Early November found me in Hinckley, Minnesota, attending the Governor’s Opener Deer hunt which was run out of the Grand Casino. After returning home for a week, my 2011 Ford Ranger Sports truck was off again for a 600 mile drive to the Miami Book Fair with an overnight stopover in Orlando to visit some cousins and drop off a knife that I refurbished for their dad.
As the book fair was a weekend event, this was a workday-school day event for my nephews, and our time together was limited. Being in every respect but blood an older uncle to these two, we had a lot of catching up to do. Michael, the dad, had worked through some life events which included a divorce. He and his son Tate were staying in Michael’s parent’s house while his dad, Bob, was spending the summer at the family lake cabin in Michigan. Bob’s wife had died two years before, and so the entire family had undergone some profound readjustments.
Michael had finished a college degree, got a job in Florida’s now booming construction industry and is working his way up in the company’s structure from a procurement officer to a site manager. His life now has a meaningful purpose, his personal issues are under control and he said that there had never been a more fulfilling part of his life. From everything that I could see this is absolutely true. Tate is now in the 10th grade staying with his dad and growing up to be a handsome young man who is starting his journey on figuring this life thing out.
This is a heavy trip to lay on a 10th grader. Michael, Tate and I had last interchanged two years previously when I had passed through on the way to a successful hog hunt in South Florida. We had, and have, an excellent relationship mostly because I see as my input helping these two finding their own way through life, rather than coming down too hard on your should do this or that. The two and three generations divide between us give us different perspectives. I was, and am, and reader. Them not nearly so much, and here I was thrusting a 200-page book at them and suggesting that they not only read it, but implement some of its principles.
My challenge was how to get this done. First, I wrote a quite different business book. It starts off more like an adventurous autobiography with me pulling fuses from a ton of lit explosives that our helicopter had crashed on top of in 30 degrees below zero weather in Copper Center, Alaska. I further use storytelling to illustrate the business principles that I describe. It is an asset that this book does not look like, or read, like a typical text book. I wrote it to be a business book for the non-business major to provide an interesting read, while also covering the nuts and bolts of issues of how to name a business, file for a U.S. trademark, register a copyright, apply for a patent, find meaningful partners and finance new ventures.
As so often occurred in Shakespeare’s plays, I had to hatch a plot that would require both of them to do more with the book than just page through it. I gave each of them autographed copies of the book. I gave an additional copy to Tate to give to his teacher to review. I suggested that Tate volunteer to do a book report on the book with the title of How Storytelling Can be Used to Illustrate Business Principals. If carried off successfully this could be an A+ book report. However, that report may never be written in Middle School because of rigid curriculum guidelines that have been enacted in many school systems. The books that will be read in given grades, the topics that will be covered and even the methods of presenting them are often out of individual teachers’ hands. They might get in real trouble by making unauthorized changes in what they present to their students and how and when they do it.
This is quite different from when I was in school in the 1950s. Teachers had much more latitude in their classes. In my small town high school with a graduating class of a few over 200 we produced doctors, lawyers, professional people, those who went into performing arts and I was on the same debating team with Georgia’s current Governor, Nathan Deal, who was also a childhood friend. In short, we were not ill-educated and even used the then new remote teaching methods on TV screens. When teachers can innovate and inspire, their students benefit.
Tate’s major life task at the moment is to discover what line of work that he enjoys so much that he would do it even if no one paid him and devise a way to make money at it. I don’t care what that particular work might be. It might be in the arts, the sciences or in some aspects of human relations. It could even be a combination of things where the arts converge with science, as with medical illustrations. It is also entirely possible that he has not found out what his passion is because he has not been exposed to it. We talked about his liking for history and art that combined could be archeology which is also an interest of mine. I chose geology as a profession because of increased work opportunities. At the time the only archeological positions were with universities and someone had to die before a faculty position might be available. In the meantime, the archeology students worked like slaves on digs and oftentimes had to pay to be attached to meaningful excavations. Now, because archeology must be done prior to major construction projects, there are many more openings in the field, although the basic work is no less hard and typically very gritty.
