“Vendor at the Farmers Market”
After the confinement of the early days of the pandemic, I was eager to meet potential readers of my books in person, especially since the third book in my Berkshire Hilltown Mystery series, Wolf Bog, debuted in July. Encouraged by a good experience at a Farmers Market in the Boston area, organized by a fellow author, I decided to try my hand at selling books at the Farmers Market in my Berkshire town of New Marlborough. I already knew some of the vendors, having met them at local festivals. I emailed the organizer about protocol and was told there was no fee for participating and that I could just show up.
The market is held outdoors on the Village Green every Sunday from 10 AM to 1 PM, and vendors are advised to arrive early to set up. Many of the vendors had tents, so they required more space than I did with my small card table. It took me a while to figure out what was the best spot for me, but eventually I claimed a space under the shade of a couple of tall trees next to a vendor named Barbara, who sold jewelry and occasionally baked goods and pickles. Other vendors sold handcrafted items like knitted scarves and hats, and holiday gnome decorations, along with produce like zucchini and rhubarb, while others sold only food and produce. I was the only book seller.
The vendors turned out to be a friendly, welcoming bunch, ever ready to share advice as well as their life stories. During the two months I took part in the markets, I not only re-connected with people I already knew, but met some interesting new folks. Attendees included locals from New Marlborough and neighboring towns, and people from other states like the young man who told me he was a General Surgeon at a Maryland hospital, come to the Berkshires for a wedding. A smattering of dogs of different kinds on leashes added variety to the scene, which was sometimes enlivened with music from a vendor with a portable keyboard. Among the people I enjoyed engaging with was a family who was particularly interested in Wolf Bog, because their daughter is an environment scientist and bogs play a role in climate control. Then there was the mother with a teenage daughter who was hoping to open an Airbnb in the Berkshires and wanted a book with a local setting. Still another woman visiting my table was a freelance minister, who preaches at different churches in the area when they need someone to fill in for the regular minister.
But perhaps my all-time favorite visitor was an elderly woman with a twinkle in her eye, whose name is Sharron with two “r’s.” I first met her on a day when I hadn’t sold a single book, which was unusual for me. Sharron arrived with her husband, and after telling me she remembered reading my first book and liking it, she looked her husband in the eye and declared, “I’m buying the two other books for myself.” Which she promptly did, to be rewarded with a free one- pound bag of green beans from my garden that I’d decided to give the first person to buy a book from me that day. Later, Sharron approached me at a town festival and told me how much she’d enjoyed the two books, even purchasing another book of mine from my other series. It doesn’t get much better than that!
In between clients, my vendor neighbor Barbara and I entertained each other with stories about our families and various life experiences. As a long-time vendor, she had a wealth of knowledge about area venues and a knack for recognizing likely buyers as opposed to mere browsers. I was delighted when she invited me to join her and other vendors at an event at the senior center in Great Barrington later this fall. In the meantime, I’ll continue doing the Farmers Markets until they end in mid October. Would I do this again next year? As you can probably tell from this blog: Yes!
Readers, if you have done Farmers Markets yourself, please share your stories. Or, if you have questions about how they work, please ask.
Leslie Wheeler Bio: An award-winning author of books about American history and biographies, Leslie Wheeler has written two mystery series. Her Berkshire Hilltown Mysteries launched with Rattlesnake Hill and continue with Shuntoll Road and Wolf Bog. Her Miranda Lewis Living History Mysteries debuted with Murder at Plimoth Plantation and continue with Murder at Gettysburg and Murder at Spouters Point. Her mystery short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. Leslie is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, and a founding member of the New England Crime Bake Committee. She divides her time between Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Berkshires, where she writes in a house overlooking a pond. Visit her website at https://www.lesliewheeler.com.