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Friday, March 31, 2006

Chapter One Hundred Seven, in which Books are exhibited

Last weekend Mad About Books participated in our first collectible exhibition. The event was held in conjunction with Cabela's Masters Walleye Circuit twentieth annual tournament in Spring Valley, Illinois, and featured decoys, lures, and other fishing-related and fowling items, as well as booths dedicated to taxidermy, decorative arts, prints, cookbooks, apparel, and a few local businesses.

On one large table and two free-standing bookshelves we offered many of our books on the featured subjects of fishing and hunting, as well as other nature and outdoor living titles; a selection of hardcover non-fiction titles attractively dressed in clear archival covers; a smattering of current fiction; and a nice representation of fine coffee table books on cowboys, American Indians, and other Americana. We printed a small flyer to distribute, scattered our business cards among the books, and on the front of the table displayed a full-color poster-sized print of our billboard.

The show opened at 8:00am. When we arrived at 6:15am, the fishermen were already out in the river. We were completely set up by 7:00am. The exhibition space was in the gymnasium of a high school, where shuttle parking for the fishing tournament was designated, and a pancake breakfast was being held across the corridor. A single piece of paper taped above an exit door identified the event to outsiders. This was the first year this show was being held, and what publicity there was had focused on decoys and fishing, both facts which seemed to severely limit the traffic. We estimate about one hundred people came through during the six hours.

It appeared one vendor sold a couple of his decorative feathers-on-paddles creations. We witnessed money exchanged for a deer sweatshirt. Most people filled out a slip for a chance to win an overnight stay at the nearby state park. We made two sales, which did not cover our costs. However, several people commented that they didn't know our store existed, and a few took our card. We also made the acquaintance of another exhibitor, a veteran of such shows, who shared some of his knowledge and clued us in to another show in our general area coming in May, which annually draws about 5,000 people. If we can exhibit there, we might generate a good bit of sales and word-of-mouth. And the dismal turnout was actually a good thing for our first showing, as we gained some easy experience (as well as free hints) that could prove greatly beneficial to us in future exhibitions.

The best part of the event is the ideas that were spawned and are now growing in our literary stream. Unfortunately, like in the commercial, we are best at coming up with the big ideas, and not so good at making them happen. We are by nature conservative, thoughtful, and slow to action. But that doesn't mean our ideas won't happen with a little help. Stay tuned for details, of either fruition or failure.

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