Indie Author In-Person Event: How To

Indie Author In-Person Event: How To

Over the past few years, I’ve been participating in and experimenting with in-person events to promote my fantasy series the Arcera Trilogy. After doing my taxes this past February, I discovered that these events were actually where the majority of my sales came from last year, so this year, I decided to book more events. I’ve learned a lot of things first-hand that I wanted to share with other indie authors, so here goes!

Book Launch event for The Fifth City, at a local library

1. The Basics

To do a book event you absolutely need two things in hand: Books, and a way to accept payments.
Whenever I’m on my way to an event, and I’m experiencing that last-minute “what did I forget” moment, I just ask myself: Do I have my books and my change? If the answer is yes, I pull out of the driveway.
The books: If you publish your books through CreateSpace like me, this part is fairly easy, but it is an investment. The hard part is knowing how many books you will need, because you never know how many books you might sell. This is something you will most likely learn from experience–I have sold anywhere between 1-27 books at a single event, but average 10, so try to prepare as best you can.  Books don’t go bad, but you’ll probably also be reporting them as inventory on your business taxes.  You’ll also need to physically lug them to the event, so you might want to invest in some sort of cart.  I have this one.
Accepting payments: Part one of accepting payments is to first look into your state’s tax laws, and any other laws pertaining to selling items.  Obtain any permits or licensing before doing an event.
Part two is the actual payment.  You will want to have change on hand for cash purchases, so calculate how much you will need beforehand and go to your bank and get as many 1’s 5’s or 10’s you might need.
Accepting credit cards is exceedingly easy these days, and is likely to get you more sales than if you only accept cash.  PayPal and Square both make card swipers you can plug into your phone.  Generally, you’re getting hit with a small fee for each transaction, so make sure to factor that in with your recordkeeping.

At the Big E (a huge New England fair), sharing a booth with other authors.

2. Finding Events

The first event I ever attended was at my alma-mater: they were hosting an art show, and were looking for alumni who were authors to be part of it.  I happened to get an email about it.  The second event I attended was at a local library, with several other authors doing book signings–I found out about it from a newspaper clipping someone found for me.  The point here is that you can find events through almost any channel.  These days, I find most things through Google, or Facebook to be honest.  Join mailing lists, groups, and search for “local author event” or “fairs” in your area.  When you fill out an application, or contact the coordinator, make sure to follow instructions, and provide what’s requested.

Libraries and book stores are the first places that probably come to mind for a book signing–Getting people to attend a single-author event, however, is a whole ‘nother topic.  As I did more and more events last year, I began to expand my horizons, and have since done flea markets, craft shows, and renaissance faires.  These types of shows have actually seen the most sales for me.

With the markets and shows I’ve done, I’ve had my own booth (10×10 or so), so there is a little more involved here that I’ll go into in the logistics section about setup.  They also usually charge a fee, which you’ll need to consider when weighing your options.  (If you know any other authors in your area, try partnering with them and sharing a booth to split the cost if it’s high.)

Yes, I hand painted this sign. #AuthorWithTooManyHobbies

3. Logistics

The amount of things you may or may not need will depend on the type of show.  Places like libraries and bookstores will generally provide tables and chairs, at the very least, whereas at an outdoor craft show you might need a pop-up tent to go with your setup.  Here’s a list, in no particular order, of things I suggest to have (besides your books & change):

  • eMail List sign-up sheet
  • Table/Table Cloth/Chairs/Tent/Tent Weights etc. if needed
  • Business Cards
  • Other promo materials, if you have them (postcards, bookmarks, etc.)
  • Designated book signing pen (I like fancy pens, personally)
  • A way to track sales, even if it’s just a designated piece of paper or notebook
  • A receipt book, in case someone wants one
  • Stands to prop up your book(s) (Like these)
  • Signage: banners, posters, flyers, stands, etc.
  • If it’s going to be a long day, bring food, snacks, water, caffeine, etc.
  • A spare battery, to charge your phone.
  • Various supplies: tape, duct tape, rubber bands, binder clips, Purrell wipes, tissues, hand warmers, scissors.  (Can you tell I used to be a Stage Manager?)

 

My latest setup at the Made in CT Expo (a 300 vendor show)

4. Event Day

Now, you’ve been getting ready for this day for a while now, and it’s finally here!   First: be early.  Whether it’s the library, or the several thousand people market, there are many reasons to be early, and you certainly don’t want to get stuck in traffic, parking, or be late setting up.  I like to pack my car the night before, if I can.  Second: do you have your books and change?

A few tips, for once you’ve set up:

  • Smile at people, or at the very least, try not to look unfriendly.
  • Take pictures of your setup, or event signage, and put it out on all of your social media channels to let everyone know you’re there.
  • Prepare an “elevator speech”–a quick, 30 second synopsis of your story, or explaining your book.
  • If someone picks up your book to read the back, try not to talk, and let them read.
  • Don’t be disappointed.  Not everyone likes to read, and not everyone may like your genre.  It is what it is!
  • Make friends with the other vendors/authors/staff.
  • Don’t pack up early.  This is a big pet peeve of mine because it drives customers away from all vendors.  Besides, you might miss out on those sales!

5. Weather

There is no getting around it: if you do an event outside, you will be dealing with the weather.  There are some things you can do to prepare, but sometimes there is nothing you can do.  If you have a tent, you can get walls to attach to it, to keep out rain and sun.  You can also get weights to keep your tent from leaving the ground (highly recommend!).  You can wear rain boots.  And you can sit there and watch as your booth gets flooded–whoops, yes, that did happen to me recently.  It was relocated.  But the show must go on, and it did.

And you can even cosplay! This is my setup at the Connecticut Renaissance Faire last year.

There is a lot that goes into doing an in person event, but I have to be honest, that feeling of signing your book and handing it over to a reader is incredible!  I can’t speak for all writers, but I myself am better with words coming out of my hands than my mouth, BUT sometimes you just need to get yourself out there if you want to get your books into reader’s hands!

Do you sell at markets and events?  What kinds of things do you bring?

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