In my last two posts, I discussed what you could buy or bring for your author booth to make your event experiences more successful.
The list ranges from simple and inexpensive items to more long-term investments that can be accumulated over time.
However, these items are worthless if you don’t do a few things while you are at the event itself. The good news is, these next few tips are free and easy to do with a little practice!
- Be Professional: You don’t have to be in a suit and tie or wearing heels but you should treat this as your business and dress appropriately. Don’t look like a schlump who has rolled out of bed. Yes, this is an industry that attracts creative types, but presenting yourself as someone who takes their craft seriously will never be out of style.
- Be Present: Take photos of your booth early, post what you need to on social media, then set the phone down. How are people going to be interested in your booth if you seem bored with it?
- Be Engaged: Stand up! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen vendors sitting in their chair within the shadow of their tent watching potential customers sail right by. They’ll even stay seated when someone walks up to their table. Unless you’re wheelchair bound or have some physical ailment that prevents you from getting out of your chair STAND UP! At the very least, smile and say hello. Look accessible and people will be more likely to come over and see what your book is about.
- Be Friendly: Greet everybody! Look, I get it. I write romantic suspense and have a pretty well-defined target audience. Chances are, the two middle-aged men walking by my table aren’t in it, but I still smile and say hello. You never know what will happen. I could be wrong and they do read romance. Or, they have a spouse that reads romance and next thing you know, they’re buying a copy for their wife. Every interaction has potential and it all starts with a simple hello.
- Be Interested: Have a couple of conversation starters in mind. It can be generic and simple, referencing the weather or the event that you’re both attending. It could also be a soft pitch for your book. Typically I will use something like, “Do you like reading romantic suspense?” If they answer “no,” have a follow-up ready such as “What genres do you like to read?” Another good opener is, “Do you prefer paperbacks or kindle?” It doesn’t have to be rocket science! A simple, easy to answer question will do. Most people are open to giving their opinion about a topic.
- Be Prepared: Have an elevator pitch ready. If someone comes up to your table and asks, “What is your book about?” you should have a few sentences that can sum up your book and the series. Read your audience. This isn’t just a spiel that you should jump into the moment someone comes up to your table. The point is not to accost potential customers. I typically start with, “These are the first two books of my romantic suspense series, The Harper Sisters. It’s set up in Bath, Maine.” If they are nodding and engaged, then I know I can continue on to describing my first book. If they say, “Oh, romantic suspense…I don’t typically read romance.” Then I can follow up by asking what they do like to read. If they say, “Oh! Bath, Maine, I’ve been there!” Then I’ll continue the conversation talking about the setting and reference scenes that incorporate the area. It all depends.
- Be Generous: Not every person who comes up to your table is going to be interested in buying your books. That’s okay! Not all value is monetary. If you’re at an event with other authors, get to know what they’re selling. If someone says, “I don’t read romance. I’m more interested in fantasy.” You can say, “Oh, have you checked out Mike Squatrito’s booth?” Remember that you’re not only at these events to sell books. It’s also a great opportunity to build your community, network, and plant seeds. Be kind. Stay positive. Don’t say anything about someone that you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying to their face. Pretty basic stuff, but good to keep in mind!
Did you miss my first two posts about attending author events? You can find them HERE and HERE.
Have another great tip that I missed? Please share what’s working for you in the comments!
In my last post I discussed some of the less expensive items you’ll need as an author attending events. That list is a great place to start and will serve you well for indoor events that provide tables and chairs for you.
Unfortunately, most events won’t be so accommodating. So today, I’d like to discuss some of the “big ticket” items that you’ll need if you’re serious about attending author events. You may find that starting slow and working your way up to these purchases is the way to go.
Just remember, with each new item, you’ll be opening the door to more types of events and activities. So, let’s jump in, shall we?
- Table: Every author will eventually need to get themselves a table. Most vendor and author events restrict tables to a maximum of 6 feet. You’ll also want a table that can fold, has a handle, and is easily transportable. Lastly, look for tables that are sturdy, not too flimsy, and not too heavy. You’ll find this one is pretty standard.
- Tent: In this case, bigger is not better. Most vendor lots are 10×10, so that is the size that you should get. Qualities to consider: You want it to be a “pop-up” tent that can be set up fairly easily. You’ll notice most brands have the choice between “slant leg” or “straight leg.” I’ve seen both styles used. Tents come in a number of colors, but white is the most versatile (with blue a close second in popularity.)
Pro-tip 1: Be sure to grab a few weights to go with your tent. You wouldn’t want it to blow away!
Pro-tip 2: No matter how sturdy your tent fabric is, it’s a good idea to have a tarp or two on hand in case it rains. Also, get yourself 4 to 5 clear, plastic shower curtains that you can hang as walls if the weather starts to turn foul. (Yes, you could also use standard blue tarps, but clear shower curtains are easier to hang, will let light in, and they’re cheaper!)
