These are the good times when it comes to selling anything on the Oregon Coast. The coast is a tourism magnet to vacationers from out of state and even out of country, and this year is no exception. And when it’s hot inland like it has been this year, the valley folks come over in droves for a few days respite from the heat. So this summer has been busy with both long-term vacationers and short-term visitors. Consequently, it’s been a good summer for selling books––mostly.
I’m involved with Backstreet Gallery this year. So it’s my first time to be involved with a business on Bay Street in the summer. OMG, Old Town is so crowded. With the gallery’s location across from Mo’s and next to B.J’s Ice Cream, it’s one of the busiest spots. Prime location! When I’m there pulling a shift, I’m always amazed at how many visitors are from Canada, England, Japan, and various countries of Europe as well as the East Coast and the South and Midwest. We expect many visitors from throughout the Northwest and California, too, and were not disappointed.
My books sell well there and the gallery only takes 10 percent. All other businesses that sell my books take 40 percent (the industry standard). Of course, we have to pay a space rent depending on how large a space we occupy, be on duty a few shifts a month, attend a general meeting once a month, and be on a couple committees. As a member-owned co-op, everyone pitches in. Only a few of my books sold in the slowest months of winter, but more sold as the weather warmed. By summer, they were selling well. One day, while I was working a shift, I sold five and another day I sold four. Of course, I work at it.
When folks come in and I’ve welcomed them and told about all the types of art on display, I explain that we have 22 local artists, one of which is not actually an artist but an author and that’s me. (If they look like they have a sense of humor, I might add, “Since I’m only here a few days a month, this is your lucky day!”) I pause briefly, and if they ask, “What do you write?” I wave my hand over my books that are right on the counter by where I’m standing and give the one-minute version that includes all four of them. If they continue to look interested, I go into the one-minute per book version, which involves picking up each book and showing a few photos and illustrations inside. If they continue to look interested, I hand them whichever book they are looking at and discuss it in more detail. It nearly always results in a sale.
People enjoy talking to the author or artist and having the author sign or personalize their new book.
Yachats Farmers Market
On Sundays in July and August, I’m at the farmers market in Yachats. It’s my third year, and I continue to enjoy it. I’m the only one selling books among 40 to 45 vendors. Most spaces sell produce or food (jams and jellies of local berries, hummus, cheeses, and free-range beef for example), but there are a couple of photographers, a few potters, a few selling jewelry, one with felt products, a gal with whimsical sunflowers and dolls made from kelp and driftwood with vintage clothing, and more. It’s an eclectic mix.
The folks visiting the market are just as diverse as to where they come from as those that visit Backstreet Gallery. And I use the same selling techniques if they look interested. I always sell about six or seven books and twice I’ve sold 15. By now, I’m recognized and in turn recognize some of the locals. I feel like an old-hand at what I’m doing. I’m no longer the new kid on the block, pretending that I know what I’m doing.
One thing about YFM is the weather. Only one day was warm so far this year. Yachats is often at the edge of the fog, which means cold and windy. I’ve learned to bring several layers. A breeze usually comes up that can turn into a wind. Some winds can blow steadily at 25 to 35 mph. Folks ask, “Aren’t you afraid you’ll blow away?”
I just answer, “I may levitate, but I don’t blow away.” I anchor each leg of my canopy with concrete blocks to which the cords of the canopy are tied. Besides the very heavy block attached to each leg, I tie two half-gallon containers of water. I also have a rope that I can tie to a nearby tree with a sizable trunk. My canopy is not going anywhere.
It takes awhile to set up my canopy, the leg anchors, and the rest of my stuff. So I get up at 4:30 a.m. so that I can get there about 7:30 to 7:40 a.m. That way, I can get my car in to my spot and unload and be gone without disrupting someone else located near me who wants to unload. A sort of choreography takes place as everyone enters, unloads, and departs to park else where. By 8:30 a.m. vendors are to be ready, even though the market doesn’t officially open until 9 a.m. You know how those things work. Folks come early to get the best pickings.
One of my favorite parts of the YFM is the parade of dogs and other pets with their owners. I see all kinds, including Burmese mountain dogs, great danes, basset hounds, standard poodles of every color, Italian greyhounds, English setters, Irish wolfhounds, German shepherds, numerous labs, and more as well as many small dogs of all kinds. And a couple of ferrets once.
I also enjoy the strolling violinist.
Of course, I also enjoy the nearness of Bread & Roses bakery and café––especially when it’s cold. That’s when nothing beats a steaming hot latte and their version of bear claws. And before I head home, I often stop by Mari’s books for a chat and to sell a few books if they are running low. All in all, I enjoy my Sundays at the YFM.
Bob’s Beach Books Northwest Author Fair
On August 19, I attended the annual book fair at Bob’s Beach Books in Lincoln City. I got to sit by Ron Lovell, a coastal mystery writer and now publisher, whom I’ve known a few years. I also saw a few others I knew. It’s always fun to touch base with fellow Northwest Writers. It was a warm day, but not as much foot traffic as in past years. So sales were not as good; I only sold four books. I did pass out a few flyers about the Florence Festival of Books and made a few connections, which always helps. On book fairs, you just never know how sales are going to go.
Bridge presentation at the Coos History Museum
I was asked to do a bridge presentation both in the afternoon and evening in Coos Bay at the wonderful new history museum. The last time I did a presentation for these folks was in 2011 at the old location in Simpson Park in North Bend. They planned for about 25 folks and about 50 showed up and half of them bought copies of Crossings, my only book at the time. So I was expecting a good turnout. Not so!
When the posters and flyers first came out about my presentation, the time was wrong. So they got out the word that they were wrong. Evidently, the new flyers and posters didn’t make it out in time. Only a few folks turned up in the afternoon and the evening. Didn’t even fill up one row either time. I did my whole PowerPoint routine and at each presentation, at least one person bought a book. And the museum bought nine books. So it wasn’t wasted effort, but it was disappointing.
Selling trip north
Certain places consistently do a good job of selling my bridge books. I’m so thrilled with the Interpretive Center at Yaquina Head north of Newport, Nye Beach Book House in Newport, the Historic Alsea Bay Bridge Interpretive Center in Waldport, Mari’s in Yachats, and the Cape Perpetua Interpretive Center south of Yachats. Whenever they need books, they call. I either mail or deliver. I made a trip up to Newport in early August to deliver books and pass out flyers about the Florence Festival of Books and stopped at each of these locations to deliver books.
Selling trip south
I made a trip down the coast on August 19. Only a few places needed books, and those were for the small bridge guides, but I was able to stop at nearly every library, bookstore, and chamber/info center in Reedsport, North Bend, Coos Bay, Charleston, and Bandon to drop off flyers about the FFOB. So it was worthwhile.
My bridge books are by far my best sellers, except for Backstreet and YFM where all four books sell well. During the past few years, I have leaned to try different venues for selling and to be flexible. Who knew when I started this whole venture that my best venues over all would be a farmers market and an art gallery! Live and learn!