily the nice person next to her slid it back under the partition, and she didn’t get accused of trying to take dodgy photos.
Husband came too, and turned out to be an excellent salesperson – even if some of his methods were somewhat unethical. When someone is clearly having trouble controlling a very strong dog, is it okay to whistle, so the dog runs to your stall pulling the owner behind them? Not sure (but we did sell her a book). And if a coach-load of ladies from Holland arrive, to look at the quilting show, is it okay to sell one a book, even though she doesn’t actually speak much English? And I’m also not sure about the : “Would you like an apple? If you bring your Mum here to buy a book, you can have one,” technique, used on small children – but again, it made a sale.
I’m not quite sure what my mum’s selling technique was. But she would disappear with a book (perhaps to have lunch, or to use the loo) and after a while, someone would approach my stall, saying they had bought the book from an elderly lady, who had told them I would sign it for them…..Exactly how you manage to sell a book whilst in the loo is beyond me!
I was sent the instructions for when to arrive, the code for the back entrance to the castle (very exciting!) and a plan showing where my pitch was. It was a big area. We arrived fairly early, to find several people were there already. We were in a marquee, and because the day before had been wet (when they put it up) there were constant drips of water from the ceiling. People who do this event every year (which seemed to be most people) had come prepared with towels and mops and sheets of plastic to cover their stock. I had not. It was all a bit stressful, as a book that has been dripped on would be ruined. We set up the tables, and left all the books and bookmarks in plastic crates, hoping the drips would eventually stop. They did.
Most stall holders were very nice, and they all seemed to know each other. A few were a bit territorial (we had all been allocated a 3m square, and some used the whole width for their own stall, and then expected to walk through their neighbour’s space when they wanted to walk around, meaning their neighbour had to have a smaller stall.) I guess everyone had spent hours making their products, and were keen that it should be shown at its best. I overheard a few tense conversations about the positioning of stands.
The stall holder on one side was friendly. She was a photographer, selling cards and calendars and pictures. She was nice to chat to, and told me that most stall holders knew each other, as there was a circuit of similar festivals that they all attended. She gave me the name of the organiser, and suggested I should apply. I was the only person selling books, which was nice. There were several stalls selling jewellery and pottery, which might make it competitive – or might mean that people who want to buy those things know there is a good range at Hever Castle and so are more likely to attend the festival.
There were lots of visitors, and we had some good chats. Some assumed I was famous (though I did tell them I wasn’t.) One lady wanted to shake my hand, saying she had never met anyone famous before. Lots of people asked me to sign the book, and some wanted a photo of me standing next to them. A few people said they’d heard about my books in newspaper reviews, or from the radio (am not entirely sure if they were misremembering.)
The days were long though. Books by an unknown author don’t sell themselves, so we needed to tell people what they were about. I was glad to have help, so I could take breaks and go and sit in the car for a while, just to rest my brain. After a while, people began to merge into one…. I’m sure I sold books in the afternoon to the exact same people who bought them in the morning. Or perhaps women aged about sixty all fit into three main categories with only slight variations. (Another possibility of course, is that Husband paid a small group of people to keep changing their clothes, returning to buy books. But I don’t think that happened.)
In business terms, it was success. It cost £40 to have a stall, and I sold 67 books, so taking away the cost of the books, I still made a profit. (If I had charged for time, I would have made a huge loss, of course. But I think only very famous authors can possible cover the cost of their time.) Sixty-seven books is a lot of new readers, so I’m really hoping that some of them like the book enough to buy another one. I made some bookmarks, showing my other books, with a link to my website and Amazon. You never know…..
However, the absolutely best thing of all was being at Hever Castle. We arrived early each morning, when the grounds were empty. The grass was damp, the sun was not too hot, and the swans were wandering along the bank. All I needed was a swooshy skirt and a horse. It is a beautiful place. Anne Boleyn grew up there, and you can’t help but think that she’d have been so much happier if she’d just stayed there and married a farmer. That’s what I would’ve done.
If you’ve never visited, put it on your list, it’s lovely.
Thank you for reading.