- Large Signage: There are two main ways you can go about making a large visual impact. The less expensive of the two options is to get some large, foam-backed posters made. The pros are that they are less expensive and light (so they’re fairly easy to transport.) The cons are they are sensitive to weather, the corners are liable to get dinged up, and you’re probably going to have to replace them. Not only that, but you’ll also have to include the cost of an easel or some way to display them. Once you bake that cost in, you may find that the cost savings are nominal. Lastly, the easel or stand will take up more room. If your event is tight for space, this may be an issue. Still, as an entry way of making a big impact, foam-backed posters do a great job.
Another option is to buy a custom-made retractable banner. The pros are that they will stand up straight, come with their own carrying case and stand in most instances, and are usually easy to transport. The cons are that they can get really expensive. You’ll also need to get some weights if they’ll be outside, so they won’t topple over in a slight breeze.
For both of these options, it’s important to note that you’ll need a design that is large enough that it won’t get pixelated when printed. It may be worth it to hire a designer if you’re unsure of how to do this.
- Beach Wagon or Cart: As you can imagine, all this stuff can be a lot to schlep from place to place! Unfortunately, not all venues have conveniently located loading zones. You may find yourself having to haul your books, table, signs, etc across fairs, parking lots, casinos, convention centers…well, you get the picture. So, get yourself a wagon! Aspects to look for: a handle that adjusts to your height, easy to fold and unfold, sturdy wheels that can track through any terrain, and wheels that turn for better maneuvering. I have this one, and can’t recommend it highly enough.
Now that we’ve reached the end of my big ticket list, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. There’s easily a couple hundred dollars represented in these items. If you’re like me, you’re on a tight budget and wanting to keep your overhead costs low.
Don’t panic! Do prioritize. If you can only afford one thing, I would encourage you to start with a table and signs. This will open the door for you to attend more indoor events. Once you’ve had a chance to save up, the next item I would suggest is a tent. That will open you up to outdoor venues.
Lastly, get the wagon. It’s more of a convenience than a necessity. Push come to shove, bring a friend or book spouse to help you carry stuff for a bit.
And remember, all of these items – both small and large – won’t do you a lick of good if you don’t conduct yourself well. In my next post, Author Events – Part Three, I’ll be discussing tips on how to make a great first impression and having fruitful, positive interactions.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been attending a lot of author events lately and it got me to thinking about the various things I’ve learned as well as tips and tricks I’ve found to be useful.
If you’re an author who is new to attending in-person events, you may not know what to expect. Therefore, I’ve decided to do a series of posts to help you get started.
This first post will mainly focus on setting up your booth and a list of fairly inexpensive materials you may find useful. You can follow the links for an example of what I’m talking about. However, most of these items can be found at a variety of retailers.
Relatively low-cost items for your author table:
- Tablecloth: One that will fit a 6-foot long table. Think about color. Do you want something that will complement with your book cover, or contrast? Whatever you choose will set the foundation for your entire display, so don’t get a fabric that is super cheap looking. Also, consider buying some tablecloth picnic clips to clamp the tablecloth down in case of wind.
- Table signs: You can design signs for free on Canva and then have them printed out inexpensively at Staples. Plan to have at least one listing the price of your books. Other signs could include Amazon reviews, the back blurb of your book, or a news article written about your work.
- Plastic sign holders: These can be found at a number of retailers, including Staples. There are a few different styles, from simple to ones that hold business cards (or in my case, bookmarks.)
- Bookmarks: You’ll want to have plenty to pass out to people who may not want a physical copy of your book, but are interested in looking your e-book up online.
- Point-of-sale device: I use Square and find it very useful. You can either use the swipe device or the chip reader – both are easy. Don’t forget to set up your item list before-hand with your various titles. You can also have Square track your inventory for you if you plug in the amounts ahead of time. (Highly recommended!)
- A newsletter sign-up sheet, on a clipboard with a pen: I’ve found that these sign-up sheets work best if they are printed out and look professional. If you just slap a notebook down on the table with some headings scrawled on top, people don’t trust it enough to leave their e-mail information. However, if you take the time to have an official looking form, with a “Name” header and “E-mail” header, you’ll get more sign-ups. Don’t forget to supply a pen!
- Business cards: Author events are a great way to network with fellow authors, libraries, and bookstores. Be prepared for any business opportunity by having your business cards on hand.
- BOOKS! Don’t forget the most important part! Be sure to have plenty in stock for whatever event you’re attending. If you need to order ahead of time, plan to have them at least one week in advance of your event. This will give you some leeway in case there’s a weather or shipping emergency. Remember that printing your books will also take time. It’s better to have them too early, then to be sweating bullets or paying out the nose for expedited shipping, all because you procrastinated.
Optional Items that will help spruce up your display:
- Little book holders help get your book vertical so the cover is more visible to people walking by.
