If you are planning to be selling books at fairs or trade shows, plan to stand out among the throngs so that you can sell some of your product.
Throughout the year, you have the holiday markets, craft fairs, even lavender festivals. Sometimes, an unlikely flea market can be a great place to sell. Be alert for unusual places where you may be able to sell books.
Whether you are buying a table at a trade show, craft, holiday, or street fair, if you haven’t planned, you are going to have ordinary sales. Not ideal, when you have invested money into this venture. So how can you improve your return on investment (ROI)?
Prior to Selling Books at Fairs
Since you usually sign up weeks or months in advance for fairs or shows, you have time to do some preliminary marketing.
Contact Your Email Subscribers
Utilizing your email address list, contact everyone and let them know where you will be. A good way to measure the response to this email is to add an offer to it: perhaps you could give them a 10% off coupon with the code MYBOOK10% if they buy a book. Track this response so that you can add it to your marketing research.
Follow up several days ahead of the event to remind your email followers about time, place, and benefit to them if they come see you.
A week or so before the event, put a reminder on the local craigslist, free newspaper lists, and so on. Again, put a different offer on this notice (perhaps CHRISTMASBOOK10%) and track it if you get a response.
At the Fair
So many times, beginners just lay their products out on a bare table and think the product will sell itself. The presentation you make at this fair can make a real difference when selling books at fairs.
Because of the logistics of getting your books and supplies into the show, plan to use lightweight materials and decorations. Your books are heavy enough.
Plan a theme for your table/booth with appealing colors. If you have written about the Caribbean, think bright, cheery colors. If you have written about France, think pinks, grays, blacks—Eiffel Tower effects, and so on. If you have written about cowboys, think rope, browns, reds, etc. Romance writers might use flowers and even a subtle perfume in the air (don’t overwhelm–just hint). You get the drift.
Now that you have decided on a theme, follow through with a “uniform” for you and your helpers. Perhaps this would be a monogrammed polo shirt with jeans, or if you have a cookbook, what about fancy aprons for everyone?
If you are lucky enough to have a curtain behind you, make sure you have a nice sign to post on it. If you have room in your assigned space, have some chairs for you and your staff, but also some other decorations which again are interesting to look at. Be clever and design something you can carry in.
The idea here is to stand out and create interest in the people passing by. Don’t be afraid to be different.
Staffing the Table
You as author will be in demand. Because of that, you need someone to take the money and talk with people as you autograph books. This extra person will keep the lines moving and manage the table as you work, and in slow times, provide you with companionship. Hopefully, you won’t have slow times!
One of your most valuable assets is your email address list of subscribers. The fair is an excellent place to introduce you and your books to new followers. Have some reason they will want to be on your email list—perhaps a notification and discount on your next book? Your staffer should be working this list as you sign.
Bringing People to Your Table
You have fancy colors, uniforms, nice table setup, and those fair goers might still walk by. Think about what attracts you as you go by tables at a fair.
Sometimes, it is a simple giveaway (you could do bookmarks, pencils, etc. all printed with your name or your book or your website), but even candy will work. Candy is my least favorite, for once they eat it, your impression is gone.
I would recommend investing in some very simple, not very expensive promotional items that you can give away here or when you meet people at other places. Everyone loves a freebee, so make yours a nice one, but not too expensive. You can’t give away the farm. Best choice for a promotional item is something connected to you or your book and definitely printed with your information. That way, you can be selling books at fairs, yet they have another way to contact you.
After the Fair
Lucky you! You now have a long list of emails of new contacts. First thing, send a very simple thank you to everyone for visiting your table. If you can, again give them something—maybe a preview of your next book? A discount?
Just be careful not to spam. Nobody likes junk mail, so make yours worthy of your project.
Revisit Your Fair Efforts
Did this particular fair have enough attendees to make your table worthwhile? When considering your table design and staffing, what aspects worked well?
Compare profit to expenses: was this venture worth your time? Did selling books at a fair pay off?
Lastly, did you have a good time? No point in doing this if you hate meeting the public and personally selling books. (Many of my self-published authors love going to the various fairs and make a good living selling their books like this. BUT, to be successful, you have got to like it.)
Think About Selling Books at Fairs
Don’t overlook this possibly lucrative market for your books. Choose the venue that is appropriate, and have some fun meeting your audience.
Shop around and again, THINK UNIQUE if you are planning to purchase materials or promotional products for any show that you do. Find things that correspond with you as author or your works. Here are some starting points for your shopping [I receive no compensation from these companies]:
Remember, this is just a start. You can often find matching shirts locally, but you also should price out online. Anything you get for a fair or trade show should have your info on it. Otherwise, don’t waste your time and money. Good luck!