Those who predict the demise of books should have been at the Northwest Author Fair in Lincoln City, Oregon on Saturday. I joined 49 other authors packed into long tables outside Bob’s Beach Books to sell our books, schmooze with potential customers and network with other authors. My table happened to be next to the cash register. People were lined up buying stacks of books all day. Not necessarily my books . . . but books.
The day started with drizzle but soon changed to hot sunshine. Nonstop traffic passed nearby on Highway 101, and shorts-clad tourists toured the nearby antiques shops and stopped to browse the books. They brought kids who were bored and kids who liked to read, and quite a few brought dogs that socialized under the tables. I sat two tables over from popular author Phillip Margolin, and the fans surrounded him, buying new books and bringing bags of old ones to be autographed.
At my table, lots of people admired my book covers, especially the picture on the front of Stories Grandma Never Told (shown), but not too many actually bought my books. That’s okay. I enjoyed talking to them, and many took information they may use later to buy the books from me or someone else. Meanwhile, I was taking mental notes on what kinds of book they were buying. We had a little bit of everything at the tables–poetry, history, philosophy, memoirs, children’s books–but what people were carrying out by the dozen were genre fiction–mysteries, suspense novels, romance, fantasy, stuff like that. The woman next to me, Bernadette Pajer, did quite well with her Seattle-based mystery novels. In general, I saw that people wanted to buy books that looked familiar and accessible.
How do we convince casual readers that there is good stuff to be read in books that don’t have dragons, sexy women or men with guns on the cover? That one can read literary stories, essays or even poetry for fun? Or should I just write more fiction? When I offered freebies last year for both my novel Azorean Dreams and my memoir Childless by Marriage, the novel got far more takers than the nonfiction book did. I have a new novel on the way. We’ll see what happens.
A couple of people asked me if my books are available as e-books. They prefer to read on their Kindles or other e-readers. Yes, four of my books can be purchased (cheap) as Kindle e-books. Stories Grandma Never Told is the exception. It’s so packed with photos that I don’t know how to translate it into e-book form without making a mess of it. That leads me to thinking about a future in which all books are sold in electronic form. Would we have author fairs then? What would we put on our tables? How would we autograph our e-books? I don’t think we have to worry about that for a while. The printed book is definitely alive and thriving in Lincoln City, Oregon.
If you missed the fair, Bob’s has copies of all our books, along with lots of others. When I browse the shelves at Bob’s, I want to buy everything. And Bob’s Beach Books is owned by the same family that operates Robert’s Bookshop, the biggest used-book store I’ve ever seen.
Why not read a book today? It’s good for you.