Darcy Scott, again, this month reminiscing about the time, a few years back, that my publisher asked me to cobble together a talk about attracting customers at book shows, fairs and the like—something we billed as a mini-course tying some very basic Feng Shui concepts (something I was really into at the time) to the magic that can result when you bring authors, their books, and the reading public together with some sleight of hand and plain old fashioned Chutzpah. I’d been having pretty good luck at these events and figured I could probably pull it off, so I titled it Feng Shui and the Art of Book Sales, and let’er rip.
The intro to my pre-Covid version of this little chat included a twenty-second, grossly oversimplified philosophy of Feng Shui, as well as a discussion of such concepts as making the most of your venue’s physical layout and the role of props, doors and mirrors (I’m serious), to crafting that outrageous one-liner and closing the sale despite those hovering, non-buying browsers who inevitably throw you off your game.
If you’re a writer, this can be wildly riveting stuff; if not (and you opt to continue reading anyway), it will no doubt open a window onto a fringe, somewhat peculiar segment of our book-selling universe. The fact that large, in-person events and mask-less, face-to-face interactions are currently verboten matters not. Consider this my attempt to lighten the heavy mood that’s descended on me with the virus on the rise yet again and this nightmare of an election just eleven days away. So with apologies to the many who know a hell of a lot more about all this than I do, here goes.
According to the tenets of Feng Shui, we’re energetically connected to everything around us. Where we are physically in relation what we want is key. Deriving positive energy, or chi, from the universe and focusing our intentions on getting these things is the point. The principals involved are complicated, if not downright bizarre, but for our purpose we’ll focus on the first principal: to know what we want and direct our energies toward obtaining it. Freaky, I know, but stay with me here.
The myriad dos and don’ts of all this can be confusing and a bit, well, out there. Take doorways, for instance—the important mouth of chi through which all our opportunities flow. In the book show environment, we want to position ourselves so that we can see the doorway but not be in direct alignment with it, never facing into a corner either, because that scatters energy. And then there are the mirrors. Placing a mirror to reflect a cash register, your jewelry, or placing it close to the front door of the venue is said to bring more money chi, customers and prosperity to you. Bizarre as it sounds, I’ve tried this with generally good results. As for your table, it should remain as uncluttered as possible, allowing a clear path between you and your customer. Books, props and other paraphernalia cluttering this space merely block the energy between you.
Every author has a tried and true shtick she relies on; mine involves both a physical set up I swear by and a variety of props I drag to my events, including a worn lobster buoy whose colors perfectly match those on the cover of Matinicus, my first Maine murder mystery, as well as a working lamp featuring a ten-inch lobster claw harvested from a very large, very real and long-deceased crustacean. Close to a hundred years old when it was, uh, repurposed, according to a lobsterman who examined it. Great conversation starter, you gotta admit. Which brings us to the age-old question of when or even if to engage the browsing public. I generally give potential customers a minute or two to peruse my table then pipe up with something along the lines of, “Hi, my name’s Darcy and I kill people.” Neither of these things has anything to do with Feng Shui, of course, but they sure get attention.
While I’m currently unable to engage the public at these kinds of events, simply talking about them really lights me up. I feel so much better now. Thanks for listening.