In today’s world, authors have to be clever, think outside the box, and reach far beyond Amazon, libraries and brick-and-mortar book stores to sell their books. More and more authors are trying their hands at selling their books at country fairs and festivals-events that can draw thousands of potential buyers and be a fun, lucrative venture.
Considering selling your book at a fair, festival, or other outdoor venue this year? Here are some tips that may help you.
- PARTNER WITH ANOTHER AUTHOR-Partnering allows you to share entry expenses and also share tasks and equipment. At a recent fair, I brought the tent, sandbags for the tent, the easels for our posters, a phone charger, and a decorative tablecloth. The author I partnered with brought a folding table, two folding chairs, a table scarf, and other supplies. I enjoyed having a friend to talk to when no patrons were stopping by the booth.
- NEGOTIATE WITH ORGANIZERS-If the booth fee is too high for you to make a profit, contact fair organizers well in advance, explain the tiny profit margins of books, and ask for a different deal.
- PROMOTE BEFORE AND DURING-Hopefully, the festival organizers will promote the event in advance. However, about a week before the event, start posting on social media and tell people you will be there selling books. Write a short press release for the newspaper or community newsletter. Ask for a guest spot on a local radio show to talk about your book and your participation at the fair. Also, during the event, take photos of book buyers and splash the photos all over social media to remind people of the fair.
- TAKE POSTERS AND SIGNS-A good poster or sign can help lure people into your booth. Place your posters on easels so they are eye-level and easy to read. It’s also a good idea to have signs in the booth saying things like,”Local Authors,” “Ask Me About My Book,” and “Signed Copies of Books Available.”
- MAKE A LIST-Make a list and be prepared. Some events provide a table and chairs, and others do not. Beyond books, business cards, posters, and money, you may need tape, scissors, a pen, paper, a few basic tools, a jacket, a hat, sunscreen, water, hand sanitizer, tissue, paper towels, a change of clothes, a hand truck, phone charger, and trash bags.
- SET UP A TENT OR AWNING OVERHEAD-A tent will protect you from the elements (torrential downpours, burning sunshine, etc.) If you opt to use a tent, you may want to tie weights or sandbags to the legs to prevent the wind from blowing it away. Also, a can of WD-40 may come in handy since metal frames rust sometimes making legs and braces hard to slide into position.
- STACK BOOKS ON THE TABLES-Stack a few books on the table so passersby can read the spine of the book. Also, prop one book upright so patrons can see the cover from several feet away. If the weather is wet or humid, don’t take too many books out or the pages will swell and buckle.
- BE NEAT-Keep your table nice, neat, and presentable. Clutter is distracting. No one wants to see crumpled candy wrappers and trash on the table top.
- GIVE STUFF AWAY-One way to draw people into your booth is to give away inexpensive freebies. At the fair I attended, I gave buckeyes to dozens of people as they contemplated buying my book. I’d smile and say, “Put it in your pocket for good luck.” The buckeyes were great conversation starters. Be creative. What about a clear vase full of Tootsie Rolls? Or bookmarks? And as always, have business cards on the table for people to take home.
- HAVE OTHER RELATED THINGS TO SELL-Have other things for sale, too. A friend of mine who is currently marketing a book about farming and relationships, also sells jars of yummy vegetables at her events.
- POSITION YOUR TABLE CLOSE TO THE FLOW OF PEOPLE-You want to be as close to the people traffic as possible so you can make easy eye contact. If you place your table deep within your booth, a potential customer has to walk all the way in, which may deter people from stopping.
- SET SMART PRICES-Don’t sell your book for an odd price requiring coin change. Make it easy on you and the buyers and round the price to the nearest dollar.
- HAVE CASH AND YOUR SQUARE DEVICE-Have plenty of cash on hand. At the fair I attended recently, I sold copies of my book for $16, so I made sure that I had plenty of one dollar bills in my cash box. Also, make sure that your Square device (or other credit card processing device) is working and ready for the day. Pre-program the items you will be selling on your Square app so you don’t have to remember the prices during the transaction.
- KNOW YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH-An elevator pitch is a thirty-second description of your book. Every author should have one, and every author should practice saying the pitch over and over again. If you partner with another author, make sure you know how to pitch his or her book, too.
- PREPARE FOR CHIT CHAT-“So, are you from around here?” “I love your boots!” “Do you read nonfiction?” “Do you have keepsakes or heirlooms at home?” “You look familiar to me.” “I think the rain is over for a while. Have you seen the radar?” Also, if you find out a patron is involved in a particular school, library, club, or group, inquire about speaking to the group about your book. Seize the moment and ask, and don’t forget to get his or her business card or contact information.
- DON’T HOUND PEOPLE-Not everyone reads, and not everyone wants to buy a book at a country fair or fall festival, so if they keep walking, let them walk away. Don’t call to them. Don’t badger them. Let them go.
- WEAR COMFORTABLE, APPROPRIATE CLOTHING AND SHOES-Sorry, four-inch-heeled Manolo Blahnik shoes and skin-tight pencil skirts aren’t appropriate articles of clothing for a country fair or street festival. Think comfort. Consider jeans and a nice top. Wear comfortable shoes.
- WEAR A NAME BADGE-A name tag will help people know who you are so they can call you by name. It will also reinforce your brand.
- SMILE AND BE FRIENDLY-No one wants to buy a book from a grumpy author. Smile. Be friendly. Be inviting. Be helpful. Be respectful. Let people know you are approachable and you want to be there. And be excited about your book.
- WRITE A THANK YOU NOTE-In today’s world, a simple thank you goes a long way. Sit down and write a thank you note to the event organizers and ask them to keep you in mind for other events.
Thousands of people ramble around and spend money at outdoor festivals, fairs, and events when the weather is nice. Be ready to pitch them your book. Happy book selling!