Part 1, Give me a sign!
If you’re like most authors, there are occasions when you try to sell your books at locations outside of bookstores. Sure, bookstores and book fairs are tailor made for authors because readers are present and often excited to meet authors. However, there are only so many bookstores you can easily visit. What other opportunities exist?
This is where non-literary venues come in. Readers are everywhere so there are advantages to being an author at an event where people don’t expect to see one. I’ve set up at comicons, farmer’s markets, Christmas markets, craft shows and car shows; basically anywhere other vendors will be present and some attraction will draw crowds of people. Vendors selling soap, candles, and other crafts produce a draw that creates traffic, which is good for you.
To capitalize on these opportunities, you need to have your sales kit ready. This consists of everything you’ll need to sell your books. Good planning and organizational skills come in handy here, and since you’re an author, you’ve got those in an abundance. Now is the time to utilize them!
First make a checklist. Think about every book signing you’ve been to and what the author did. It’s pretty simple, right? A pen, some books and you’re all set. Let the selling begin!
Of course, you’ll need a table to set everything up on, a chair to sit on, and a canopy to keep the rain off. Oh, and you’ll need to some way to accept and process the sweet, sweet payments that are the point of this whole endeavor.
Here’s a picture of my setup at a recent farmer’s market…
What I’ve done here is create my own space among the other vendors using a 10 x 10 canopy. Under that is everything I need to conduct business, and it’s important to treat your signings as a business, no matter how casual the venue.
The most important thing is for potential customers to see your space and understand why you’re there. A good sign, or banner, helps you do this at a glance.
The first thing prospective customers see in front of my space is an eye catching banner announcing who I am, that I’m an author, that a book signing is happening today, and my website address.
I created this banner myself rather using a print shop. The image on the banner came from a stock photo I purchased from Shutterstock and I added the text using a free graphics program called GIMP. It’s incredibly useful and worth your time to become familiar with. There are plenty of DIY videos on YouTube because the GIMP community is generous and loves to share their knowledge.
I uploaded the image to Vistaprint and ordered a couple 2.5 x 6 foot banners. Vistaprint is a good resource for printing anything from bookmarks to signs, and they usually have a discount available. I ordered this banner as the outside, heavy duty version with grommets, which are necessary for hanging it. They can be a little pricey, in the $30 range, but they’re worth it.
Speaking of hanging it, the banner in front of the table is mounted on a lightweight frame. I went to Home Depot and spent about $20 on 1 inch PVC pipe and some connecting elbows and T’s. The frame can be put together and broken down easily by simply pushing the pieces together and pulling them apart. I pack the frame and rolled up banners in an old duffel bag for easy carrying. I screwed some simple brass hooks into the PVC to hang the banner.
When I ordered the banner, I got two of them. This is so I could mount one on the back of the canopy facing the other direction. In the case of this farmer’s market, I was lucky enough to score a location facing a street with plenty of traffic. The second banner was easily seen by drivers passing by and while they were stopped at a red light.
The view from the rear
I used some bungee cords and rope to hang the banner from the frame at the rear of the canopy. On this day, I had at least one sale because someone passing by saw the banner and remembered an interview I’d done for the local paper the previous month. Hearing that was great.
That’s my advice on signage. If you have any questions, please feel free to hit me up on the contact page. Next time, we’ll talk about table set up!