Craft Fairs, Vendors, and Grand Openings, Oh My!

Craft Fairs, Vendors, and Grand Openings, Oh My!

By Jason Harris

I started Saturday morning going to the Sleigh Bells Arts and Crafts Fair at Bacon Academy in Colchester, Connecticut. If Stacey and I weren’t operating a business, Books and Boos, the New England Horror Writers would have had a table or two at this craft fair.

You can read the Reminders article about this craft fair here.

The craft fair was bigger and had more vendors than the Tantasqua’s Holiday Craft Fair last Saturday. The school had vendors in the hallways, cafeteria, and even into the library. There were some interesting vendors who I talked to about bringing their wares into Books and Boos.

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Re-use of Misdirected Flatware owned by John M. Gilchrist (www.esty.com/shop/gilsgarden). Photo by Jason Harris.

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Mice made from forks by John M. Gilchrist. Photo by Jason Harris.

There were also a woman, Tracy Fowler, who worked with leather. She made items like wallets, belts, and knife sheaths. Her business, WarEagle Leather Works, located in Windsor, Connecticut.

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Belt buckles made by Tracy Fowler. Photo by Jason Harris.

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Photo by Jason Harris.

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Hair accessories created by Tracy Fowler. Photo by Jason Harris.

The reason I went to the holiday craft fair was to help out the Bacon Academy’s students by purchasing two boxes of their homemade cookies for the grand opening celebration at Books and Boos. The celebration included a reading and signing of Bad Apple by Kristi Petersen Schoonover and the giving away of a new copy of The Priest of Blood by Douglas Clegg with the purchase of $5 or more.

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Author Kristi Petersen Schoonover reading from Bad Apple. Photo by Jason Harris.

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Photo by Jason Harris.

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Members of the New England Horror Writers: Jason Harris, Kristi Petersen Schoonover, and Stacey (Longo) Harris. Photo by Nathan Schoonover.

Why I’d Rather Showcase My Books at Craft Fairs than Horror & Comic Cons

Why I’d Rather Showcase My Books at Craft Fairs than Horror & Comic Cons

by Rob Watts

There’s a misconception around the campfire these days that certain products should only be placed in a venue that showcases primarily the same exact products, just in different packaging. The same can be said about writers. We all want to present our work in environments where we are most likely to reach a captive audience. It only makes sense to want to sell our books at events where people attend simply to buy books. Trendy restaurants join other restaurants at local food festivals to sell their food and hot tub salesmen compete with other hot tub salesmen at the local hot tub expos, so why not? For starters, we aren’t hot tub salesmen; we’re authors with our own unique approach in our artistry. There is something very different in all of us that sets us apart from the assembly line produced…dare I say, crap.

Over the years, I have worked at various trade shows with my company and the most important thing I’ve learned is the value of having a unique and distinguished product to offer. Fortunately, my company fits that description, however I’ve witnessed much frustration and disappointment among patrons due to the over abundance of repetitive trade displays such as window installation, granite countertops and vinyl siding companies. So when I began the process of selecting events to promote my new book, I was aiming toward venues where I wouldn’t be just another author pushing my wares. I wanted to find places where an independent bookseller would be a welcomed surprise rather than a usual suspect.

Thanks to the like-minded folks at the NEHW who organize networking events, my vision has been met head-on. Sure, the horror cons such as Horror Hound Weekend and Rock & Shock are festive and fun. Yes, the energy at a comic con is off the hook, but when it comes to actual book selling and valuable interaction between writer and reader, arts and craft shows are an untapped resource for authors. When I spoke to a fellow writer not too long ago, they laughed and asked me if I hated the thought of being in a setting where soccer moms are buying handmade jams, baskets and socks. To which I replied, absolutely not. I would much rather interact with soccer moms than try to convince some teenager, who only has enough money in their pocket to meet Kane Hodder or Tony Todd at their 18th million appearance, that he/she should be buying my book instead. In short, I’d much rather spend my time at events where the chances are much greater that I’ll sell books and make fans.

Even though I write horror, a horror con isn’t always an ideal venue for a bookseller. The same can be said for comic cons. Attendees at these types of events are not really interested in books. They just aren’t. It’s not a slam on them; it’s just the way it is. They are more interested in meeting celebrities, sorting though rare DVDs and dressing up as their favorite characters. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy these events because I do and oftentimes it’s more about who you meet rather than book sales. Just two weeks ago, I had a table at the Toronto Comic Con. Book sales were ok, but the best part was meeting an illustrator who’s going to design for me. So in the end, it was worth the time, travel and cost. It’s definitely worth it to participate in as many events as possible. But they aren’t all at the top of my preference list.

Whenever I see arts and crafts events listed on the NEHW’s calendar, I jump at the chance to attend every one of them. I love that we’re known simply as the authors in the room, not the other authors, or the one out of 20 bookseller tables. We are distinguished and well-regarded might I add. And the best part is, the patrons at these events actually enjoy reading and they love the fact that they are buying the books directly from the person who wrote it. And make no mistake about it, we as writers and independent booksellers fall under the guise of arts and crafts. These events are held everywhere, at any given time of the year and at low-cost. Why not take advantage of it? Don’t just wait for horror events held in the fall. October horror writers are only what Santa Clause is to Christmas. But that doesn’t need to be the case. And if I have the choice between selling at a horror event, where I’m up against Jack Ketchum’s forty-dollar signed copy of Off Season and Robert Englund’s autograph, I’ll take selling next to a table of country-made jam any day of the week.

