On Saturday 28th June Mother’s Milk Books (aka me, my husband and our two children!) set off early in order to set up our stall at the Lowdham Book Festival. This was the first year we’d attended, so obviously, we were a bit unsure of what to expect. However, as soon as we discovered there was a playground right next to the village hall where the stallholders were (and lots of interesting tents outside full of activities for children) we knew that everything was going to be okay… I admit it was a long day (especially for a highly sensitive person such as myself who likes nothing better than to stay at home all day) but it was a very rewarding day. I met with lots of readers and local writers – Paula Rawsthorne and Megan Taylor were wonderful to chat to – as well as other publishers and the wonderful folk (such as those involved with Nottingham Writers’ Studio, Writing East Midlands, Five Leaves Bookshop and of course Lowdham’s The Bookcase) who all help writers and publishers get their books ‘out there’. I also particularly enjoyed listening to the song ‘The Box of Delights’ (written to celebrate 15 years of the Lowdham Book Festival) when it was sung on stage – it was performed with real enthusiasm and is incredibly catchy!
My three assistants – husband, daughter and son – had fun doing a treasure hunt, playing Pooh sticks at a nearby stream and of course, eating plenty of snacks (!) and browsing the stalls. I bought our daughter a skirt and matching headband that was handmade locally – and my husband bought ‘The Old Woman and her Pig’ from a secondhand book stall for our son. It was a book that I’d owned as a child, and it was really wonderful seeing it again – the illustrations had really implanted themselves in my memory! My daughter also had a go at a real letter press (run by Nick Birchall of Cleeve Press) and was delighted with her own hand printed creation.
Our cards and prints were popular with those who showed interest in the Mother’s Milk Books stall (which also included a selection of books published by Lonely Scribe) and our book covers, as well as handbound books, met with many compliments. We didn’t sell as many books as we’d have liked, but we covered our costs and made some over, which was good because sales in the last part of June have been (expectedly) quieter.
There’s no doubt about it – book selling is hard. Particularly in these difficult economic times it can be hard to justify spending money on books when there are so many other much more ‘practical’ things that need to be bought. And I know that as much as I love buying books myself I also find it hard to give myself permission to simply read for pleasure.
But, but, but…! I am in the ‘business’ of publishing and selling books. Although I sometimes wonder why I decided to walk this sometimes challenging path, deep down I do know why. It’s because I’m in love with stories. I love being gripped by a story so page turning, so thought-provoking that it keeps my everyday worries – about accounts, website management, dirty carpets and overflowing laundry baskets – at bay. A good story will take me to another world, and yet it will also teach me something new about myself. Yes, publishing is not easy, but I’m pretty sure there’s nothing else quite as magical that I’d rather be doing.
So fingers-crossed (and as long as the wonderful stories keep appearing in my email inbox) we will be at Lowdham Book Festival next year with more wonderful books!