When I agreed to run a vendor booth at the Watch City Steampunk Festival for the Small Publishing in a Big Universe Marketplace, I was hopeful that several authors might also attend to help set up and sell books. It sounded like several authors had expressed interest. But, as the event approached, it became apparent I was going to be on my own. The day before, my wife took pity on me and agreed to go with me to the event to keep me company and, at least, make sure I could go to the bathroom when necessary.

Since I normally get up pretty early anyway, I had been planning to leave early the morning of the event. But my wife suggested we travel the night before and stay in a hotel so we could have a more leisurely time. She tracked down a room for us and made reservations, so — after my last class on Friday — we hopped in the car and drove to Waltham. There was a restaurant across the street from the hotel that had an outdoor patio and a good beer selection, so we had a pleasant evening.

The morning of the event, we drove to the common where the festival was getting set up and, after checking in, found a place to park where I could leave the car that wasn’t too far from where our booth was located. Waltham doesn’t allow vehicles on the common, so we had to move everything from the car about 200 yards. It took about 45 minutes to schlep everything over and then an hour to set up the tent and table, hang the banner and flags, set out the books, and get price tags on everything. But we were easily ready by the time the festival began.

The festival was well attended. There were thousands of people of all ages, many wearing steampunky costumes: top hats with goggles and fascinators; elaborate steampunky backpacks, carts, and gear; dresses with hoop skirts and bustles; and pseudo-victorian clothing. Kevin Harkins of Kevin Harkins Photography shared a gallery of imagery that includes a lot of nice pictures of people’s costumes.I wore my straw fedora with steampunky goggles and my maroon paisley smoking jacket over a t-shirt with the Water Dragon logo. A number of people commented positively on my suitable attire.

Initially, there had been a prediction of rain. In the end, the weather was cloudy but fair. It was a bit cool — not too breezy — with the sun peeking through in the afternoon. If it had been 10 degrees warmer, it would have been perfect.

I developed a pitch to welcome people to the table: “We’re Small Publishing in a Big Universe — a cooperative of independent authors and small presses that have collaborated to stock a table for you. I’m an author with Water Dragon Publishing and, since I’m here, my books are in the middle.” Then I would describe my two books and introduce the books by the other authors. Finally, I would invite them to pick up the books to learn more about them and not hesitate to ask me questions.

We sold a fair number of books. My books sold best: about half the sales were Revin’s Heart followed by Better Angels: Tour de Force and Snail’s Pace (the other fairly steampunky book). I sold two hardcovers, which kind of surprised me and made me glad I’d brought a few. I was disappointed to not be able to sell more books by the other authors. A lot of people took business cards: both SPBU’s and mine.

At the end of the festival, we had to pack everything up and schlep it back to the car. Our feet were pretty sore by this time. Once we finally had everything in the car, we drove to Dirigible Brewing, which was on the way home to have dinner and a well-earned beer.

For my wife and I, the trip was a bit nostalgic because it hearkened back to the time before I went to graduate school when we spent a year on the road together doing educational assemblies. Every morning, we drove to an elementary school unpacked and set up a portable planetarium, did shows, then packed up and headed to the next school. It was a fun time of our lives.

Several people asked if we’d be back next year and I indicated I thought we probably would. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. And it’s always nice to sell some books.

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