Monday, May 2, 2011

Selling in the Rain

Last weekend I took part in the Philadelphia Book Festival—an annual literary extravaganza sponsored by The Free Library of Philadelphia. It consisted of renting a tent and trying to hawk my books, clad in many layers of clothing to keep off the rain and swilling down gallons of hot coffee to keep off the chill.

“Do you like mysteries?” I cried out to the occasional passersby. The trick was to make eye contact, which was difficult when he or she was hunkered down under an umbrella, gaze fixed on the ground, trying to avoid lake-sized puddles. If someone did raise their eyes and came within scanning distance of my wares, I would begin to babble about the merits of my sleuths and quote the price, pointing out how much lower it was than the one printed on the cover flap. If my prey gave a flat “No.” to my sale’s pitch I would let them go without flinching. After all, I was a hardened writer/bookseller. Rejection rolled off me like water off a duck’s back. Although, I must admit, when they accompanied their refusals with an ugly facial expression, I experienced a slight twinge in the vicinity of the heart.

Unfortunately, as the rain poured harder, the visitors grew scarcer and they tended to run, rather than saunter past my tent. I had to shout my sales pitch and wave my posters to get their attention. Then a bolt of lightning or a crash of thunder would send them scurrying off. Finally an announcement came over the inter-com that the Festival was closing early. Shortly afterward, a nice man, a member of the Library staff, came by and dropped off a plastic poncho for me to wear while loading my books in my car, and an apology for the weather (as if he was to blame!)

The best part of the day was when a bunch of us soggy vendors from MWA gathered back at my house for warmth, food and drink, and discussed the pros? and cons of selling in the rain.

Robin Hathaway

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