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.