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The Great Winery Experiment

Glass of red wine on a ledge, with a view of long rows of grape vines in the background

Being an author is NOT easy.

Not only do you have to write the books (though I will not complain about that part!), spend months (or years) revising/editing/rewriting them, seek out (but also endure) feedback/criticism from friends, family, and/or strangers, and then finally choose one of numerous ways to get it published - after all, if you want people to actually BUY the book, there has to BE a book.

Why am I doing this again? Didn't I have enough going on in my life?

Oh, right, because for some reason, I love it. (Well, most of it.)

Marketing, as my now 10-year-old's 22-year-old Kindergarten teacher would have said, is not my jam. (Seriously - my daughter was only in that teacher's class for three months, because we ended up moving, but everything was "my jam" or "not my jam" during those three months!). I hate that I have to spend time that I could be writing figuring out how to get people to buy my book.

At the same time, Hey! I published a book! Which, six months later, is still very exciting! And no, it's not a bestseller, and it may never be, but I love it and I would like every person I meet to read it because... not only do I want every one of them all to love it, too (impossible, I know), but also, selling more books makes it easier to publish more books in the future. (Damn that cause and effect thing)

OK, so back to the part about the wineries. A few months back, when I was waiting impatiently for bookstores to get back to me about book signings, I decided I needed to try something else. Trying new things is good! Somehow wineries popped into my head as a place to sign books, and it made as much sense as anything else (well, except maybe bookstores).

I wrote to every winery in Northern Virginia (at least, every one that was on a very long list), and a few of them got back to me and gave me times to come and sit at a table with my book. I scheduled three dates. By the end of June, it was time for my experiment to begin.

Of course, not every idea can be a great one, and let's just say that my winery idea was not the one that would launch Gemini Divided to wild popularity. But that's okay! Still, I wrote the draft of this post before I'd even had the third winery signing date - that's how certain I was it was going to go just like the first two. Yes, I had met some very nice people, and at one of them I'd sold a few copies, but it felt like a bust.

At that point, the most useful thing that had come out of those two dates was that at the first one, when all the winery customers were ignoring me, I sat and brainstormed other vendor events that might be more successful: Farmers markets (which apparently in my area, are only for food), craft fairs, and just about every other type of vendor fair. Ones held at particular times of year, ones held weekly, monthly, whatever. My brainstorming was on fire that day!

I ended up with a ton of screenshots of events to go back and look up later, several of which led to very solid, much more promising opportunities. I hadn't sold any books that day, so when I sold three books at my second winery outing, it felt a little less pathetic. Still, it wasn't what I was ready to call successful.

Yesterday morning before I left for winery #3, my husband asked me if I was excited. No, I was not. Who wants to spend hours of their Saturday afternoon sitting behind a table trying to sell something people aren't interested in buying? Like the first two, the afternoon started out slow, but in the end, I was surprised to find that there were quite a few readers in that crowd. One woman bought a copy, went back to her table and showed her friends, and they spontaneously decided to form a book club, using Gemini Divided as their first book! That meant that they all came over to buy it! Several other people did, too.

Sometimes, getting what you don't want helps you articulate what you DO want. Who knows, maybe my winery brainstorming will lead me to one or more very successful events! Or maybe they'll be flops sales-wise, but something else that's great will come out of them. I hope someday I'll look back and think, "I can't believe I was excited to sell 9 books that day!" But yesterday, that was definitely the highlight.

Thanks to Hidden Brook Winery, Casanel Vineyards & Winery, and The Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards for being part of my experiment. Someday I'll have to go back to each of them and sit and have a glass of wine.

I don't yet know the secrets of getting my book noticed, but I do know is that writing is what I want to do. So even though it's not my jam, I will continue my feeble attempts at marketing. I will not, however, continue to use the expression "my jam," because it's ridiculous.

List of Gemini Divided book signing event dates

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