I got home from the Sacramento book fair on Sunday and I was BEAT. The reclining on the sofa with my swelled feet propped up sort of beat. And, I'm a bit bummed too.
The fair was fairly well attended as far as I could see. Lots of people walking through. Lots of people eyeballing things, picking up books, leafing through books, reading books -- but not a huge number of people BUYING books (at least for me. The dealer next to me was doing quite well, thank you, due to a customer who had requested a series of books to be brought to the fair for approval).
I did sell some books. I made back my expenses, with a tiny bit extra (very tiny).
BUT -- here's the thing ... If I DON'T make a decent amount at a book fair, it's hard for me to keep operating a business. AND, if I back out of book fairs, I'm likely not the only one to do so. Others will too as their overhead costs soar. This means that chances are, in just a few short years, book fairs will be a thing of the past. The dealers won't be able to keep selling at them and will back out. The outfits that put on bookfairs rely on dealers' bodies in booths to make their money and will have to cancel fairs.
This leaves book lovers who want to SEE and FEEL and TALK to informed dealers without access to each other.
This is NOT a gripe, by the way, this is a look at a possible scenario for the future of antiquarian books. Book fairs give both dealers and customers a way to communicate, and to learn new things from each other. It's a symbiotic relationship. But it can't continue (at least for those of us in the middling area -- neither small fry selling everything for cheap, cheap, nor for the heavy-hitters who have stock that ranges in the mid four figures on up) and that's really a sad thing to see.
I personally will continue to exhibit at book fairs until it is completely non-viable to do so, but I fear that time is coming soon for me. I haven't the resources to continue to lose money or barely eek out a profit from book fair sales.
I don't think its a case of having unsaleable stock either. Nor is it a case of having the WRONG stock with me for the fair. I don't really know, in fact, WHAT the reason is for the book fairs lackluster sales, but as I said before. It bums me out.
I do have an option to exhibit at another fair in October in San Francisco -- I have to make a choice between it and the Family Camp out for Boy Scouts as they are on the same weekend -- so it's going to take some long hard thinking about what is more important to me and my family. (I'd love to hear some comments from blog readers on their take on book fairs).
If I do end up attending the book fair in San Francisco, I'll be sure to update the details on it here on the blog. In the meantime, It's back to normal online book selling, cleaning up the PILES, and PILES of things that didn't get done for the last several weeks, repacking things, updating things, finding seasonal items that should have been listed by now and generally getting on with regular work.
I'm still bummed though.
Oh, here are some pictures I took of my booth -- I was trying for some close up shots of books on the shelves, but the lighting was wacky. (PS: If you click on the photo, you do get a bigger picture. I just tried it.)
This shelf had a group of Astronautics, Atomic Energy / Atomic warfare and some misc. fun books.
Here's some of the picture books. Sorry -- you can't really see each book clearly.
This group of books was brought specifically for Sacramento -- it's Western Americana, Cowboys, Californiana and Native Americans.