Civil War Days in Belle Plaine, Iowa was last weekend. My preparations were perfect for my book sale event. Both poster boards I mentioned in my last blog post worked. People were comfortable buying from a local person when they saw the words Keystone Author. Others who knew me made the comment they didn’t know I had written so many books or that I write books at all. So I received exposure in my area plus for miles around with reenactors that came from Minnesota, Wisconsin and around Iowa. The weather cooperated. All three days were beautiful; low wind, sunny, warm days. Since I was in period clothes (a homesteader/pioneer dress and bonnet), I asked if I could play first person like the reenactors. The man in charge said I could but the person had to be real. Wonderful! My Civil War book "Ella Mayfield’s Pawpaw Militia" is full of real people.
I picked Ella Mayfield, lady bushwhacker which is the main character to call attention to my book. I asked if there were any other bushwhackers in the park. The man in charge yells over to the shelter house to Union soldiers, "Are there any other bushwhackers here?" The reply was, "What’s a bushwhacker?" After three days of non stop talking and pointing to my Missouri poster board for visual effect, everyone that came to that park now knows who a Missouri bushwhacker was.
The first day was for schools. An outing away from the classroom is always fun. With this field day, the students learned so much more than they will read about the Civil War in a history book. They were able to experience what gunpowder smells like and the loud explosive sound of a gun going off. A drummer boy beating for a march, a trumpet player playing revelry, an up close look and explanation about a cannon, a talk with Abe Lincoln and a look at army camp setups on the Union and Confederate sides were the things the children experienced. I enjoyed being on the side lines of all that. Also, I received as many interesting stories from the reenactors as I told about Ella. They each are a walking history book about their portion of the Civil War.
My son was a volunteer that helped the event run smoothly and with clean up when it was over. Something that big with so many people coming and going is not an easy undertaking to pull off. The good part about Duane being there was he watched for me to show up and helped me set up. At closing, he came along and helped me pack up which was a big help. He enjoyed watching me go into character and sell books. Before I left Sunday afternoon, he bought both of us a Civil War 2009 Belle Plaine, Iowa shirt. He said we need to go to more reenactments. The shirts were for advertising. Reenactments wind down about now so we will see what next summer brings.
Friday, I sold two books to a reenactor. The thought might be that I should have skipped being there that day. My answer would be no. First, I needed the practice, speaking on Ella Mayfield’s behalf. The reenactors speak in first person, and I wanted to join in. Second, I developed a following of students that came back over the weekend to talk to me again. One girl brought her mother over to buy a book. I suspect on Friday it took the reenactors some time to get used to me. When they stopped to talk to me, I was in period dress, but I wasn’t just trying to sell books. I had a story of my own to tell and was well versed about my potion of the Civil War between Missouri and Kansas.
Saturday and Sunday, the public came. I had a good location next to a photographer’s tent full of 1800’s costumes. The public had to walk by me. They couldn’t miss my posters which made them curious enough to stop. Once they did, I gave a brief synopsis of each of my books and ended with the Civil War story. Setting up a table at the event was well worth it for me. My book sale was successful. Saturday at the end of the day, I and my son walked through the reenactors camp sites and talked to people. I wanted a feel for the passion these people have that makes them do the reenactments all summer.
This was one of those one thing leads to another events. I was approached by a woman who is writing a book. She has a blog. Now I have an invitation to be a guest blogger on her blog. A woman from a small town nearby asked me to come speak and sell books at her church group meeting soon. A newspaper reporter came to take pictures of the school children Friday. She stopped to talk to me. So I’m hopeful I might have a brief mention in her article.
At the end of Sunday, the reenactors had a First Person Contest. Someone told me about it about at the time the contest was happening. Afterward, a reenactor came by and told me he would like to see me enter next year. I was flattered to have been accepted by their group. That told me I must have been doing something right when they stopped to hear me talk about Ella Mayfield. I can’t wait to go back next year and be Ella all over again.
To sum it up, I had a very successful book sale at the Civil War Days in Belle Plaine, Iowa. The preparations I made to catch prospective buyers attention as they walked by my table paid off. From posters to period dress and my knowledge of the Civil War, I sparked attention and interest. The fact that I was the author of the books and signed them impressed the buyers. My Civil War book helped give me an introduction for being there and lead to buying my other books. I was well pleased with this event and looking forward a repeat performance. My Civil War book turned out to be a hit with the reenactors as well. Word of mouth from one reenactor to another brought me many sales. Now those books will go back to Minnesota, Wisconsin and around Iowa. Later, I should get more sales from the reenactors as well as buyers I gave bookmarkers.