Even Book Fairs That Are a Bust Have Their Benefits

At six AM last Saturday morning, I packed up my suitcase of books and SWAG (bookmarks, cookies, etc.), loaded my car, and travelled eighty miles to participate in a book fair. The fair coordinator told us authors she was expecting a big turnout. We needed to have at least ten copies of each of our books on hand and plenty of goodies to give out to customers. Let me just say my suitcase was HEAVY. As I tooled down the highway, I hoped it would be a lot lighter by the end of the afternoon.

To say that things didn’t go quite as expected is an understatement. Only a handful of customers appeared, and most of us sold nothing- Zip! Whether it was the heat or the Delta variant, folks didn’t show up.

My heart went out to the clearly frazzled, disappointed coordinator who had put so much work into the event and to authors who had travelled much further than I to participate.

But as I drove home that night, I reflected that the day hadn’t been a total disaster. In fact, I’d enjoyed it. I met some lovely writers, and since we had virtually no customers, we had plenty of time to talk. The gentleman who sat next to me, Erv Klein, was delightful. We swapped books, and I was able to bring home his award-winning historical novel, Subterfuge, to my history-loving husband who devoured the book in two days. In addition, I learned that Erv, the board president of Louisville Literary Arts, enjoys speaking to writing groups and book clubs. I knew he’d be a huge hit as a speaker for Derby Rotten Scoundrels, the Ohio River Valley chapter of Sisters in Crime, and we’ve now booked him for January.

We writers are an endlessly interesting and supportive group. Even when events go awry, I feel fortunate to be part of such a special community.


  1. ERVIN KLEIN on September 3, 2021 at 1:36 pm

    I, too, was disappointed in the turn out but, like you, found that silver lining. What an interesting person you are! And when an old friend showed up, he was as charmed by you as I was.

    Thanks for touting me to the Derby Rotten Scoundrels and for sharing my book with your husband. I’m so glad he liked it.

    Despite the turnout, I intend to return next year. Lexington is a neat place and I want to support the organizer.

    I hope to see you soon!

    Erv Klein

    • Lynn Slaughter on September 5, 2021 at 11:13 am

      Thanks so much, Erv! Derby Rotten Scoundrels (local chapter of Sisters in Crime) is excited to have you come to speak with us!

  2. M. E. Bakos on September 4, 2021 at 3:23 pm

    Bummer about the fair. Glad you made it a worthwhile venture!

    • Lynn Slaughter on September 5, 2021 at 11:14 am

      It rally was! We writers are a special group!

  3. Judy Penz Sheluk on September 4, 2021 at 4:12 pm

    There is always a silver lining. At one book fair, I handed out bookmarks but didn’t sell a single copy. One of the woman I chatted with emailed me about a month later. Would I talk at her PROBUS meeting. Yes. I did, 120 people showed up and everyone bought at least one book. And I was paid $100 to speak for 30 minutes.

    Nothing is ever a waste of time. And you now have Erv.

    • Lynn Slaughter on September 5, 2021 at 11:15 am

      What a great story, Judy– and a good reminder that we never know where something might lead. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Leslie Budewitz on September 4, 2021 at 5:38 pm

    Lynn, you are so write — er, right! It’s all about the community and your own attitude. Remember, too, that every event has a reach beyond actual attendance, through the pre- and post-event publicity. I got an email from a reader who at the last minute couldn’t make the event, but bought signed copies through a local retailer, and stories like that abound.

    • Lynn Slaughter on September 5, 2021 at 11:18 am

      Thanks for sharing that, Leslie! You just never know what may come out of what appears to be a book fair bust!

  5. Vicki Batman on September 5, 2021 at 3:08 pm

    A well-known book promoter held a Valentine’s event. Only a handful of readers came. It was so sad.

    • Lynn Slaughter on September 5, 2021 at 3:49 pm

      I really feel for the folks who put so much time and effort into organizing events that don’t pan out well, Vicki.

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