Observations from a Book Fair

 

BelmarBookConBooth

I took this before I had my standing banner up (wind was an issue), but now I think I have to get some book stands… yep. Looks too flat. :-/

I did a book show on Sunday for the first time in what seems like a long time, though it was really just last year. I’ve done several shows since first publishing in 2011 and I was a little bit excited for this one. With doing physical shows, it can help to have a short-term memory. That isn’t to say you should forget what worked and what didn’t, but you should be able to go into it with a fresh attitude. It’s probably why I don’t do more than a couple of shows a year.

I sold 6 books in 6 hours. Three to one person. It’s actually as good as I’ve ever done at this kind of event. Now you see the need for the short term memory. Shows aren’t (typically) money-making events. They’re face-time events.

I considered the day a success, but not just for the sales (which did help me break even for the costs), but the simple fact of getting out and talking to readers and fellow writers. I spoke with many people, gave out a lot of business cards, and chatted with my booth neighbor, horror/sci-fi/paranormal author K. Edwin Fritz. It was a beautiful day and we had some laughs and shared stories about writing and publishing. We each had some sales and chatted about best marketing practices both in person and online. It was refreshing.

As it turned out, the town of Belmar was also having an Octoberfest that day. There was great foot traffic, but the most common thing I heard was, “I didn’t know this was going to be here today!” So, lots of foot traffic, but little in the way of book buying traffic. There were about 25 spaces, but only 20 authors showed, which was fine. They also tried doing panels and readings but, apparently, they didn’t realize there was going to be a live band right in front of the square where we were set up. Hey, it was their first time doing this, so things like that will happen.

I’ve got one more scheduled book-selling event this year, in November. And, while at this show, I was approached to speak at the New Jersey Speculative Fiction Writers monthly meeting next year. Looking forward to that opportunity. I’m also looking forward to doing a few more shows next year. This was my first with more than one paperback. With luck, I might have a fourth this time next year. I’m convinced that having more books helps to sell more books. It helps if they’re good as well.

If you’re doing a show soon, or considering doing a show, I wish you the best of luck. It’s often what you make of the experience that makes the event successful or not.

8 Tips for Your Next Book Show

SmallShowTable_cropped

You don’t see the candy on the table (tip #6 ignored)! This is an old picture… lesson learned.

I’ll be at my first book show in ages on Sunday. The beach town of Belmar, NJ, will be the location of the Belmar BookCon; a celebration of self- and small-press-published authors. If you’re in the area (or know someone who will be), be sure to check it out.

Have you done in-person shows before? I’ve done several over the years and it can be hit or miss, depending on the turnout, but it’s always fun to chat with readers and fellow writers alike. For those of us with extrovert personalities, it can also be a bit of a release.

But, it’s not all about the author at these types of shows. It’s really about the books. I think the biggest mistake I see at these shows is not putting thought into your author space. I’ve even seen authors who showed up without books! This boggles my mind. You might be the best salesperson in the world, but nothing will intrigue a reader more than having your book in their hand. Cards and giveaways are nice, but what they’re really after is your book (hopefully). It’s a much easier sell if you have a product they can touch.

If you’re planning on doing a show, here’s a few tips:

1. Have a nice tablecloth. Most folding tables are pretty blah and the white ones don’t take long to get pretty filthy. Spice it up a bit with a classy clean white or black tablecloth. You’d be surprised what a difference this one item can make. Don’t get anything too loud, as you might be distracting from your product!

2. Pick up a couple of clear acrylic standing displays. You can print out pricing, reviews, or social media info to display right on your table. The idea is to make it easy for the reader to see what you’re all about.

3. Stagger your book piles (makes it look like you’ve already sold some) and leave some at the front of the table (easy access for the reader). The table should be inviting them to pick up your book and read the blurb on the back cover. You should also not hide behind your books. Don’t stack them so high that your smiling face can’t be seen.

4. Give readers some space. I’ve been told I’m too passive at shows. Well, that’s just me, so take this advice with a grain of salt. When I walk into a store, I hate it when a salesperson attacks me right away. I just want to look. If I have a question, I’ll ask. So, I always give potential readers the same space I want. A simple hello when they reach the table and then let them pick up a book or look them over. If they’re still in the space 30 seconds later, they must be a little interested, so I’ll throw out my one-liners. Speaking of which…

5. Prepare one-liners in advance! You should create a few book hook lines. Try out different ones. See which ones seem to work and which ones don’t, but be sure to have something you can say to readers in a concise manner. I’ve heard all sorts of lines. Some work better than others. It can be hard to come up with a single line that gets the point of your book across. And don’t mistake this for the elevator pitch. They are not the same. A one-liner is self-descriptive: a single line that describes your book. I used to say “A bit like Patterson with a touch of Dean Koontz” when describing Multiples. I’ve changed that up since, but it usually elicited a response. If they were interested, I would then go into the elevator pitch.

6. Have something to give away. A business card or a pen or a bookmark. The only requirement I have is that it has to have your (author) name on it! I’ve written in the past about getting author swag on the cheap. Don’t give away candy… unless they have custom wrappers. The point of a giveaway is to remind people of who you are. I’ve had folks come by, look at my books and say, I only buy on my Kindle anymore. Sure, you can reply by saying you’re available there, but a business card will let them know how to find you and your books (or at least it should).

7. Practice signing your name (especially if it’s a pen name!) and bring a pen! Believe it or not, I’ve known folks who forgot to bring a pen to an event. Readers want their book signed, even if you’re a nobody!

8. Lastly, remember that not everyone will be interested in your books. Shocker, right? Deep breath. It’ll be ok. Keep your expectations low. If you’re selling paperbacks, you’re probably asking for $10 or more per book. That’s asking a lot, especially for an author they more than likely know nothing about. Be a gracious host in your show space and leave readers feeling positive when they walk away, whether they purchased your book or not.

First show coming up? 100th show coming up? Post questions or share tips in the comments section and thanks for stopping by! 😀