- A bowl of candy: Bring a nice serving bowl from home and grab a couple bags of candy to keep it filled throughout the day. Please note, assume that this cost is a loss leader and consider it a goodwill gesture. There will be people who eat your candy and don’t buy your book. THAT’S OKAY!
- Battery operated LED lights: Add a little sparkle to your display! I found light packs for a low cost at the Christmas Tree Shops, but I’ve seen them at craft stores as well. Shorter strands work better and are more versatile.
- Paper or plastic shopping bags: So your customers can carry your books with them comfortably. This is especially helpful if your event is outside and you’re worried about the weather. (Instead of buying a box of shopping bags, don’t be afraid to re-use plastic grocery bags to keep overhead costs low. Especially when you’re just starting out.)
- Plastic sheets or clear shower curtains: Again, this is mainly for outdoor events where there may be bad weather. Remember, if your books get wet, that’s money down the drain. Better to be prepared! (Why shower curtains? Check my next post, Author events – Part 2!)
- Handy Fix-it Kit: When putting your author booth kit together, try to prepare for anything. Have a pair of scissors, tape, stapler, twine, thumbtacks, pliers, and anything else that may be useful. Guaranteed, you’re not going to think of everything, however keep a list and add to your kit as needed.
So, there you have it! If you’re just starting out, these are the items that I have found to be most useful for setting up your author booth. Next, I’ll discuss some of the big ticket items that you’ll likely need to buy (or borrow) in order to have a fully equipped, ready-to-go author booth at your disposal.
How about you? Are you an author who likes attending live events? What items have you found essential must-haves?
Last year I watched a fellow author friend of mine, Connie Johnson Hambley, attend a seemingly endless number of live author events, from signings to expos to readings at the library. It seemed like every time I turned around, she was posting a photo of her booth at a new location! I found it inspiring and quickly decided that I’d like to take a page from her book.
Which helps explain why these last two weekends have been very busy! On September 30th I hosted my Secret Need book release party at the Battle Grounds Coffee Company in Haverhill, Massachusetts. My friend Lynne asked me some interview questions, I read a few excerpts, there were refreshments and door raffle prizes, as well as signed books available for sale. Overall, it was a great success and people seemed to have a lot of fun. I know I certainly did!
This past weekend I attended the Scituate Art Festival in Scituate, Rhode Island with my Association of Rhode Island Authors group. Although the weather could have been better (Sunday was a bit soggy) I was pleased with how well it went! Not only did I get to know my fellow authors in the group a bit better – I’m a fairly new member – but I also sold a decent amount of books.
Both occasions made me realize just how much I LIKE doing live author events. I enjoy the interaction with readers and potential readers. I also appreciate the opportunity to discuss craft and marketing with other writers. So far, I’ve learned something new with every event I’ve participated in and walked away feeling energized. From a business standpoint, it doesn’t hurt that I’m creating other avenues to sell my books and am less dependent on Amazon for being my main outlet.
I’m also inspired to write a little more about how to make the most out of any author event you participate in. Expect to see a few more blog posts on this topic in the near future.
Are you an author? Have you done many live events? If so, what did you think of them? If not, what’s holding you back?
CONNIE JOHNSON HAMBLEY writes high-concept thrillers featuring remarkable women entangled in modern-day crimes. Her latest book, The Wake, was released September 1st.
BIG NEWS! I’m thrilled to announce that Secret Need has won The Book Designer e-Book Cover Design Award for August 2017!
Joel Friedlander has been running this contest for years now and I’ve always found his critiques to be insightful. It’s one of the best resources available for an author wanting to learn more about what makes a strong cover. So, you can imagine what a shock it was to discover my cover was actually chosen as the winner!
You can check out the other submissions, and read the comments and critiques, here: http://bit.ly/2hunWhy
Thanks again to Damonza for their brilliant cover design!
Check out my interview with Katie Li, author of Somewhere in Between. Where we discuss the challenges of writing a second book, making a good bad guy, and sharing personal opinions as an author.
Writers On Writing: Interview with Satin Russell (Part 2!)
Also, be sure to sign up to her awesome bi-weekly e-zine called The Beautiful Worst for a chance to win an e-book copy of Secret Hunger and Secret Need!
I hope today finds you with a good book and a comfy place to read it! And don’t forget, you can always pick up a copy of Secret Need, as well!
Hey everybody! Can you do me a HUGE favor and go vote for my cover on All Author? Registration is free and easy. It’s also a great resource if you’re a fellow author.
Winner gets a pro-author membership and featured on their site for a month that I wouldn’t be able to afford on my own. Here’s the LINK.
Much obliged! (Wish me luck!)
And, if you haven’t seen it yet, this is the cover in question. Isn’t it pretty? Wouldn’t it look nice in the #1 spot? (Feel free to share this post and spread the word!)
The time has finally come. Secret Need is now available on Amazon!
See why readers are saying, “Secret Need is an amazing read.” and “…once I started I struggled to put it down. ”
Get your copy today! Buy links: