There's nothing scientific about my observations and the conclusions I draw, but I've come to rely on these insights to inform decisions about which events work best for registering as a vendor.
My books (and paintings) do best with an eclectic crowd. I've noticed that at such events as the Beech Grove Artists' Collective Art Walk in Beech Grove, Indiana and the Clifton Gorge Arts & Music Festival. These are "country-style" arts and crafts events where it's okay to be a little different, but not necessarily avant garde. My work tends to be a little too traditional or tame for events that celebrate the outrageous and avante garde. This was made evident at Art on Vine where passersby praised the paintings as beautiful, but few were so persuaded by that appeal to purchase them. That doesn't mean I'm going to change what I write or what I paint, but it may help me focus on what to stock.
The economy also plays a huge role. The well-heeled shoppers at Art on Vine and those shoppers in lower tax brackets were equally choosy with their spending, many opting not to spend their money on what they could not consume. The coffee, tea, and other consumables vendors did pretty well. Vendors selling art had a much more difficult time. The two jewelry vendors near my table seemed to do a brisk business. Should I return to Art on Vine, I hope my sister-in-law who makes chain mail jewelry will join us. She'd be a welcome addition and would probably do quite well.
The type of crowd matters. Several attendees at the Northwestern Band Association Craft Show informed me that they either did not read for pleasure, read little, read only nonfiction, or read Christian fiction. That's all well and good. I have no objection to their reader preferences or non-reading preferences. It just shows that I ought to vary the type of books I bring to events of a similar caliber. At events like that one, readers expressed preferences for historical fiction and mysteries (preferably the clean and sweet kind) and young adult fiction. At Art on Vine, readers expressed more acceptance for grittier, more explicit fiction, even if they didn't buy it from me.
Very few people overall will admit aloud to a preference for explicit romance. There's still a stigma attached to the genre. Interestingly, a lot of people will answer "mysteries" when I ask them what they like to read. That response has led to my book FOCUS being my bestselling book at events.
The organization of events means a lot. Event planners who are organized and current on the details are surely underpaid and underappreciated. When the planner makes things easier for the vendor, the vendor—at least this one—is more willing to return the following year. I was glad to have printed my receipt for vendor registration and brought it to Art on Vine, because the organizer questioned my presence after he'd assured me that he believed me when I stated I'd paid for it. That left a bad taste in my mouth, but I was glad to have had that proof of purchase and not be forced to move my display and merchandise. (I was also glad we brought chairs, because the venue provided a table, but no chairs.)
Hours of operation influence an event's success. Strong attendance was cut in half on Saturday's craft show, because people left to go home and watch the OSU football game. At Art on Vine, the crowd thinned after 4:00 PM. I think event hours could be trimmed accordingly.
All in all, I appreciate the various opportunities to bring my books and paintings to the public and am deeply grateful to those who purchase them. Their support is immensely gratifying.
I'm finished with events this year. The next may be as early as March, pending approval as a vendor. I will continue to seek appropriate venues that offer a good mix of pedestrian traffic and opportunity. If you know of any such event coming up in the next 12 months that's within a 5-hour drive of Springfield, Ohio, please let me know. Send me the URL so I can check it out.
I'll be seeing you in person next year!