Have Books, Will Travel
The first day of meeting readers at the farmers market turned out differently than I anticipated. In my admittedly vivid imagination, the pleasant conversations I would have with readers were only outweighed by sales of my books. Ah me! How delightful.
Applying by email was easy. I sent in $115, payment for four weekly vending spots plus a fee to belong to the association. After paying $25 for a business license, I left City Hall with a spring in my step.
Then my troubles began.
The pop-up canopy I’d planned to purchase second hand for $50 wouldn’t work after all. I needed to attach walls to protect my books and could find none for that particular model. Also, the top was black, but as it turned out, some markets, fairs, and art shows require a white tent. Mine didn’t, but should I want to vend at another site, a black-topped canopy wouldn’t work, and there were no white canopy replacements for the second-hand tent.
I had to buy a new tent.
Many hours of research and $260 later, I was the proud owner of a tent reviewers swore by. It would go up in 5-10 minutes and could be put up by one person. And it was waterproof.
I would need weights for holding the tent down on concrete and because the market I belong to doesn’t want guy lines tripping anyone. Without these weights I wouldn’t be allowed to vend. Besides that, should my tent overturn or collapse in a strong wind and hurt someone or damage property, I would feel terrible. And I would be liable.
So, after many more hours of research, 120 dollars worth of materials, and half a day of exhausting labor pouring concrete into PVC piping, I was the proud owner of four hefty weights. After another $20 spent on cambuckles and straps to secure the weights to my tent, I was prepared for the worst.
Meanwhile, my tent arrived. When we tried to put it up, I discovered that those reviewers who had noted the tent is a little tight when new weren’t kidding. There was no way I would be able to put it up by myself. Also, the instructions were confusing. More time spent researching included watching a video of a man putting up the tent single-handed in record time.
I hated that man.
My husband helped me figure out the tent, and I cravenly asked (begged) him to take a half-day off work when the farmers market opened so he could help me wrestle the beast into submission. He wasn’t happy about the idea, but he loves his wife. After an epsom salt bath that relieved my aches and pains and gave me time to reconsider, I let him off the hook. There are times to ask for help, but this wasn’t one of them.
I had to have a sign displaying the name of my business, and I wanted one for the front of my table. I also needed hard-sided suitcases for a cute display idea and to protect my books from rain. I found a somewhat dilapidated card table at a second-hand store (I already owned two). The table cloths I purchased would hide blemishes. The additional purchases required research, shopping trips, and another $100.
By the time the first day of the market came, I was nearly ready.
Finally the fateful day arrived. I got up early and completed a long list of to-dos that I had previously overlooked, then arrived at the market already tired. When it opened for business an hour-and-a-half later I was still setting up. This went on for another 45 minutes of stress. I plunked into a chair and tried to get warm.
Did I mention that it was raining? Only die-hards show up at a farmer’s market when it rains. The few hardy souls who made it out picked up produce, garden starts, or flowers, then possibly interrupted their rush back to their cars to purchase coffee or food. I could hardly blame them for not being all that interested in browsing arts and crafts at such a time, especially not in a tent that leaks.
How could I have forgotten that the instructions I’d so thoroughly read had advised me to waterproof the seams? I pulled the table my books were on away from the opening to keep them dry. In the picture, you can see on the tablecloth darker blotches made by raindrops. Pushing my camp chair forward avoided water running down the back of my neck, but I was already cold and damp. The day passed with me huddled for warmth in a dripping tent while people glanced in or ducked in to chat until the drips at the front of the tent encouraged them to move on.
Ending a long, cold day with less-than-hoped-for sales would have made it easy to get a complex, except that I also carried ceramics by a potter who vends at the world-famous Pike’s Place Market in Seattle, and who has no problem selling her wares at farmer’s markets. I know this because Jessica Loescher of Pottery Song Ceramics is my daughter. She didn’t sell anything either.
The gong rang to close the market, and the process of packing up began.
This only took an hour, probably due to my husband showing up to help like the hero he is. By this time I was so sore I felt like I’d been beaten with a stick. Returning to a dry home and a late dinner of crockpot chicken and rice was heaven. Despite the epsom salt I added to my steaming bath, I had to wait for my muscle aches to ease before I could fall asleep.
For something to do while waiting for that to happen, I used my cell phone to peek at my website stats and check my book rankings on Amazon. Both had improved, although not from any online effort I’d made. A suspicion grew on me. It’s impossible to know for certain, but some of the market customers who had taken my business cards or bookmarks may have looked me up online. I’m also seeing traffic from the farmers market website.
I should heal up in time for next week’s market.
©2014 by Janalyn Voigt