‘What sells’ reflects on my first year of doing Craft & Gift Fairs through a wonderful South of England company called Mynt Image Ltd. ‘What would I not tackle’ is the IWSG question for today.

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This is my Insecure Writers Support Group post, in which we share our successes and failures as writers, our insecurities, in fact. Anyone can join in, just sign up at the IWSG Sign-up page, write a blog post on the first Wednesday of the month, and go back to that sign up page to link with everyone else–or a goodly sample. Our host is Alex J Cavanaugh, and his co-hosts for the month are:

 Kim Lajevardi, Cathrina Constantine, Natalie Aguirre, Olga Godim, Michelle Wallace, and Louise – Fundy Blue!

What sells at my Craft Fair stall: the past year in review

The end of August saw me decide to continue with the craft fairs for another year. It helps that my Public Liability Insurance has to be renewed then, so its a decision point for me. AND the organisers released their venues and dates for 2023, so I could book myself up for next year.

It became clear during the spring that I have some best sellers. Princelings of the East (book 1 in the series) sold 31 copies, and my dad’s memoirs White Water Landings (29 copies) were almost guaranteed at least one purchaser at every venue. So, surprisingly, was one of my short story volumes, Weird & Weirder (20 copies). I’m not sure if people buy it for friends/partners who are weird (or like to think they are) or because there’s a lighthouse on the cover. Lighthouses sell in this part of the world–pictures, cards, models, ceramics, and, obviously, books. I have no idea if they sell elsewhere as well. The Perihelix comes in fourth (14 copies); when I sell one, I generally sell more, including others in the series. But it doesn’t sell so well in the more touristy areas. Snowflakes and Shivers did well during the winter, as intended (10 copies).

Disappointingly, I’ve not sold at least one copy of each of my titles. I’ve sold the notebooks, but only four titles in the Princelings series (Princelings, Pirates, Traveler and Willoughby). Hopefully going back to the same venues will bring follow-on purchases..

book nook
If room, the book nook at the fair helps…

My takings per show vary widely — from over £160 at one, to only £60 at another. Set this against an average table fee of £35 and you can see I’m barely breaking even before the other overheads. In all I’ve taken over £1200 for the year. I don’t know whether my low sales in the period before Easter were due to the time of year, venue, or just my selling technique. I’ve been back to those venues with more success since. My first fair was my least successful (although I was very happy to have sold some books!) so perhaps it’s me.

I ask people what they like reading. I have some (usually unstated!) reactions to their answers:

  • Crime – well, yes, I read that too, but I leave writing it to others
  • Anything, really – rarely takes any interest in what I have to sell, probably only reads ‘big names’
  • Factual things – my dad’s memoirs, perhaps? This often gets interest, if not a sale
  • Kindle books – I have these on kindle (I have sold four)
  • I only read newspapers – sad misinformed b….
  • I don’t read – a surprisingly large number, but some go on to talk about eye problems, others about dyslexia, some take audio books, and I’ve learnt a lot from them
  • I’ve already too many books at home – there is no such thing as too many books
  • You should see the size of my reading pile – bet it’s smaller than mine.

So, from my 12 days of fairs in 21-22 I’ve learnt a lot, and gained experience. Plus more sales than I’ve had in one year since kindle freebies changed – and nearly all of them in paperback! So I’m doing 21 dates in 22-23, including a new venue – Chichester. If you’re in the area, please check the fairs out.

I’ve also developed a few ideas of books to write, too.

What am I not going to write?

This is the answer to the IWSG question of the day. What genre am I not going to write?

I considered not writing romance, historical, crime or horror. But then, there’s a bit of those in all my short stories, and the only reason I don’t write crime is that so many people write it very well. I think I should focus more on what I’m known for – worlds not quite like our own, with different technology, and things that stretch the imagination.

Maybe I could safely say I’m not writing erotica. But there’s a very raunchy scene in Curved Space to Corsair, and I sold someone the series on the strength of that one scene! Maybe I should go down the scifi-romance line. But I’m not likely to write dystopia and zombies. Okay, I’ve done a short story or two, but I really am not going to bring out a whole novel with them – too depressing for me.

