We didn’t know what we were doing. Not even a little bit.
When we signed up to do our first-ever in-person selling at The BabyTime Show in Mississauga, we were pretty clueless. We had months to prepare, so we started researching and asking around and learning. We prepared and over-prepared and then prepared some more. We didn’t really know what to expect. We were, after all, going to be selling children’s books to an audience primarily focused on the newborn stage. And one of those books talks about death.
We expected things to be a challenge.
Day one was fairly quiet. After the rush and excitement of setting up and the doors opening, we waited for the crowds of people. But, probably because it was a Friday, the traffic was low. We looked to our fellow vendors and were reassured that yes, weekdays are slow. We had some interest and a few sales. A couple of vendors came by, offering their support and chatted with us about our goal and concept. We were a little anxious about what other people would think, and how our real customers would react. An older woman stopped by to tell us our book Why Mommy Works was sexist because “men worked hard to help us go back to work”. M’kay. But we smiled our “Thanks for the feedback” smiles and were determined to stay positive.
Then Saturday happened.
I don’t know what a good comparison is. There isn’t a specific example I can give that shows how we felt the next day. While there were some people who passed us by in favour of organic cotton hooded towels (which were LOVELY by the way), people stopped. People talked. People GOT IT.
And most importantly, people loved it.
We had an overwhelming amount of people who loved our approach and our books. They would pick up a book and read it aloud to a partner or family member (which, as a writer, is one of the most beautiful/terrifying things that can happen to you). We had teenagers, grandparents, pregnant women, famous people (eeek!) and kids stop by and they were all our kind of people. They thanked us, they congratulated us and they were, in short, amazing. We even received requests for upcoming book subjects.
Two customers really stood out to us. One was a quiet mother pushing a baby about ten months old in a stroller. She had a blank expression when she approached our booth and looked over the books. She picked up a copy of “Why Mommy Works”. I recognized another introverted soul, so I said a quick hello and told her she was welcomed to read the book if she liked. I didn’t want to hover so I stepped back and gave her some space. I tried not to stare but I couldn’t help watch as she read. She stopped suddenly, and looked up at me. My writer insecurity flared.
She hates it, I thought.
Then she started to cry.
Oh man, she REALLY hates it.
She motioned to her son in the stroller and managed to say that she was going back to work soon. She apologized as she cried some more. She apologized again and read the book again and cried again. After buying the set of books, she thanked me with a soft-spoken voice and left. And in that moment, any maybes or self-doubt or worries disappeared. Because if our books can impact one person in a meaningful way, then everything we’ve have done to get here has been worth it.
And then on Sunday, we had another day packed with incredible people and awesome feedback. We were high-fiving under the table, I HUGGED people (I, for the record, am not a hugger). And then the most surreal thing happened. A customer came back about an hour or two after his purchase. I recognized him immediately and, again, writer insecurity flared.
He hates it and wants a refund, I thought.
I was dreading what he was going to say when he spoke.
“Hi, I was by earlier and bought this…”, he began gently.
Ruh-roh. HE HATES IT SO MUCH HE WANTS A REFUND.
But then, he continued.
“And I wanted to know if I could have your autographs. You guys are going to be huge someday.”
Niki and I looked at each other. Was he joking? Were we hallucinating from all the energy drink ingredients coursing through our veins? We signed our autographs for the first time that weekend. It was the weirdest feeling ever and suddenly I was back in high school and trying to have a cool signature and a witty yearbook message all over again.
But it was then that it really sunk in.
They like us, we thought.
They really like us.