Yesterday I was with my writing group, The Hourlings, selling our books at Manassas Reads. I’m going to share a few things that I learned. This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a start based on my experience yesterday.
1. Prepare for the elements.
We were selling under a covered pavilion, so we had some protection in case of rain, shade from the sun, etc.. What no one anticipated was the insane gusts of wind the terrorized us and the other local authors selling books. The open sides offered no protection against the wind. The wind was powerful enough to knock books off of tables, send our business cards flying, and it even knocked the caps off a few heads! A few authors even left early.
Luckily, the book stands that Marty and Dave had brought were sturdy and weighed-down with books, so they didn’t fall over. Other authors with smaller stands were not so lucky. We stuck our business cards and bookmarks under books and stands to keep them from flying off.
As a side note, pack a change of clothes. The weather was supposed to be 70 degrees, but I was freezing despite my jeans and a sweatshirt I happened to have in my car. The wind made it really cold, and I almost wore a dress and flip flops. If I had, I can promise you I would have been miserable.
2. Get a book stand.
Most, if not all, of the authors there had some sort of book stand. They display your book, look professional, and allow your covers to catch people’s attention from a distance. There are stands for individual books (which were not wind-proof) which look nice, as well as larger wire racks like the ones in our group photo up above.
3. Get a Square Point of Sale.
This is the little, white square thing that you can plug into your phone’s audio jack (if it still has one!). The magstripe for Square is free if you get it from their website (the chip reader costs $50). It allows you to accept credit card payments, and since a lot of people don’t carry cash these days, it can help you make a sale that you otherwise might miss out on. Square takes 2.75% per transaction, but it’s worth it in order to accept card payments. I think nearly all of our sales were via card, not cash.
Once you get your Square, test it out the night before (or morning of) to make sure it works. I ended up not using mine because we all used Dave’s to keep everything in one place. Testing things out is important because we ended up not having the right adapter to use the chip reader component, so we defaulted to the magstripe.
You can also pre-load products into your “library” and easily select them. This is handy if you’ve got a big inventory with a variety of prices (or if you’re trying to keep track of all the different prices of books by writers in your writing group).
4. Bring promotional materials.
There’s a lot you can do with this, so if you’re looking for more ideas, pinterest and google are your friend.
It’s nice to have things like business cards and banners. Vistaprint has tons of sales, so you can get a good deal on promotional materials. I’ve gotten business cards from them, and Liz had some nice bookmarks made. TR had a small table-sized banner, and Marty had a larger one (both visible in the photo). My business cards have my cover on one side, and on the other, my name and a QR code that’s a link to my book on Amazon. This way if someone prefers ebooks, they can quickly look it up.
Another thing I tried this time was offering a free, reusable book tote (that I sewed myself) to the first five people to purchase a book. The materials were inexpensive, the bags weren’t that hard to make, and I enjoyed it. I’ll do it again at my next book signing. Did it net me more sales? I highly doubt it. Was it fun? Yep. I want to look into making fabric bookmarks in the future, too.
5. Make a check list of random supplies you’ll need…
…and add to it when you’re missing that one crucial tool. Trial and error. I brought masking tape, trash bags (for the books in case of sudden rain), paper, note cards, pens, markers, poster board, a sharpie, and candy. The candy was supposed to be for potential buyers, but I think I ate more of it than anyone else. I used some of these things, like the tape and note cards, but fortunately had no need for the trash bags. Next time, I’ll print up signs in advance instead of making them with sharpie and a poster board. Marty brought a table cloth, so I’ve added that to my list of things for next time.
6. Don’t do it alone.
Whether it’s a fellow author (or five), your partner, or a friend, it really pays to have some help. You can take a break to use the restroom or get a bite to eat. This is especially helpful for longer events like book festivals or conferences. It’s also nice to have someoe to chat with in the down time.
Book signings, especially at festivals with a lively atmosphere can be a lot of fun. Sometimes, there aren’t many people, or the weather’s bad, or you don’t sell a single book, but that’s the risk. I’m just going to take each one as a learning experience, and enjoy it!