As I said, I blame myself. I guess all of us should have realized that it made no sense to have a book fair not associated with a conference or other event that might bring in a crowd. This made it even more fruitless to have it begin during the day on a Friday when many people are working. I saw one well-known local author’s table set up on Friday, but no author. Perhaps he had to work, or he was savvy enough to know it would be a waste of time to be there on Friday. However, Saturday was no better than Friday. I have to wonder how well promoted the fiesta was. Another thing it had going against it is that it was Mother’s Day weekend, and graduations were being held at the Center as well. Either no one looked at the calendar to see if it would conflict with a holiday, or it was the only weekend the organizers could get the very large exhibit room at the Convention Center.
The Convention Center—what a maze to navigate and a lot of wasted space. You could drive a Hummer through the halls with a detail of soldiers along the sides. People had to pay for parking (exhibitors parked free—about the only concession). The cost of enjoying the exhibit was $10. Some other fairs throughout the country do charge, but it’s usually $5 or $6. No one was allowed to bring food or water in so that the airport-priced concession stand could profit ($4 for a muffin or pretzel from a limited menu of junk food; $3 for a bottle of water). Oh, if an exhibitor wanted a power outlet for equipment, the additional cost was $82 for the three days.
About the only positive aspect was that the cost of exhibiting was comparatively reasonable: $35 for an event license from the City of Albuquerque; $150 for a table, and as many as three people could share a table; I believe a booth went for $300 or $400. But the cost is only reasonable if the event attracts a sizeable crowd (and let’s not forget those exhibitors from out of state who had the additional costs of travel, housing, and meals). In this case, the money would have been better spent on other promotional venues that would actually reach an audience.
Speaking of audience, most of the scheduled presentations seemed geared to other writers, not readers. Fairgoers might be interested in author interviews and presentations that targeted them, not other writers. Besides, why would exhibitors abandon their exhibits to attend, especially since they'd want to be there for the few potential buyers passing through? Some exhibitors, in desperation, actually reached out to each other to buy their books.
A few of us left early Saturday and did not return on Sunday. You have to cut your losses, and the time can be better spent writing, promoting, even relaxing, or being taken out to dinner by your family for Mother’s Day.
I blame myself, but most of us are inclined to trust that the organizers of such an event would actually do a good job of thinking and planning. Caveat emptor.
I could go on about other publishing tollbooths we authors encounter, but that’s a topic for another blog post.