It’s got to be the free pretzels and dip


Every so often, I wonder about ways to attract more people to my work. And I end up considering the moments and methods that seem so effective in other places. For one such concept, consider that Terry and I enjoy heading out to spend some time at an amazing place… the fair.

Now, if you happen to live in certain places—say, Minnesota or upstate New York—saying the fair means only one thing… THE fair. The state fair. You don’t even need to say it three times. It just kind of appears to sweep you away for a couple of weeks. (Although that’s a joke, I have heard that if you say “Minnesota State Fair” three times in a row, a Sweet Martha’s bucket will appear in your hand.)

This is not an essay about state fairs… or county fairs… or any fairs really. It’s about the buildings with all the funky stuff that you really don’t need, but end up spending money with multiple vendors anyway.

At The Great New York State Fair they call it the Center of Progress Building. (By law, you’re actually obligated to refer to the New York State Fair as The Great New York State Fair if you’re writing the words out while located in any New York State zip code. Really. Go look it up for yourself. That said, every state law allows you to say “The Fair” in reference to that specific state’s state fair since it sounds so warm and cuddly and homespun. Fun stories… but again not what we’re here for. In fact, in order to explain why we’re just outside of Syracuse and have meandered away from the Chevy Court area over toward the Center of Progress Building, we might need a few more ducks lined up…)

Have you ever wondered why some people are better at getting spotlights directed their way? As a writer, I tend to be extremely self-conscious about selling things. It’s kind of woven into the very existence of most writers. Hopping in front of a crowd and offering up a book for sale just doesn’t really connect. (Fun facts: (1) It’s actually why most of us write. We have observations and stories and things we’d like to share with you, but we’re awkward and stumble around in group settings. In order to share them… go on, you’ve got it… we write. (2) From the Department of Shameless Self-Promotion, yes, my books are available in paperback and Kindle editions from places like Amazon and other fine online booksellers. Thank you for asking.)

When it comes time to jump on a box, wave my arms and attempt to get the attention of the book-loving-public… yeah, it’s difficult.

But then you wander into a building like the Center of Progress and see people lined up to hear about a uniquely designed piece of plastic that will slice, batter, deep fry and serve forty pounds of flawlessly golden-brown onion rings in less than five minutes. Or, you know how yesterday afternoon you dropped a bottle of mustard, a box of melted crayons and a bowl of beets (along with the beet juice) onto the floor and let them all dry? Yes… yes… YES there’s a mop for you.

The point is, some of the most amazingly mind-numbing of products get people watching. They get people pulling out twenty-dollar bills and credit cards. They move product. (And a lot of product.)

Not long after I published my first book, I began making appearances at a variety of events. Signings… readings… author panel discussions and meet-and-greet afternoons… and more. I found myself asking about—and to this day, still find myself asking and confirming—what items I might be expected to have along with me, and if there are any items I shouldn’t bring.

Examples? Sure. At a book signing… because, duh… pens and copies of your books are pretty good things to have with you. Obvious stuff there. A lot of us will also produce book marks that feature the latest release and where it can be purchased, along with other information or promotion materials.

The thing is… after years of efforts and plenty of experiences… I don’t think it’s the bookmarks to blame if sales don’t match expectations. I’ve come to believe it’s the lack of pretzels and dip.

In those Center of Progress types of buildings at the fairs across our great nation, there is always at least one booth offering dip mixes. You know the ones… packets that you mix with mayonnaise and sour cream to make the most amazing assortment of flavors. They have a buffet of samples for you to enjoy, and hand out little pretzel sticks for you to use as you wander along. EVERYONE loves the free pretzels and dip. People stop… people that hate mayonnaise and hate jalapeno avocado horseradish and even hate pretzels stop… people stop to try them all.

I have to admit, I don’t have pretzels set up near a stack of my books. Maybe I should.

Disney has a science for many things. One of the wonderful items of magic in their theme parks plays upon our passions for incredible glorious aromas. A more specific way of saying it: They pump the smell of warm chocolate chip cookies right into our faces. (Actually, I’ve heard that they don’t do this any longer. But then again, you never know. What I can tell you is that while you won’t get a bucket of Sweet Martha’s cookies for saying Minnesota State Fair three times… and while there is no law in New York requiring you to include The Great in any mention of The Fair… if you head off to your favorite search engine of choice and enter in some wording combination that covers Disney chocolate chip cookies smell, you will get some interesting results about the thoroughness of The Mouse’s sales pitch. Gosh I love that magical world. Need to get back to Orlando. Anyway…)

I would like to invite you to visit my author page over at Amazon. You know how to find the Amazon web site. Once you arrive, just select the category of books and do a search for my name. (And thank you for your time and consideration. I appreciate the support.) I’d like to invite you to spend some time in the Writing & Books part of this web site. (Tell your family about it! Tell your friends! Like and follow us on our social media pages!)

Hopefully we occasionally offer up a few things for you to enjoy, and provide you with a reason to come back soon. And… soon… we’ll be offering pretzels (and likely homemade cookies).


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at