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?