Selling Books Outside of Bookstores 3

Part 3, all the stuff you’ll need

In this series, I’m talking about my experiences selling books outside of bookstores, in venues such as farmer’s markets, craft shows, and anywhere else vendors are invited. In previous installments I’ve spoken about setting up your table for sales and using signage and banners to attract readers to your booth.

Today I’ll be speaking about all the stuff you’ll need to support your endeavors. My kit is a simple stacked box that contains everything I’ll need to deal with customers and keep myself comfortable at the event. This is what it looks like.

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I swiped this one from the wife after she was nice enough to bring it home from the Dollar store. I’m sure she had a use for it, but I saw it on the counter which makes it fair game.

The top level has the items I use the most:

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First and foremost, Sharpies for signing books. They last forever, the ink looks nice on the page, and they make the inscription look great. I buy them by the pack, so I always have extras.

Next up is my card reader. As mentioned in earlier installments, you have to treat your setup as a business. I speak from experience when I say you never, ever, want to turn away a customer because you can’t accept payment. Cash is great, but many people rely on credit and debit cards and you have to be ready to accept those payment options. I use a Paypal swipe reader plugged into my phone. It’s free and linked to my Paypal account. Other options include Square, Shopify, PayAnywhere, and others. I’ve had days at farmer’s markets and Christmas markets where I wouldn’t have had any sales without my card reader, so be prepared!

I also store my bookmarks here so they are easily accessible. One is included with each book I sell and I make sure to spread them out on the table. These are also great to hand out to potential customers who may not want to buy that day. It’s a callback that allows them to order your books later on from your website or third party vendors like Amazon.

Other items in the top layer are hand sanitizer, to keep yourself healthy, and a multi-tool. The multi-tool is good for trimming ropes when hanging banners, or fixing things that might break. It’s always good to have a pair of pliers or a screwdriver handy.

The next layer has items that used less frequently:

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This is where I keep housekeeping items like USB cables and a battery to charge my cell phone, lens cleaner wipes, tape, napkins, binder clips to help hold down tablecloths on windy days, and anything else you might need.

The final level is where I store all the bookmarks and business cards I collect:

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I keep everything I get from other authors and vendors that are also at events. I love networking with other authors. It allows me to join writing groups, like pages on social media, and get new marketing ideas. Never pass up an opportunity to work with other authors. They aren’t the competition, they’re just like you. The world has plenty of room for books.

So, that’s it for this series of blog posts. I hope these ideas help you sell books and make setting up your table much easier. Drop me a line if you have any questions. I love to hear from readers!

Selling Books Outside of Bookstores 2

Part 2, Setting the Table

In this series, I’m talking about my experiences selling books outside of bookstores, in venues such as farmer’s markets, craft shows, and anywhere else vendors are invited. In the last installment, we spoke about signage and banners, and using them to attract readers to your booth.

This time, I’ll be talking about setting up your table. I try to make my table look professional and attractive so readers want to approach and engage in conversation. Here’s what my usual setup looks like.


I use a six foot folding table because it fits well in my car and is easy to transport. Most venues that provide a table use eight footers, which are nice but if I’m lugging it around I prefer the one that fits nicely across my backseat.

I cover the table with a clean, black tablecloth because the vinyl tabletop gets dirty and beat up from being carried around. On top of that, I arrange my books using clear plastic literature holders that hold two copies of my paperbacks nicely. I picked them up at Staples for about $10 each.

The next items are framed copies of interviews I did with media. When I release a new book, I give local media a call and arrange interviews. The two pictured here are for Murder in the Heart of It All and Bad Rock Beat Down. These are extremely important. Banners and signs attract readers from far away, but these interview displays are excellent at opening up a conversation. I can’t tell you how often people tell me they remember reading the interview and were interested in my books, and now we’re together discussing that work. The one pictured below is for Murder in the Heart of It All, and even after a year people recall reading it.


This one is for Bad Rock Beat Down. I doctored it up a little to include the book cover and to make it look a little more professional.

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Finally, I place bookmarks on the front of the table for readers to take.


I hand these out to potential readers who don’t want to buy immediately. The front has a custom design with my website name. The reverse has images of my book covers and a QR code that leads to my website.

I also include one of these in each book I sell.

So, that’s the table set up. The secret to success is to keep the table neat, clean, and professional. If readers see that you can set up an attractive table, they’ll be more likely to assume the work you put into your book is professional as well.

Next time, we discuss the writer’s kit that contains everything you’ll need to process payments and support your efforts.

Selling Books Outside of Bookstores 1

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!