The Journey to an Author’s First Autograph

The Journey to an Author’s First Autograph

by David Price

In March, I finally got to see my name in print. I have a story in the book, Tales from the Grave: An Anthology of True Ghost Stories. This is a big turning point for me. I joined the New England Horror Writers last August. Since then, I have attended some of the events from time to time, but only as a spectator, never as a participant. I like the people who I have met so far in the NEHW, and I was really looking forward to the day I could hang out with them at one of these conventions or fairs. That day was finally here when I was published in that anthology of ghost stories.

The story itself is called “Tucker’s Court” and it is about the house I grew up in, from the age of nine to twenty-five. My family moved in with my father’s parents when I was a kid, because their health was failing. Both of my grandparents died while I was living with them. There was always a presence in that house after that and many odd things happened to me. Maybe it wasn’t your typical horror movie kind of haunting, but to me it seemed worthy of a story. To my great pleasure, it was accepted by editor Rod Nojek and I made the transition from writer to author. Baby steps, first, you could say.

Naturally after I got the word that the book was in paperback, I emailed NEHW’s Director of Publicity Jason Harris and got my name on the list for the next event, which was the 39th Heritage Craft Fair in Framingham, Massachusetts, on March 24.  I had a couple weeks, so I thought I had plenty of time to get some books to sell at the fair. I placed my order with the publisher, only to be told that the books would not arrive in time. This was very disappointing and I immediately emailed Jason again, to let him know that my participation was in doubt. He told me to tell the publisher that I needed the books for an event and ask for rush delivery. I tried that, to no avail. The books were not going to arrive in time.

Two days before the fair, I went online to see if there was any chance of getting a few books on time from Amazon. It turned out I could get them with the rush delivery option, if I ordered in the next forty minutes. As an added bonus, since the books sell for less than ten dollars, they were included in Amazon’s “Buy four books for the price of three” promotion. So I ordered four books and the website told me I could get free rush delivery if I was an Amazon Prime member. Free one month trial, it told me. What the heck, now I’m an Amazon Prime member, too. I was meaning to sign up for that anyway.

Now, before I place d the order, it said that they were guaranteed to arrive by Friday. After I placed it, however, it said that they were estimated to arrive on Friday. Maybe it’s the English major in me, but there’s a big difference between guaranteed and estimated. A guarantee means that yes, it will be there, you can count on it. An estimate falls more into the, well; you’ve got a fifty-fifty shot. That’s not too bad, right?  That made me nervous. My nerves were not calmed when 6 p.m. passed and the UPS truck failed to arrive. That truck drives down my street every night between 6 and 6:15 p.m. I checked the Amazon website and it said the package was out for delivery. What happened then? 7 p.m. passed and still, no package. I pretty much gave up at that point, figuring the driver somehow missed me. But, to my surprise, at 7:15 p.m. the UPS guy showed up on my doorstep with a package that contained the four books with my very first published story in them. Yes!

Author David Price signing first autograph. Photo by Pauline Price.

I woke up the next morning and headed out to the fair with my wife, Pauline and my daughter, Kayleigh.  Pauline probably won’t be able to come to many of these things with me, since she usually works on Saturdays, but we had a wedding to go to later that afternoon so she had the day off. After an hour or so drive, we got to the fair and Stacey Longo had a bookstand I could use to put my books on. I was so proud. It might sound silly, but every step towards my dream of a writing career is exciting, even the small ones.

The Heritage Craft fair was held at the Keefe Technical School, in Framingham.  That place is huge! I was expecting, I don’t know, a gymnasium maybe, but this was set up in a seemingly endless corridor. There was room for vendors on each side of the corridor to face each other, with a walkway for the patrons down the middle. The NEHW had its banner hung proudly at the site and I had a book for sale. How cool is that?

The day was made even more enjoyable by the other NEHW members in attendance. These included, the aforementioned Stacey, Morven Westfield, K. Allen Wood and Rob Watts. Morven is, I assume, from Framingham, since her two books, Darksome Thirst and The Old Power Returns were set in Framingham. As the day went on, this became something of a running joke. My wife works in a retail store and she clearly had more experience with customers then the authors who attended. She did her best at greeting all the people walking by and managed to draw quite a few in by telling them that we had some horror stories available that were actually set in Framingham. This was great for Morven’s sales.

It was an interesting day. We had some moderate interest at times and I managed to sell my first two books. When you sell at one of these events and the author is present, they want you to sign the book. Seems obvious, right? Well, I had the nerve-wracking experience of having to autograph my two books. My hands were shaking the whole time. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, I know, but it was to me. It was pretty cool. I also remembered that authors usually write some quick one liner that goes with the story. Since I have shadow people in my story I think I wrote something like “Watch out for the shadows!” If you were at the event and purchased one of my books, you should know those are the first two autographs I ever gave. Hold on to them, they’ll be worth something, some day.

In addition to Morven’s plethora of sales, I believe Ken Wood, who is the publisher of Shock Totem magazine had a decent day in sales as well. Rob Watts was selling his book, Huldufolk, at the fair. It means “Hidden People” in Icelandic and he was even including a free CD that went along with it from The Traffic Lights, the band that is mentioned in the story. I picked up a copy of Rob’s book and one of Stacey’s anthologies before we had to leave for the wedding. It was a fun and slightly nerve-wracking day. It was a great experience. Any fledgling authors out there could do themselves a world of good joining an organization like the New England Horror Writers, which offers a great support system filled with amazing people. It also provides plenty of opportunities to sell your stuff at events including fairs and conventions. Join the NEHW now, you won’t be sorry.