The Ford Ranger Sports Truck
Since my wife died I do not need, or want, a large truck for my typically solo hunting and travel adventures. The V-6 Ranger with its 4-L engine had a heavy-duty suspension which enables me to traverse most roads without any problems even if it does not have four-wheel drive. I increased its utility by adding a detachable winch, which I left home on this all-highway trip, a solid-sided bed cover to enable me to protect my books and a steel pipe fount-end guard to help deflect deer. The V-6 engine in powerful enough to sustain 80 mph highway speeds, particularly since I was carrying a very light load and not towing a trailer. The smaller size truck platform is also more nimble in traffic and much easier to park than its full size relatives, like the Ford 150. As the 2011 was the last year of production for the old model Ranger, the bugs had been worked out of the truck.
The engine, with 75,000 miles, has given me no problems. I had the front-end aligned and put new rear tires on the truck prior to the trip to Minnesota. Thus far, all is progressing very well. I had a latch failure on the tailgate, but that was a quick fix. The only other things that have happened to the truck were to replace the taillights which are quite fragile and are unprotected. I should have had a protective cage put over those when I did my modifications on the truck.
Thus far the engine uses no oil and the gas mileage is reasonable, but not as good as some of the smaller engines offered on the Ranger or the more modern engine used in the reintroduced Ford Ranger that was announced in in November of 2018.
The Book Fair
Intermittent rain and sometimes heavy thunderstorms dogged me on the way down The Florida Turnpike and I-95 to Miami. My hotel, the Eurostars Langford, is located in downtown Miami about four blocks south of the site of the exhibition which is on the campus of Miami-Dade College . It was held in an open block with streets that were lined on both sides with colorful tents. Compared with the Frankfurt Book Fair that I attended a month ago which was an enormous affair hosted in six multi-story buildings surrounding a plaza, the physical set up seemed to be more like a combined yard sale and street fair.
When I arrived on Wednesday the rain had not been nearly as bad in Miami as on some sections of the road that I had traveled. Some exhibitors were putting out their books, but most appeared to be waiting to do it the following morning, as the fair officially opened at 10:00 AM. The group that was exhibiting my book, Okir Publishing, which is based in Wyoming with offices in California, was not there; although their tents and banners had been erected. I had paid to have my book exhibited for the three-day event and it would be, whether the hosting organization made it to the fair or not. As it turned out, the Miami Book Fair has an Author’s Row where individual authors may rent booth space for $350, and exhibit all of their books, whereas I paid more than that for Okir to show only one title. I will certainly take advantage of that option next time I come to the event.
The Eurostar Langford offers a European breakfast option, but it was not included with my room. I could have had their breads and coffee, but sought out something more Miami. I found it at the next street corner where fruit and vegetable smoothies were made and they also had empanadas which are a fried, or baked, bread fold-over that are filled with either beef, pork or ham and cheese or spinach and cheese. Think of an apple tart filled with meat, and that would be a close approximation of an empanada.
Opening time arrived at the Fair and no one from Okir was at the exhibition space; however, two other authors were. We displayed and talked about our books to the morning crowd which included school classes being escorted through the exhibit by their teachers who took advantage kid-friendly events hosted at the fair. This was also free admission day, and numbers of Miami-Dade College students passed through the exhibits. These students are in the demographic that I pitch my book to, and I had a good reception and results. Numbers of authors were holding signings and giving away their books and these were being collected by the students. I went to sell books, not give them away, so I referred potential student customers to Amazon.com where they could get either softcover or e-book versions of my book. A number of the students remarked that I was approaching them at exactly the appropriate time, as they were starting to plan out the remainder of their lives.
About 1:30 PM, I decided to do a walk about and find some lunch. I also wanted to see if I could wrangle interviews with the print or film media, perhaps make some sales to the college book store or get contacts with the business department about giving business lectures. I was not successful, but cards were accepted to be passed on. CNN was there to do author interviews, but all of their authors were already lined up.
When I returned, two representatives of Okir had appeared and were putting out the books they published and those they had arranged to exhibit for other authors. The two copies of the books that I had sent surfaced. While they arranged their exhibit I sat behind the table and rested my legs after having stood or walked most of the morning. When they were done I resumed my station in front of the exhibit and approached passersby about my book. I was usually successful. Another contract exhibition company, Author Solutions, had eight or so authors sitting behind a table with books to be signed and given away. They received very little interest or traffic. When I was not aggressively approaching my likely audience, I, and my book, was also ignored, even though I was wearing my chef’s jacket and cap.
