My Experience at Mayfaire Renaissance Faire
by Jordan Elizabeth
Part of my author dream has been to do book signings. I’ve always loved coming across one and I have a bookshelf of signed copies that I treasure. There’s something extra special about knowing the author wrote my name right there in the front. Since the publication of my first anthology, I’ve sought out local libraries to do a signing once a month. I have what you could call a “book signing circuit” and I make my way around that circle yearly. The libraries are supportive, loyal readers seek me out each time a new book or anthology is released, and I get to test which swag items are the most popular.
Last year I sold copies of my first anthology, 13 HAUNTING TALES, at Mayfaire, a local Renaissance Faire that is free to the public and held in the Holland Patent Village Green. Guests can revel in the shows, partake of exotic foods, purchase one-of-a-kind goods, and witness the characters - both in costume and out - strolling by. In 2014, I sat with a merry band of singing pirates. I got to share shots and stories with them, and while I didn’t lend my off-tune, nerve-wrenching singing voice to their vocals, it was a grand time. A highlight was waltzing across the grass with a man who runs a local pirate-themed bar.
This year I asked other local authors if they would like to share the cost of having a spot all to ourselves. Five of them said yes. Next came the organization. Who would sit with whom? What size spot would be needed? What quirky decorations could we get to draw attention? In the end, I purchased a ten-by-ten pop-up tent, perfect for our spot, and we set up two six-foot tables. One had a navy blue cloth and the other had gold. Let me just say, the colors popped, and we turned out to be the only group with a red tent. I set up a circular table outside, W. K. Pomeroy set up a tri-fold on it stating that we were local authors and our genres, and we placed one copy of each book in front of it. I’m proud to say that not a single copy “walked away.”
Next came the main table decorations. We situated the tables in a V-shape to gear the guests into our realm, and one author, James McNally, sat at the tip in his new Renaissance costume. For my novel ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW, I set up a wooden tree and hung keychains off the branches. The keychains were free to anyone who purchased a copy of the book. I also set up my business cards, postcards advertising GEARS OF BRASS, bookmarks, canvas bags, and extra copies of the novels on metal stands. The other authors probably got sick of me lecturing on the benefits of swag.
I have two stand-up banners, one for ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW and one for the TREASURE CHRONICLES, and I placed those around the tent to create a makeshift wall. One man said they caught his attention because his niece is named Jordyn Elizabeth, so he bought copies of my books for her. I signed them, “From the other Jordan Elizabeth.”
The other authors at my tent were Jeremy Mortis, W. K. Pomeroy, Lorna MacDonald Czarnota, James McNally, and Joan Scharf. At first we were quiet, smiling at passersby, and then I began calling out, “Local authors signing our books - autographed copies make great keepsakes and gifts!” My mom visited our stand around lunchtime and took copies of our bookmarks to pass out. That brought us some revenue, and it worked out well being the red tent because we were easy to find, but she needed to leave we were back to batting our eyelashes in hopes of a sale.
Now, I’m not that bad of a seller. I’ve had plenty of experience working in retail (a charming college job) and I’m a teacher - what is a class if not selling information to students? I took to standing beside the circular table and stopping the guests as they walked by.
James pointed out, “Your mom would be proud.” Before she left, she kept pressuring us to be more outspoken.
I didn’t jump out, flailing my arms, but I swept in front of faire guests with a flourish of the wrist and steered them over. I pointed to each book on the table and explained them in one sentence, giving just a tidbit of information. For ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW, I stated, “This is a young adult fantasy set in upstate New York.” For TREASURE DARKLY: “This is a young adult steampunk western with aspects of the paranormal.” Depending on which book seemed to catch the guest’s attention, I would elaborate. For example, “I’ve gotten great feedback and if you look on GoodReads, the rating for WITCHWOOD HOLLOW is at 4.08.”
On the second day, I decided to add in a discount to whet appetites. One book was fifteen dollars, but two were twenty-five. I wasn’t too sure how that would do, but I sold the most on Sunday and I have that discount to thank. So many people chose one book to buy, but when offered the discount, they hesitated, and then bit. “Sure, I’ll take the other.”
Standing out there had to be the best part of the fair. I got to talk to so many people and some I encouraged to join the Utica Writers Club to hone their own writing talent. My shoulders, bared by the corset, got a bit burnt, but the networking - and the breeze traveling between the stands on that eighty-one degree day - made it worth it.
Over the span of Saturday and Sunday, I sold thirty-one books, a new record. Normally at libraries I will only sell around five. One girl who bought ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW gasped when I signed her copy. “You’re making it out to me?”
“Of course,” I said. “What’s your name?”
Once she had her book in hand, she kept staring at it, then began intermittently smiling at me and her mom.
“Thank you,” she breathed. “I’ve never had a signed book before.”
Before she and her mom left, she ran back over to me to say thanks again. Readers like her are what make experiences rewarding. Needless to say, I’ll be back at Mayfaire next year, and I hope to have an even bigger group of local authors. It isn’t so much about selling my own book, but about supporting friends.
Jordan Elizabeth, formally Jordan Elizabeth Mierek, is the author of young adult fantasy ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW and contributing author for GEARS OF BRASS, both available from Curiosity Quills Press. Her next books, TREASURE DARKLY and BORN OF TREASURE, arrive in 2015. She is represented by Belcastro Agency.
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