Nearly a week ago, I excitedly revealed that I was doing an impromptu pop-up shop in Oxford’s antiques market and received some lovely and supportive comments, tweets and retweets. You guys are the best!
The night before the market stall was spent desperately trying to get together some business cards (I think my guillotine is now dead) and pack up boxes of books according to reading age and interest. Holly designed some lovely posters for me to put up and Carl pulled together some name cards for the table. Luckily it didn’t take too long so we could go to bed in plenty of time for an early start.
I am not a morning person, as all my friends and family will tell you, so getting to Gloucester Green in Oxford for 7.45am was not the best part of the day. However, I was so excited, I didn’t really mind. There was a nice buzz in the air as people set up their stalls and I was lucky enough to get a pitch opposite two major cafes and alongside market regulars, one of whom – Peter – had been selling his antiques at the market for over 25 years and had a very loyal following of collectors, some of whom visits him every year from the USA, bearing gifts. He looked after me, ensuring I had everything I needed and lending me some plastic boxes to sit on (no chairs were provided). The man to his left was selling good, used guitars, and the man to my right antique maps, which interested a lot of people.
The day started off quite slowly, though I did sell my first book at 9am for £3! There was a slow trickle of people but by 11am it looked like I would be lucky to get back what I had spent on hiring the stall (£38 including insurance). I had been careful to arrange the stall as attractively as possible with what little I had, in terms of décor and display materials, and this is what it looked like:
Actually, the decorations proved nearly as popular as the books, and I sold my little solar-powered flower early on in the day to a solar-powered-toy collector!
Luckily, as the day went on, I had more families come along and look at the books. Most of my clients were parents or grandparents or adults buying for friends’ children and were often glad of some advice on what might go down well. I had one mum and her daughter, who was dyslexic and wanted to read but didn’t like the sort of books published by specialist publishers. There were two Spanish families – one completely Spanish from Valencia, who wanted a fun English book for their daughter who had read Diary of a Wimpy Kid in translation (I recommended Tom Gates), and the other was a bilingual family who liked two of my Spanish picture books. I also got to practice my Spanish giving tourist advice to two Colombian language students who were on a day trip to Oxford from Brighton!
By the end of the day, I had recouped my stall fee and made a tiny profit (enough for a cup of tea and piece of cake). But I thoroughly enjoyed the experience! I really love the buzz that comes with dealing with people (even the more eccentric types) and the challenge of creating a ‘brand’ that people want to buy from. Unfortunately it looks like this might only be something I do on the odd occasion as, according to the other market stallholders, books are tricky items to make a living from. Going down the specialist route – ie only selling children’s books – was the best way forward for me to make any sort of success out of it because people value specialisms. I’d like to give it another go in the summer as I still have a lot of stock. I will also have a chance to work on my presentation materials and hopefully have a bigger client base (it was a quiet day, relatively speaking, for the market).
It was a great experience though, and taught me a lot about selling. These were the other things I discovered:
1. If there is a resident eccentric, they WILL make a beeline for your stall.
2. They will sit ALL DAY opposite your stall all day muttering about Iraq, Kuwait and the IRA while potential clients give them a wide berth.
3. It’s no use de-frizzing your hair before you go. It will blossom like a tumbleweed in minutes.
4. Thermal fleecy tights don’t keep out the cold (note, gentlemen).…
5. You do meet some lovely people amongst the stallholders who will help you find your feet and give you valuable advice.
6. It’s good fun, even if you only make enough to break even!
Thank you all for your kind support and interest!