My nine-year-old son decided to run his first lemonade stand on Sunday.
He held his sign, “Lemonade: 25 cents” high in the air for every passing car, truck and pedestrian, with dollar signs in his eyes, hoping that maybe this person would stop, or this one, or maybe this one.
Car after car drove by, even a lady pushing a stroller refused to make eye contact, and I saw him slump in despair.
“Why aren’t they buying?” he’d ask.
“Father’s Day is a tough day to start a lemonade stand,” I told him.
And suddenly I was reminded of publishing (everything reminds me of publishing) — how first-time authors jump in with such enthusiasm, hoping to connect with audiences and are shocked and dismayed with their books or proposals are rejected or “passed on.” My son’s expectation was that just by having a stand people would be lining up by the block to buy his lemonade. In his mind, when you see a lemonade stand, you buy lemonade, right? Boy makes lemonade. Boy sells lemonade. Simple enough. I think a lot of aspiring writers have the same view of publishing: Girl writes book. Girl sells book. Girl gets three-picture deal.
After a while, when my son’s only customers had been his two siblings and his dad, I started wondering what the problem was — was it his marketing (sign)? location? the overbearing presence of his mother? But then, lo and behold, he got his first official customer, a mom in a minivan, who gave him a dollar for two cups of lemonade and told him to keep the change. The sudden joy on my son’s face after all his hard work was priceless. And then another car stopped and gave him $2, and then a dude on a motorcycle dug deep into his pocket and pulled out 3 bucks in quarters and dumped the whole wad into my son’s hands.
In the next hour, he made $10.25.
The lesson in all this? (If there is one.) Not every car will stop. Not every agent or publisher will either. But if you believe in your product, why not stick it out? Because you just never know when a perfect stranger will find you and think your stuff is worth paying for.