Every author today who is not already a celebrity needs to wear two (at least) hats: writer (with an editor rolled in) and marketer. The two roles frequently don’t sit well together, but there is nothing new about that. Think of politicians, who must all too often choose between what is best for their country and what will get them reelected. (Never mind that I suspect some of them don’t know what is best for the country, as opposed to what is wanted by those who fuel their campaigns.) For that matter, scientists are constantly distracted from what they do best, coming up with new ideas and ways of testing them, by the demands of writing proposals for money to fund those tests.

In that sense, my life as a writer has been very much taken over by my life as a rather ineffectual marketer.

Farmers Market, mid-May

I can’t travel very much any more, and even locally it is hard to get venues for signings. (I’ve managed one, at Gulliver’s.) This summer I’m going to try concentrating on Alaska and Fairbanks, hoping some tourists as well as locals will at least discover my science fiction book, Homecoming. I’ve joined a marketing group, the Alaskan Association of Authors, who will have my book for sale at all the major fairs and craft shows in the state. In addition, I decided to try selling it myself, more for promotion than actual sales, at the Tanana Valley Farmers’ Market.

The first hurdle was getting the jury to accept that a book written in Alaska by an Alaskan was indeed made in Alaska, even though the publisher was Outside. Thus my late start.

My table, Farmers' Market 6/22/11

The Farmers’ Market is Wednesdays 11 am to 4 pm, Saturdays 9 am to 4 pm, and Sundays 11 am to 4 pm. The Sunday venue is new and outdoor only; Wednesdays and Saturdays they have both a building and a paved outdoor area. I tried it out for the first time yesterday, with an indoor table and no intention of even trying Saturday or Sunday.

I learned some things.

First, bring mosquito repellant.

Second, dress in multiple layers. The building is unheated, and temperatures can range from the 40’s to the 80’s—not usually in a single day, but considerable change can occur from 11 am to 4 pm.

Third, if at all possible bring your wares on wheels. I carried in a box of books, staggering all the way. If I had thought in advance, I would have packed books and as much of my display as I could in my roll-on suitcase.

Sales? Well, I sold two books, on what other vendors said was one of the slowest days of the season. Financially, I paid $10 for the table plus 10% of my take so I came out ahead but not by much. The 5 hours plus of my time were well below minimum wage, but I’m looking at this more as publicity than immediate return—especially as I’ll probably have a sequel, Tourist Trap, out in a few weeks.

Did I mention I’m thinking seriously of going this Saturday?