Being in costume allowed me to easily work the crowd and establish an easy conversational relationship with strangers. The chef’s outfit garnered respect and helped to break down barriers that might otherwise appear when an older guy approaches college and high school students. The fact that I also get into character and present elements of my book in a comedic way also helps.
More adventures in eating
The evening I arrived I asked for recommendations at the hotel desk and was referred to Havana which is located at 140 SE 1st Ave. It is adjacent to Greek and Brazilian restaurants which provide a variety of eating opportunities in a very compact area. The dish I ordered was Tostones Rellenos Loma Saltado which was seasoned beef cooked and served in plantain cups which were the most elaborate dish they have on the menu. This was an interesting Cuban-Central American fusion dish, which was very tasty, particularly when served with a draft beer. They serve between 8:00 AM and mid-afternoon and are not open for supper.
I have done a YouTube video of my Miami eating experiences which may be seen at: https://youtu.be/5ry1X3JE0is.
I tried the adjacent Greek restaurant the following day. This is run by a 4th-generation Greek family and features seafood dishes, as Greek eateries in Florida often do. I ordered a whole fish which was cooked over coals and served with a glass of wine from the Island of Santorin and fresh olive oil from Sparta. On a separate plate was a pasta rendered into rice-size grains with artichokes and onions and grilled potato wedges sprinkled with parsley greens. The waiter deftly separated the bones from the fish using two spoons. I offered him one of my medium-utility knives to try, but he preferred to use the tools as he was taught. The meal was excellent, and the only improvement that I would offer would be to serve the meal on heated plates. A sauce consisting of lemon and olive oil was presented with the fish and complemented it very well.
Steak Brasil at 190 SE 1st Av. Is a Brazilian steak house featuring a variety of roasted meats on skewers which the waiters bring around and carve at the table. This is an all you can eat meal at about $22.00 a plate. Included is a salad bar with some unusual items like Peruvian Sweet tear-drop shaped peppers which add an unusual kick to the salad. There was also a hot bar which I never even got around to. The salad offerings and the meats were quite enough. I topped the meal off with a passion fruit mousse although I was mightily tempted by their three layer coconut cake. Meats that were offered while I was there included hardwood roasted lamb, beef cuts offered in different ways, chicken hearts and a garlic pepper seasoned flank steak. When the water brings the skewer he carves the meat and you use tongs to hold it as it is sliced and then put that on your plate. This is a safer approach than taking a piece between hour teeth and slicing it off with a swipe of your knife in front of your nose, in the gaucho fashion.
Back to the Book Fair
At various locations at the fair authors were sitting behind tables in tents with their books and signing and giving away copies to anyone who requested them. I was dressed in my cooking outfit and stood for much of the day and approached likely looking candidates with reasonable results. I spoke to those who appeared to be in the late high-school grades, college students and even older people who were in what I considered the danger years of 50-and-older who are finding it hard to obtain meaningful work once they lose their jobs.
Most of the people I approached saw the merit of my message and responded well to my book. A few replied that they did not need it. Some were starting or deep into medical school and had their next few years fairly well spoken for. I was/am always looking for media outlets, and besides the film team from CNC, the journalism and film departments of Miami Dade College were also covering the events.
There was an invitation from the Exchange for Change program for people to volunteer to deliver writings done by inmates in Florida’s penal institutions. I answered that call and presented a poem Failure to the audience along with one of my comedy bits about Misty Mange: The Hair Care Product That You and Your Pet can Share. This was filmed and was broadcast on the college TV coverage of the event. I also spoke to the projects representatives about potentially participating in their project either remotely via skype or through the use of videos about how they can conceive of and start their own businesses on the outside, once they are released.
Each day Author Solutions opposite us featured a parade of writers who were signing and giving away their books. Several companies were doing the same thing, and although this was ego stroking for first-time authors, they continued to get very little traffic. Usually the companies showing their titles had already charged them for publication services and often published and printed their books. This even was supposed to add value by giving writers personal contact with their would-be readers and exposure to library systems, book stores and bulk book buyers. There books were also, for a price, featured in printed catalogues and/or magazines distributed by the companies.
Friday, the first official day of the fair was a free day and open to the public. The attendance figures were inflated by groups of children who got out schools to be at the event. There was no time for authors to interchange with either the teachers or mostly grade-school kids as the pods of students were being escorted through the fair. The authors sitting side by side at tables on the sides of the street had very little interchange with the passing crowd. There were also Miami-Dade students in the mix, and I was much more successful throughout the fair with approaching them, giving them my pitch and having them accept my cards.
I stood on the side of the street and verbally approached anyone that I could see of likely age or who stopped long enough to speak to. Usually my opening was “I may have something for you,” which I did. I told them how using the information in my book could be a life changing event that in these uncertain economic times they should take advantage of to secure their, and their families’ futures. I gave directed advice to some on how they could solve their life problems.
By happenstances the Okri booth was surrounded by organizations promoting Islamic studies and self-discovery. Through the three days the authors across the way came and went. The three of us with Okra kept our positions throughout the three-day event, instead of having only a one or two-hour window allotted to our fellow writers at Author Solutions. Even with this considerable advantage, none of us did particularly well. I gave out perhaps 200 cards and had some useful interchanges regards potential consulting giving directed help to the buyers of my book. I hope to receive wide-spread exposure and ultimately book sales through Amazon and other on-line sources from the event.
The three people with Okri would occasionally refer people to me during the fair, but were mostly involved with showing their and contracting author’s titles at the event. Although they said that they did a printing of 10,000 copies of their magazine, Insight, to give out, comparatively few were distributed to anyone. Exposure in this publication has yet to demonstrate any real value to me. They had boxes of their other author’s books for distribution, but nowhere did I see anything like 10,000 magazines. Where these were and what was done with them, I don’t know. The reps were more interested in soliciting business from other would-be authors than promoting and selling the books from their exhibiting authors.
Each day during the fair I would break away from my table and circulate to arrange interviews with media people and pitch to other exhibitors and departments at Miami-Dade who were exhibiting. I attempted to contact the book store owner to get my title in his store, but despite tries at the store and at their exhibit, I was never successful. The best I managed there was his name and e-mail address. The culinary department was very interested in my custom cooking knives and learning about them. I said that I would be open to revisiting the college and providing some lectures, but I would need to be compensated for my expenses. Interests was also expressed by Exchange for Change program in having me participate. I said that I could participate remotely or through YouTube videos, but it was not possible for me to come down for events unless I was had my expenses covered. The general concept of teaching incarcerated individuals how to become independent businessmen is of considerable value in converting inmates into productive members of society. They can leg their legal businesses up and prosper. This is not an easy transition, because this proposition is based on trust and absolute honesty. Nonetheless, it can be done.
I had to take my brother-in-law for a hospital appointment on Tuesday so Monday after the fair closed saw me and Ranger on the road for a 11-hour drive back to central Georgia. I tried to get out of Miami before 7:00 AM and managed to beat the morning traffic and took I-95 straight up to Savannah and then I-16 home. I arrived at about 6:00 PM. The next morning when I went into town to pick up my mail and do some last minute Thanksgiving shopping my battery failed to start the truck. I jumped it off and immediately got a replacement. The battery had a 3-year guarantee, and lasted a very little bit beyond its exploration date, so it was not a free replacement.
The 2011 Ranger Sports Truck had made about 3,000 road miles in a month’s time and performed very well without any significant problems, except for the battery replacement after I got home. Although the economics of the trip to Miami Book Fair have yet to be turned into a positive direction, the Ranger had done exactly what had been asked to it.
Should Unknown Authors Attend Book Fairs?
Attend book fairs if you want to get your ego stroked, interchange directly with your audience, make outside contacts and experience different parts of the country/world, and your publisher is furnishing the give-away books . If you expect to make this a profitable venture and pay your costs through book sales, that is not too likely to happen unless you already have a best-selling title. Book fairs are one more tool that an author can use to promote himself and his products, but is often not nearly as attractive an option for unknown authors as the organizers and those who would have you pay to exhibit your books might claim.
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