This year’s mass cancellations of events shifted my in-person event participation to 2021, assuming COVID-19 paranoia fades and the nation regains its common sense. Signs like the Northwestern Band Association’s Arts & Crafts Show and last weekend’s Crafts & Vendor Fair at the Clark County Fairgrounds indicate that society is more than ready to return to normal.

The virus isn’t going away, folks, so we have to live with its presence. It’s best to figure out how, rather than subject this nation and others to a global depression.

So, back to the topic.

I discovered the Fall Arts & Vendors Fair just a few weeks ago and contacted the fairgrounds for information. They sent me to the organizer who then sent me to the online registration form. I filled it out and submitted it. She called me, concerned about the genre(s) of books, because she didn’t want duplicates. Fair enough. “I write romance,” I said. Next came the concern that I wanted to peddle pornography. Egad, when will people learn that romance does not equate to pornography. Yes, most of my books contain some explicit content–some even come close to the blurry line of erotica–but they’re not pornography.

Remember, the difference between romance and erotica is that romance focuses on the relationship between the protagonists–the story of that relationship. It may (and often does) contain explicit content, but it need not. Erotica is basically sex scenes strung together by a thin plot. It’s a matter of degree, rather than of type.

So, back to the topic.

After being accepted for the event, I contacted my bestie to see if she’d join me as my “booth buddy.” I offered to set up a table for her in my vendor space where she could sell her paintings. She accepted.

The set-up date arrived. My bestie and I arrived at the fairgrounds and found the vendor space. We set up the tables. Then, the organizer came by and nixed the addition of paintings to the vendor space. Since the space was already paid in full, neither of us understood why the additional merchandise was forbidden. The organizer mentioned not wanting duplicate vendor offerings and said she’d turned down some vendor applications offering redundant merchandise.

We complied and took down the second table. My friend carried her paintings back to her car. I was embarrassed and angry, having let her down. However, she was gracious about it and still kept me company over the weekend. I credit most of Sunday’s books sales to her salesmanship.

Wandering through the connected buildings of the event, we saw several duplicates in vendor offerings, from country-craftsy primitives to turned-wood pens to ribbon wreaths. (Those wreaths were really popular.) A lot of vendors sold the same kind of stuff. Several unique vendors were scattered throughout the event: one with fused glass objets d’art, another with pottery, one with honey from his own apiary, a baker offering bread, a jeweler selling glass and crystal beads and jewelry, and the artist next to us with a beautiful display of pour art paintings, coasters, and other objects. (My friend and I know her: the artist is the young woman who teaches the art classes we attend.) There was one other bookseller: she sold children’s literature. I truly don’t think that my friend’s paintings would have been a detriment to the event and can only surmise that the organizer really wanted her to purchase her own vendor space.

As for my own efforts, this event did better than the arts and craft fair on October 3rd. Attendance was encouraging. Over the weekend, sales exceeded the vendor registration fee–only the second time that’s ever happened. (I don’t count my own book fairs, because  I didn’t pay a registration fee. That’s the organizer’s perk.) 

What I did notice was that several attendees (i.e., potential customers) with whom I spoke squirmed when admitting that they enjoyed reading romance. Yes, Virginia, there’s still a stigma surrounding the genre as if it weren’t legitimate literature. One young woman confessed that she didn’t want her parents to know that she read such stuff. Those people took business cards and muttered something about finding my books online to download the e-books. I reassured them that everything was on Amazon. I doubt they’ll actually follow through.

The upshot, however, is that I consider the weekend successful. I did a bit better than breaking even. That assessment does not tally the net profit, of which there wasn’t any. If I subtract the cost of the books from the revenue of books sold, the total would be much, much less. However, gross sales at the event was encouraging.

If the event will be repeated next year, then I’m signing up; but, before I do so, I’ll see if my bestie will attend and whether she wants to sell her paintings. That way, I can alert the organizer when registering that the booth will contain both books and paintings. Heck, maybe I’ll try to sell some of my own paintings.