Just last year I decided it was time to put an end to 'arts and crafts' shows that I had been participating in for several years. When I was painting exclusively (not writing at the time), I participated in the outdoor "Artists in the Park" shows, lugging E-Z Up tents, panels, tables, a vast assortment of originals and prints and a number of other items to spend the day, after a 2 hour drive, hoping to sell enough to cover the cost of the space I paid to rent. If I didn't have the help of my husband, I never would have done this alone. Just a few years ago I decided it was time to be done with outdoor shows. You hoped for a nice day and if it rained and decided not to go you were out the $$$ with no chance of trying to recoup the cost.
So I made the decision to participate only in indoor shows around the holiday season. I've done this for a few years and made a few dollars but barely covering the cost of my space. And then last year, after participating in several shows, one that covered the three-day weekend after Thanksgiving, and finding that the cost in gas to drive here and spending the day, from 9-4pm, just was not worth giving up my time anymore. Thankfully my husband came with me but I felt guilty since he could have been relaxing at home instead of hanging out with me at a show that was in an upscale place where people were more interested in the other events the place had to offer, and eating lunch, than doing much Christmas shopping. Together with the other several shows I participated in I knew it was time to end it. And then a friend who is a well-known artist, gave me simple advice when she stated bluntly, "Oh, don't do those shows anymore. People are cheap and they want a deal." And just like that I knew she was right and made the decision, no more shows.
So, what on earth compelled me to participate in a local Farmers' Market event that took place outdoors I can't imagine. Although I do remember reading about an author who loved Farmers' Markets because there were other vendors selling baked goods and vegetables that they grew and he was the only one selling books. I had to give it a try. Which is what I did just this past Saturday.
My husband was away golfing and since the event was only from 9- noon, I figured it would be ok. Plus they had an indoor location should the forecast predict rain. I woke to a cloudy day and hoped it would rain so we could move indoors but when I got there, all the tents were set up. There were people more than willing to help me set up my tent and to them I am grateful. Unfortunately it did rain, for about 10 minutes and I was looking at packing up, but then it stopped so I stayed put. I hadn't yet taken out my fall clothes since it is the middle of September and with the temps lingering in the high 50's, needless to say my hands, feet (I was grateful I decided to wear socks and sneakers), and just about every other part of my body was freezing cold even though I was wearing layers. And the really sad news is, I didn't sell a single thing. Not only did I not sell anything but most of the people who came to the market merely glanced our way (there were two others selling non-food items besides me) and decided they didn't need whatever it was we were selling. I felt like I really didn't belong there. And the woman who set this up made a special effort to inform people that this was a yearly event and did her best to promote us.
Do I need any more confirmation? No, I don't. I'm happy to say I will not do any more outdoor shows. I'm also no longer participating in craft shows during the holiday season where people sell crude paintings on rocks or potholders that they bought at Walmart or magnets or dime-store jewelry or any number of non-art type items. I was trying to sell my original mini paintings and the five books that I wrote at these events. I feel like this is the best decision for me.
Now another type of event I've participated in that I will probably still sign up for are wine-tasting/book signing events at wineries. I've done a couple of these and they've been successful. I get to talk about my writing and then people, after having a glass of wine, will buy a few of my books. These often happen close to the holidays, too. All I have to think about is bringing my books and people are actually there hoping to meet the author and purchase a signed copy. These have been enjoyable because people want to talk about your books, they are usually readers, and appreciate the autographed copy that they can purchase from you, sometimes for themselves and often as a gift.
So, the lesson here is, never say never. Or just realize, there is always the next thing that just might work. Of course, my favorite way to sell my books is online, either through one of my websites or from Amazon. It is a win-win situation.