We went to Crime Wave yesterday. Crime Wave is the day at the Virginia Festival of the Book that is dedicated to mystery. Since its inception in March 2002, Creatures ‘n Crooks was the bookseller on site. It was a huge deal for us and, because the Festival is in Charlottesville, about 70 miles away, we always made a weekend of it; we had to set up at the crack o’ dawn Saturday so had to spend Friday night, then spent Saturday night because the day plumb wore us out.
Crime Wave includes anywhere from 30 to 40 authors plus we also handled one or two other panel tracks, young adult or publishing or both, and that added a few authors. You can imagine how many books that entailed so, over the years, we developed a crew of customers who made the trip with us and they worked like madwomen (we only had a guy once or twice). We got it down to a fine art and our system of set-up, break-down and everything in-between worked beautifully. And we had fun, even with the occasional author with a diva attitude or customer who walked off with books that weren’t supposed to be free.
So, last summer, when I decided we had to close because the economy had driven our sales down to the point of no recovery, I gave up the gig very reluctantly and painfully. Then, customers started lobbying for us to keep doing some sales without a storefront and, when I decided it might work, I thought about Crime Wave but it was too late. A bookstore in Charlottesville that had wanted for years to have a part in the Festival jumped at the chance to take our spot.
Well, naturally, some of us had to check out the new vendor. I’ve been helping them with advice on things that worked for us but I couldn’t resist wanting to know how they would do. Besides, this would be the first year I’d get to actually go to some of the panels and we all wanted to go anyway because the Festival is fun.
The day didn’t go exactly as expected—Annie and I never did make it to any panels although our cohorts did—but it was certainly a gorgeous one, sunny and about 80 degrees. After a harsh winter, spring is more than welcome and it’s always a boon when the weather is good for the Festival. We all went to our favorite lunch spot, Timberlake’s , a tiny drugstore with an oldfashioned lunch counter and seriously good sandwiches and shakes and limeades. Before and after, we talked to a lot of old author and customer friends and we scoped out the new kids on the block.
As much as I’d like to say they screwed it up, they didn’t, at least not unforgiveably. There were certainly things that we would have done better but, in all fairness, that’s because we had eight years to learn from our mistakes. The only thing that would keep them from going back next would be if they choose not to and I doubt that will happen.
So, I’m just going to have to find another way to get back in as a vendor of some sort. In the meantime, put the Virginia Festival of the Book on your calendar for next year—March 16-20. If you’ve never been, you’ve missed a real treat.