Selling books in person can be a great way to boost sales. I’ve done a lot of book events over the years, and have come up with some of my best recommendations for preparing.
|Disclosure: I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.|
1. The Basics
To do a book event you absolutely need two things in hand:
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: The hardest part is knowing how many books you will need. This is something you will only learn from experience–I have sold anywhere between 1-30 books at a single event, but often average 10. Just try to prepare as best you can.
Books don’t go bad, but they cost you money upfront, and 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. And, of course, you’ll need to store the leftover books in between events.
Accepting payments: 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. Do your research.
As far as actual payment, it’s best 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 want.
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. There’s small fee for transactions, but I think it’s worth making the sale.
2. Finding Events
Libraries and book stores are the first places that probably come to mind for a book signing. But feel free to branch out depending on your target market. I’ve even done flea markets, craft shows, anime conventions, and renaissance faires on top of the obvious literary events. My best event was a renaissance faire–because I mostly write fantasy novels. Ask yourself, what events do you think your readers attend?
There is also the table fee to consider. How many books do you need to sell to cover it? Are the event hours worth your time? 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.
3. What to bring
What you need will depend on the type of show, and how much you want to bring. Places like libraries and bookstores will generally provide tables and chairs, whereas at an outdoor event you might need to bring a pop-up tent.
Figure out what’s important to you, and make your own list!
Here’s a list, in no particular order, of things I suggest to have (besides your books & change):
- Table Cloth
- Folding Chairs
- Hand truck or cart. A rolling suitcase also works well for lugging books.
- Business Cards
- Sign-up sheet for your email list
- A spare battery, to charge your phone.
- Credit card swiper
- Other promo materials, if you have them (postcards, bookmarks, etc.)
- 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)
- Signage: banners, posters, flyers, etc. (retractable banners are great! You could also bring a poster-framed or mounted on foam board, and an easel)
- Pricing (price stickers on the books, or sign(s) indicating prices)
- Food, snacks, water, caffeine, etc.
- Bag for trash
- A backdrop, if you want to get fancy
- Various supplies: Sharpies, tape, duct tape, rubber bands, binder clips, Purell wipes, tissues, scissors.
- Paper or plastic shopping bags that your books fit in
- Pop-up Tent
- Tent Weights (I have these, and I used 2 liter bottles of soda as weights!)
- Tarp (useful for saving books in the rain! Or if there is dew, mud, etc.)
- Seasonal appropriate stuff: bug spray, sunscreen, or hand warmers if it’s chilly
- Small paperweights for when it’s windy
4. Event Day
I have a couple of personal rules I abide by when I do events, and here is my list of HONEST advice:
- Be early. You certainly don’t want to get stuck in traffic, parking, or be late setting up. Imagine losing sales because you couldn’t find somewhere to park because you didn’t leave on time.
- Try to look approachable. Smile, if that’s your thing. Stand, if that’s your thing. Don’t play with your phone a lot. Be aware of how you look–would YOU want to approach your table?
- 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. Hopefully you have also shared and posted that you’re attending this event a good amount before the actual event as well.
- Prepare an “elevator speech”–a quick, 30 second synopsis explaining your book.
- Don’t be disappointed. Not everyone likes to read, or not everyone may like your genre. Or someone who might love your book might not be able to afford it. Hand out lots of business cards or postcards. Don’t complain to the bookstore, or other vendors/authors. Maybe they’re really excited they “only” sold one book, when you “only” sold ten. It’s all about perspective.
- Make friends with the other vendors/authors/staff. Useful for when you need to leave your table to go to the bathroom/get food/go to your car.
- Don’t pack up early. This is a big pet peeve of mine because it drives customers away from all the vendors. Besides, you might miss out on sales! Even when I’m packing up when an event ends, the last thing I pack is the books. I’ve even had other vendors buy books from me when it was breakdown time.
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 awesome. Isn’t that why we all do this?
I will be honest and say that I 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 more reader’s hands!