What could be better than Mark Askwith in conversation with, well, just about anyone?
Not much, in my opinion. (Pizza from the Michael’s Pizzaria in Summerside, PEI, but that’s about it.)
Here’s Mark in an engaging conversation with Sienna Tristen and Avi Silver at BookMarkIt! 2019 this past May. I’ll be posting several more such interviews (and readings) from BookMarkit! over the next month or so, just as soon as I can get them edited. Stay tuned!
On Saturday May 4th, 2019, we’re holding a book fair in Whitby, Ontario called BookMarkIt!
What’s a book fair? It’s where authors come
to sell their books. It’s where people come to sell products related to books.
It’s where yet others come to peruse these wares, meet a favourite author or
two, and discover new favourite authors.
Why hold a book fair?
In my case, it’s because I published a book
recently. And since becoming an author I’ve discovered something:
Books are hard to sell.
This made me want to do something to make
it a bit easier. Not just for myself, but for other writers too.
You might be thinking, how are books hard
to sell? Can’t I just walk into a bookstore and buy them? What about online? Can’t
I just buy them there?
Sure, you can do both those things.
But you’re not necessarily going to find the best books by doing that. Just because a book is online doesn’t mean it’s going to be visible there. Take for example fellow BookMarkIt! organizer and author Pat Flewwelling’s first Helix book, Blight of Exiles. Despite thirteen excellent reviews on Amazon.com and a 4.7 Star rating, it’s still sitting at #10,911,700.
And you might be surprised to learn that a
lot of good books aren’t even in bookstores. Most major book retailers don’t
carry books by independent and self-published authors. There are a lot of
reasons for this, starting with lots of high octane competition and limited
As you can imagine, this is a bit of a challenge
for those who don’t get shelf space.
Independent publishers are committed to
publishing voices you’re not going to find elsewhere. Here in Canada, that
often means Canadian voices. These are publishers willing to take chances, not
wholly driven by the bottom line. They are like craft brewers, except instead
of producing beer, they produce quality books, every bit as unique, distinctive
and flavourful as the suds produced by your favourite craft brewer.
Also, in the last decade or so there’s been
an explosion of self-publishing. Costs have gone down and quality has gone up.
Unfortunately, like the books of many independent publishers, these books don’t
usually make their way into bookstores.
Shelf space in bookstores isn’t the only
challenge for authors and publishers. It costs money to sell books. I mean
beyond the cost of making the books in the first place. There’s the cost of
marketing and advertising those books, which is frequently a challenge for
small publishers and independent authors. Not to mention that everybody involved
in the production and selling of a book has to get their cut. Here’s an example
of how it can work:
One day I took my book to a bricks and mortar Indigo bookstore to sell it. Before I could do this I had to purchase several copies of my book from my publisher to have copies to sell. This was a fair investment to begin with. Indigo kindly gave me a table and a chair and a prominent spot on their floor. I met a lot of nice people and sold nine books that day.
Unfortunately, Chapter’s non-negotiable
policy is to take 45% of the sale price of each book sold. This forced me to
charge a rather high price for each copy of my book to break even. At the end
of the day, after Chapters took their share, I made a little under two dollars
profit for that day’s work (never mind all the work that went into creating the
book in the first place). I don’t see the point of ever trying to sell my book
at Chapters again.
Fortunately there are other avenues to sell
books. Farmer’s Markets and Dealer’s Rooms at conventions, for example. Still,
although these places don’t typically take a share of your profits, you are
required to rent a table. The cost of renting a table varies, anywhere from $10
a table (at a Farmer’s Market in Summerside, P.E.I.) to over $150 a table (at a
science fiction convention in Toronto). Sometimes you can share a table with
another writer, which helps a lot. But if you’re shelling out for a table, you
need to sell a certain number of copies of your book in order to break even.
Whether a convention, a Farmer’s Market, or
another type of event at which you rent a table to sell your books, you don’t
always break even. Why not? Sometimes the sad truth is that no one wants your
particular book. Maybe it just isn’t the right crowd. For example, sometimes
these events are populated predominantly by writers as opposed to readers. So
you wind up trying to sell your books to other writers who are also trying to sell
you their books. This is not entirely an obstacle as writers are a uniquely
supportive lot who frequently buy one another’s books. I have a lot of friends’
books on my shelves.
Of course, these examples are not the only
means by which writers can sell their books. Many writers do book tours and
interviews. Others successfully do outreach to libraries and schools which
raises their profiles while giving back to their communities.
But the more opportunities writers have to
sell their books, and the more opportunities readers have to find those
writers, the better it is for everyone. Which is why my friends and I decided
to create BookMarkIt!
Our goal is to create an attractive
environment to expose as many writers and readers to one another as possible.
And we want to do so at as little cost to writers and readers as possible. This
is why admission to BookMarkIt! is free. BookMarkIt! itself is a non-profit
organization. And writers can rent tables as inexpensively as we can manage,
and share those tables if they choose.
We’ve decided to hold BookMarkIt! at the Whitby Curling Club, located on Brock Street, the main street in Whitby, just north of Whitby’s downtown. There is a lot of traffic on this road, and the Club has a huge sign outside to draw people in. We’re placing Food Trucks in the parking lot to attract further traffic and create a bit of a stir. It will be a family friendly event. The Whitby Curling Club itself is an attractive venue, well laid out inside with plenty of room for vendors and visitors and another whole room we’ll be using for interviews and readings, which we’ll post on social media later to help writers sell their work after the event.
My friend and fellow writer (and editor and proofreader and transcriber and discerning reader) Nicky Borland just did a Q&A with me on her blog Finding the Words, The Q&A is mostly related to the writing of my novel A Time and a Place. Nicky’s blog is devoted to, as she puts it, “bookworms and word nerds.” That definitely describes me!
I really appreciate Nicky taking the time to feature a Q&A with me on her blog. I hope she doesn’t mind me mentioning that she’s also working on a novel herself. I’ve read an early draft, and it’s really good. Hopefully she will get it out into the great wide world soon so everyone can enjoy and appreciate it.