After much vacillating, I committed to spending my entire Sunday, September 10th, in the streets of Chicago selling books at Printers’ Row.
I have done Printers’ Row with the Illinois Presswomen group for years, but last year, when I selected Sunday, it rained buckets. I took one look out the window and realized that we would not be journeying to Printers’ Row that day.
So, scratch Printers’ Row, 2022.
I had selected Sunday because it was $10 cheaper than Saturday, which was also true this year; it cost $130 to be present at the booth from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. My Presswomen group does not allow you to purchase half of the 8 hour time, which is unfortunate. I am good for 4 hours. In other years, have split up the time from 10 to 2 and 2 to 6, with me taking the late time. The plan was to pay me for ½ of the $130 fee when I showed up to relieve the first author in the morning slot.
This worked out well until the year before the downpour, when people who had said they would show up and man the booth from 10 to 2 bailed at the last minute. It was too late for me to secure another partner. This left me holding the bag
for the entire day, which is exactly what happened this year. If I am “out” $65, I have a good chance of breaking even. Not so at $130.
I got up at 9 a.m. and was at the booth by 10 a.m.
By 2 p.m. I was ready to quit, but I continued until 5:05 p.m.
Considering that I am only able to stay awake for about four hours, this 9-hour shift pretty much wiped me out. I am not up to full strength after 33 radiation sessions for cancer. The Tamoxifen I have most recently been taking has a known side effect of extreme exhaustion. I just had blood work done on August 30th to determine why I am only really “alert” for 4 hours.
My spot at the table was between a fun African American group selling books for $10 (like me) with a “one book for $5” offer and the words “gasp” frequently repeated, and a woman with a large stuffed elephant, who gave me a handout that said her name was Dr. Elena Ashley. I asked the author to my left if she had ever taught school about three times. I never really received a response that pinned that down, although Ms. Ashley has written “A Teaching Guide for Educators and Parents.” The characters in her books are apparently named Splunkkunio Splunkey, Detective and Peacemaker and Big Bully Holly Howler, in addition to Ellie the Elephant.
The stuffed elephant was quite large and Dr. Ashley kept speaking in a high voice to simulate “Ellie the Elephant.” As someone who used to travel with a costumed Cat in the Hat, I understand the desire to attract children with such ploys (although, in my own case, it caused very small children to run screaming from the library!), but listening to someone talk in a high falsetto voice for 6 straight hours can really be a trial. I may have been heard to mutter “Just shoot me now” after five hours of Ellie the Elephant.
I didn’t have as much table space as the elephant lady, because she had gotten there first. At various times she had her husband and a young African American child pulled up to the table on chairs. I felt like you do on a crowded airplane flight when you have nowhere to put your feet, because you have stuffed your purse under the seat in front of you and other stuff under the middle seat. In my own case, I had a large yellow bag with prop-up things for my books and table cloths and change boxes and my charged Square device. All had to be stuffed under the table, because of the 3 occupied chairs to my left and behind me.
Most of the people in my vicinity complained that the price of parking their car had escalated dramatically from $20 to $80. My spouse dropped me off and picked me back up; that went well, saving us $80. I also took my own lunch, which probably saved me a large amount, also. As usual, Art Brauer, our President, had done a great job setting up the booth and providing water and chips. (Thanks, Art.)
I never anticipate making any money at Printers’ Row. My goal is always to break even and to participate. I can’t make many of the Presswomen meetings, so this is something I can and should do.
I met a lovely woman from LeClaire, who had actually read all 3 of my “The Color of Evil” novels and talked about her plans to open a bookstore/tequila bar in LeClaire once she retires from her duties teaching at Pleasant Valley High School. I also met a political science professor, who said he was considering using my “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House” (Vols. I & II) as a text in his classes. Both of these were nice developments, but, if you want to measure my day in dollars earned, I made $65, having spent $130. However, as mentioned, if this had been a “normal” year, my investment would have been ½ of the time, or $65, and that means I broke even, like most years.
A lot of work to just “break even” but I’m told I need to “get out there” more.
I also picked up about 10 new names for the mailing list, which is now topping 6,000 names.