So, short story-wise, it’s no holds barred. Novels… no dystopian zombie apocalypses.

What about you?

What sells and what would I not tackle? #IWSG
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18 thoughts on “What sells and what would I not tackle? #IWSG

  • 7 September, 2022 at 10:04 am
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    Thanks for this honest overview! Congratulations on your sales. Much more thank you for your efforts on bringing reading stuff to the world. Best wishes, Michael

    Reply
  • 7 September, 2022 at 10:18 am
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    Great insight into your ventures. Keep it up, Jemima. I’m thinking I need to crawl out of my reading and writing hiatus soon. You’ve got me thinking 🙂

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    • 10 September, 2022 at 9:12 pm
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      Nice to hear from you Steve. I hope the family is well. Im in a writing hiatus now, but I did manage a flash for Monday.

      Reply
  • 7 September, 2022 at 12:42 pm
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    Glad you are doing fairly well at the fairs. I admire you for going to them. I wouldn’t have the energy for them. And I wouldn’t write erotica either.

    Reply
    • 10 September, 2022 at 9:13 pm
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      Well, I did write a fairly explicit chapter when they had an orgy! I was very surprised when I finished it. But it fitted the plot, and after discussions with my beta readers and editors, I just added a warning to the blurb. 🙂

      Reply
  • 7 September, 2022 at 2:56 pm
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    Some of those answers were funny. Don’t read – so sad!
    That is cool you have the opportunity to do so many venues.

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    • 10 September, 2022 at 9:15 pm
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      Yes, I’ve learnt not to ask everyone who goes past, only those who glance at the books. I think it takes people a while to realise I wrote them.

      Reply
  • 7 September, 2022 at 4:41 pm
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    This has been my experience, too. Even when I was invited to speak at a conference, I did spend some of my own money. On the bright side, I’m glad to hear no horror, dystopian, or
    apocalyptic tales will be forthcoming! You are brilliant at what you are doing!

    Reply
  • 8 September, 2022 at 2:25 pm
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    Congrats on your book sales Jemima, I wish you more of those 🙂 Love that you you are trying new things. 🙂

    Reply
  • 9 September, 2022 at 3:40 am
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    Your Craft Fair odyssey is very enlightening. And of course, the more experience you gain, the better you’re doing. No surprise there. I wish you all the best on your next year circuit.

    Reply
    • 10 September, 2022 at 9:17 pm
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      You’re probably right. I hope I haven’t saturated the market this year, and some people come back to buy book 2 and beyond, next year! But the economic situation may hit readers badly.

      Reply
  • 9 September, 2022 at 11:05 pm
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    I would be surprised if you went back to those fairs and didn’t have a few people pick up other books after buying previous books in the series. This year at the one event I did, I had a few people who had bought from me last year come and get more.

    It’s all a learning experience and takes time to figure out how to layout your table, what to bring, and what to price stuff. You’re doing great, though.

    Reply
    • 10 September, 2022 at 9:18 pm
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      I do hope to see some of the people again, especially the younger readers. Wouldn’t that be great!

      Reply
  • 10 September, 2022 at 3:33 am
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    Wow, I think you did great at those craft fairs! I’ve been trying to figure out how to get into that myself, and am having a lot of trouble finding the right venues—haven’t yet stumbled on anything like the unified organization you’ve been signing on with.

    I was thinking about you and what your answer to this question might be! Erotica is a definite no for me, but you might do it pretty well, based on some of those scenes in the Viridian System :). Totally good point about being open to almost anything in the flash fiction, but not novel length—I’m that way about several kinds of writing as well.

    Reply
    • 10 September, 2022 at 9:22 pm
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      Well, thank you for your wise words in the editing. I kind of miss those boys.

      I think the advantage we have is that the UK has all these small towns which are important hubs for commerce (and tourism). I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like that in the US on my visits, although some of the places in New England have that sort of market town feel. I think you need to locate the suburban centres. Or find out about the craft scene, or something like that.

      Dani is doing the larger cons; she’s going to larger cities as a result. Greater outlay, but getting the results.

      Reply

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