I am not a garage sale person. Not in any kind of way. I don't really feel like it's worth my time to go poking around in other people's junk looking for the rare gem lost in there amongst the trash, and I'm not really for throwing my own junk out in the yard and trying to convince people to buy it. Either it's something I want, or it's something I'm not willing to let go of at a price someone shopping at a garage sale is willing to pay.
When I was a kid, though, my mom would, sometimes, take me to garage sales. I don't really remember if she ever bought stuff at them, though it wouldn't surprise me, but I do know she never bought stuff for me at them. Not toys and, especially, not comic books. There was always the "you have enough toys" and there was never a reason for not getting comic books. My aunt, though, always bought us (my cousins and me) comic books at garage sales, but they had to stay down at the farm where all of us had access to them. And, when I was older, a different aunt and my uncle would always give me books they bought at garage sales for Christmas. I hated it. Crappy copies (as in beat the hell up) of books I didn't want to read. But they just assumed that because they were books and I read books that I would want to read them. Never did they give me anything I wanted to read, not even the trashed copy of The Clan of the Cave Bear I got one year that I might actually have read if it hadn't been completely destroyed already. I'm not even sure what happened to all of those books, because they never made it into my room.
At any rate, none of that has ever endeared me to garage sales.
Having said all of that, we had a garage sale this weekend. It wasn't my idea. It wasn't even my wife's idea. Evidently, it's an annual event that our HOA "hosts" and does all of the advertising for, so my wife said that we may as well participate. We didn't really do a good job of it, though. As we were setting up our paltry items, because we didn't take the time to go through the boxes of stuff we haven't unpacked like we should have, on Saturday morning prior to the 9:00am starting time of the event, we watched some people a few houses down setting up a rather spectacular event that included their entire driveway and the interior of their garage. It almost made us decide to just put our stuff away.
The most interesting thing was all the people driving by early in the morning before 9am. Of course, the people down the street had enough stuff out by 8am that they already had people wandering around, but we didn't even start setting up until, like, 8:15 or something. The heaviest traffic all happened before 9:00 even thought the event was scheduled from 9:00-2:00. People out looking for bargains. Looking for lost gems amidst trash.
And I get it. I do. I think it was just last summer I read about a guy that bought a box of comics, a couple hundred loose comics in a brown box, for $5, and it had in it some very rare Silver Age editions in pretty decent condition, stuff he ended up making over $35,000 on. The guy who sold it to him got pissed and tried to claim that the sale wasn't legal or something because he hadn't known what he was selling. I think the judge called him an idiot. No, I'm just kidding, but they did tell him he had no case, and it was his own fault. Also in the last year, some guy sold a safe that he got at an estate sale. He never bothered to open it. The guy who bought it (for a very good price) found $75,000 inside it. The seller was trying to force the buyer to give him half the money. And you have to understand that that guy was the second guy that sold that safe without bothering to open it. So I get the whole allure of garage sales and flea markets (which we also frequented when I was a kid (and I do remember my mom buying stuff at those)).
But what struck me on Saturday morning as I watched the faces peering out of car windows as they rolled slowly by was that this whole garage sale business is rather like self-publishing. It's like looking for those few good books amongst heaps of trash and drivel. Of course, then, there are the people that like that stuff, as I witnessed on Saturday. Some people just looking for a good deal, "I'll read it because it's cheap." Some people looking for lost gems, "I'll read it because this one might be good." Some people just enjoying the hunt and looking at what other people have out (a surprising number of people, actually, that you could tell were really just there to look (unless, maybe, they would have been willing to buy something that they felt was "worth it;" although, it's hard to tell), "I'm just browsing the titles just in case something catches my eye, but I don't expect anything to." And a few people actually looking for things they could use, "I'll read this because it's got some good reviews or someone I trust told me it's good."
Mostly, though, people just don't go to garage sales. And, mostly, people don't buy self-published books. Unfortunately, looking at my own view toward shopping at garage sales, I completely understand why most people don't want to take a chance on self-published books. And this extends to people that review books. If you go around and look at sites that focus on doing book reviews, they pretty much universally say that they don't review self-published works. The one site I did find that said "I do" changed that to "I don't" between me finding the site and me sending in a request (which happened within the week). And it sucks, but I get it.
So I'm sitting here, right now, realizing that I'm holding a big garage sale for my written work, and I don't know how I feel about that. Not that it makes me think that I don't want to self-publish, because I want to not be involved with traditional publishers a lot more than I don't want to be holding a garage sale, but it's making me, sort of, re-think my approach to what I'm doing. Well, it's made me think that I need to re-think my approach, because I'm not really having any new thoughts about it yet.
But here I am, sitting in my driveway with a stack of my books looking at all the other signs of people sitting in their driveways with their books, and everyone has up the same sign, "But my book really is good!" Or, to put it in garage sale terminology, "My junk is better than their junk." [And, yes, I know how that sounds, but really people... You just don't need to go there.] Small, independent publishers aren't much better; they're the guys with booths set up at the flea markets.
This is what it boils down to I guess:
If you do the whole self-publishing thing long enough and are able to build up a reputation, you can get the regulars to come by. I do know there are people that sort of have garage sales on a weekly basis. People that shop at garage sales come to know those places and go shop there on a regular basis. Developing that reputation is good, because getting the regulars to come buy your stuff is a good thing, right? Well, yeah, it is. But I don't think that's where I want to stop. I don't just want the people that shop self-published. So how do you get people that have the attitude about garage sales that I have to come shop at your garage sale?
I don't have an answer to that, but that's my new question.
Oh, and just to keep people from asking: $25.00.
And for those that didn't have that question, that's how much we made.