Books and Brocantes


It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Every village in central France – and possibly elsewhere, for all I know – holds a brocante once a year, when locals and anyone interested can set up a stall and sell anything that they feel is superfluous to their needs.

In other words, it’s an opportunity to get rid of Stuff. And there’s an awful lot of it about, it seems. It may be their parents’ and grandparents’ discarded household goods, collections of interior design magazines, children’s clothes and toys, odds and ends that have accumulated in the house over the years, and anything and everything that comes to mind.

I’ve been a dedicated follower of brocantes ever since I first discovered them several years ago. The thing about brocantes is to go with an open mind, as you never know what you might find there. I did not go looking for crystal wine glasses, but over the years I have acquired more than a few, as well as a few crystal flutes-- ideal for drinking champagne. So now I have also acquired the champagne habit, although I haven’t yet descended (or is it ascended?) to the level of my Australian neighbor who drinks only champagne when he’s on holiday.

So, when the local village announced it would be holding its annual brocante last week, I decided it would be a good opportunity to try and sell my latest book, ‘Levi Koenig, A Contemporary King Lear.’

As I also dabble in painting (in watercolors), I have developed the habit of using one or another of my paintings for the covers of my books. My first novel, ‘The Balancing Game; A Child Between Two Worlds, A Society Approaching War,’ was published in conjunction with an American publisher, and they prepared the cover, using one of my paintings. I thought that the cover was good enough as these things go, but was later told that it was not inviting, and would not attract readers. This may or may not have been why its sales were poor, but for this and other reasons I decided not to stay with that publisher.

My second novel, ‘Time Out of Joint, the Fate of a Family,’ was self-published on Amazon and itrs cover was based entirely on one of my own paintings. Lo and behold, it sold quite well initially, and has continued to sell at a fairly steady rate ever since.

So I went ahead and prepared a suitable painting for ‘Levi Koenig, A Contemporary King Lear.’ Since both Shakespeare’s play and my novel are about three sisters and their aged, ailing father, I painted three female figures embracing, and a gnarled, bare tree (ho, very symbolic!) at the side. The book appeared (on Amazon) a few weeks ago, and is not making as much of a splash as I would like, but I console myself by saying that it’s early days yet.

And that’s when I had my bright idea, what I thought was my masterful marketing ploy. I have the twenty-odd paperback copies I had sent to me, with their colorful covers. Why don’t I make a few copies of the painting on the cover, I thought, position myself at the brocante, and offer one to anyone who buys a copy of my book?

The appointed day came round. The weather looked bleak, but I persevered. A friend had kindly allowed me to occupy a corner of her stall, where I could put my books, and my notice offering a free original painting to anyone who bought a book.

Attendance at the brocante was weak, whether because of the inclement weather or the competition presented by rival brocantes at other villages. The few visitors who came looked, smiled, and moved on to the next stall. It was cold, and there was even some drizzly rain at times, but I stuck to my guns and remained at my post (why the military metaphors, I wonder?) for a full three hours. But no fish took the bait.

As lunch-time rolled round most of the stall-holders packed up and left, and so did I. Perhaps my brilliant marketing ploy had been somewhat misguided. After all, what had made me think that in the middle of rural France anyone would be interested in reading a book in English about life in another part of the world?

And so another bright idea bites the dust.