That Time I Cried in Canada

Have you ever had an author event go poorly? Like really poorly? I’ve had events that didn’t turn out as I had hoped, but there is one that sticks out in my mind as a near disaster.

I have a pretty small travel budget when it comes to unpaid author events. I’ve really built up my remote promotional opportunities and am pretty selective about saying yes to an event that includes too many out of pocket expenses.

Back when I was promoting my first children’s book, “The Great Latke Cook Off”, I came across NoshFest, an incredible Jewish food and Chanukah festival in Toronto. I loved their promotional campaign, the event organizers were incredibly communicative and accessible, and I knew the audience would be a great fit for my book.

And so I jumped at the opportunity to become a vendor. I booked a hotel, packed my passport, and my husband and I set off the Saturday after Thanksgiving on the 5-hour drive.

The next morning, we were setting up my exhibitor table and I was doing my regular Square reader test purchase. It wasn’t going through. I double checked the Wifi password, restarted my iPad, tried my husband’s credit card… Nothing.

Then the woman in the booth next to me said, “Are you from the states?” My heart sank. “Um, yes?” I said hesitantly. And that’s when she told me that Square readers don’t work outside of the country where they were purchased. I stood there dumbfounded. All I kept thinking was, “I just left my family on a holiday weekend, spent my own money on travel, have no Canadian currency, have arrived at an event where people are HERE TO BUY CHANUKAH GIFTS, and I have no way of accepting payment???”.

And that’s when I cried. Tears of defeat welled up in my eyes. Should I just pack up and go home? Desperately search for a currency exchange that was open on Sundays and accept cash only? The event was starting in 30 minutes and I was at a total loss.

But there’s a happy ending. This lovely Canadian business owner in the next booth told me that the exact same thing happened to her when she traveled to the US for an event. Someone had helped her out and she wanted to do the same for me. So she let me sign in on my iPad to her Square account and accepted payments on my behalf. And at the end of the day, she PayPal-ed me for all of the purchases.

She SAVED my whole experience. I was able to engage with festival attendees, sign copies to young readers, give away my coloring and activity pages, and enjoy the day. I sold enough books to cover all of my travel expenses and then some. But it was a close call.

Here are the top 3 things I learned from that experience:

1.       Always, always do your research and double (triple!) check your payment options

2.       If you have the chance to help out another author or entrepreneur, do it!

3.       Canadians are just as nice as everyone says

What are some of your event experiences? Share in the comments below!


Thank you, Canada!

All smiles after a nearly disastrous event,,,