The Winter Book Fair failed to expectations. Or, rather, it failed to meet my expectations.
I have no complaint with regard to the event's co-host and venue, Mother Stewart's Brewing Company. They were fabulous. The venue charmed most of the participating authors with its unique character. And the brewery's owner even supplied my caffeine habit with a smile and personal delivery of a cup of coffee to my table.
Parking again proved to be problematic with authors not understanding where to park their vehicles, despite providing people with directions, a map, and explicit instructions not to park in the brewery's parking lot. The brewery posted a sidewalk sign: EVENT PARKING. Apparently, few people saw it. However, we soon got everyone straightened out, freeing the brewery's limited parking space for patrons.
Author registration for this event extended beyond those authors in Ohio. We had one author from Illinois and another from Kentucky. Frankly, I had a harder time filling the available tables than the first go-around. I think the season may have been a factor: weather and travel conditions in February in southwest Ohio are notoriously unpredictable and usually unpleasant.
As noted, most seemed to like the venue, which is an historic industrial building converted into a craft brewery and tap room. One author expressed dissatisfaction, stating a preference for a more traditional location. I think the brewing room terrific. It's interesting and unique. After all, you won't find those huge wooden beams and exposed brick walls in a modern hotel conference room. Nor will you get natural light through windows from a modern hotel conference room.
Mother Stewart's does not serve food, so they maintain a rotating roster of gourmet food trucks that operate just outside the building's front entrance. The food truck scheduled for February 10 was Bistro de Mohr, which came up from Cincinnati. They offered an interesting menu of gyros, goat tacos, pulled pork, and hog balls. Don't ask. It was delicious. We worked out a cross-promotion deal by which we helped promote the food truck and they helped promote the book fair.
Several factors worked against our hopes for unqualified success. Social media analysis suggested that the event would draw in a sizable crowd. Snow and nasty road conditions squelched that. (Of course, Sunday's patronage differs from the Saturday's for reasons so obvious I won't list them here.) Anyway, we had a steady, but thin, trickle of people wander through. Just about every author sold a book or two.
As always there are lessons to be learned. Here's my short list:
I met some wonderful and interesting people. Event like this really do bring together people together who otherwise wouldn't normally ever meet. Introvert that I am, I enjoyed that part tremendously. It's more than just professional networking, it's the opportunity to make new friends who do what I do and understand the vagaries of being an author. They get it.
"Failed to meet expectations" does not translate into a failed event. We've already scheduled the Summer Book Fair for Saturday, August 17. (Registration for the Summer Book Fair will open in May. Stay tuned!) For summer, we'll keep the longer hours: 12:00 - 7:00 PM. We'll bank on the larger Saturday crowd and begin establishing an event pattern that people will expect and anticipate. With luck perseverance, our audience will grow.
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