I was a vendor at the 2021 Imaginarium held at the Holiday Inn Louisville East in Louisville, Kentucky from June 9 through 11. Without really knowing what I was doing, even though it was the third time I'd participated as a vendor in this (usually) annual event, I signed up for "Creatives Alley" rather than the ordinary vendor room.
I'm glad I did.
Event attendance was lighter than expected, which may have been partially due to the inclement weather and/or the new location. The former location was under demolition and in terrible shape. Moving the event to another property was a smart idea.
With attendance being light and a hotel not exactly the venue to attract pedestrian traffic, Creatives Alley was the best spot for a vendor to display wares and advertise services. The organizer was also gracious enough to accommodate my request to bring and set up a second table within my "booth" space. That put me in an ideal spot to catch incoming and outgoing traffic. No, I didn't sell enough to cover the registration fee or break even on travel expenses, much less make a profit. Each time I participate in the Imaginarium, I do a little better, so I'm not ready to give up on this event yet.
The primary purpose of in-person events, I'm told by those more experienced than I in such matters, is not to sell merchandise and cover costs, but to network. This means engaging with the public and with other vendors. From my point of view, there's nothing to signal an event's lack of success than a roomful of vendors trying to sell to one another.
For a diehard introvert, engaging with the public is hard. I can do it. That's the best way to lure unsuspecting victims ... er ... potential customers and clients to my table. Once that connection is made and good manners compel the victim to answer the cheery "hello!" with a brief visit, it's time to engage in conversation. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes not. I try really hard not to be pushy by asking, "What do you like to read?" Then, if that person doesn't particularly like to read the literature I write, I might be able to direct him or her to another vendor who does.
Consider that my good deed for the day.
This year, a few writers approached me about the services Hen House Publishing offers. Most memorable, one gentleman spoke about his 200,000-word manuscript. I explained my typical recommendation for editing (multiple passes through the manuscript) and the adjunct services to complete the project. He pocketed a business card. Another young man still in college just getting started with writing. I spoke at length to him, too. He pocketed a business card. There were a couple of other people who spoke with me about the services offered. They took business cards.
Some folks purchased books. As stated, each time I attend this event, I do a little better in book sales. This year, I brought paintings, too, of which I sold a few. The compliments were validating.
Of course, not everyone with whom I spoke purchased anything. Most people didn't. That's the way these things go: the vendor expends a lot of effort to net a handful of sales. However, it's not all about the money, right? It's about making connections with people who may become customers in the future or who may refer one to someone else who then becomes a customer. Working conventions is a long game with no guarantee of success.
So, how does one evaluate the success of such an adventure? I haven't the foggiest. As far as I'm concerned, an uneventful journey (i.e., no vehicular catastrophes), a comfortable hotel room, decent food, and good placement in the venue are sufficient. The rest is on me, even if attendance isn't as robust as everyone hopes.
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