What To Bring With

Edith, writing furiously north of Boston on the Equinox 

Ya can’t take it with you, isn’t that what they say? Well, I have learned that if I don’t take it with me, I’m in trouble. Specifically, what I bring along when I go sell books in public. So this post (by request from none other than Hank Phillippi Ryan) is all about being prepared to go sell books.

IMG_4020I sell books at libraries. I sell them at farmers’ markets. I sell them out of the trunk of my car, quite literally. At author expos, at historical societies, at road races. And I’ve assembled a kit of what to bring. I might not use it all, but I’m ready.

  1. Books. Yes, books. Once I was astonished to see that I’d brought only two copies of my latest release. Yikes! I was all ready to take people’s money upon a promise to send them a signed book the next day, but I didn’t need to. Just. So now I always keep a full box of all my books in my car.
  2. Signage. I finally got a table-sized banner made. It wasn’t expensive, and my Banner 2014local party store made it up to my specs. My publisher also prints up my cover every year into a self-standing poster, so I bring the latest one. And I have several home-printed signs in a clear stand with a graphic, my name, Mystery Author, and a few other details. Clear large print and uncluttered display, so people can read it as they drift by.
  3. Tablecloth. I write a farm-based series, so I found this gorgeous vegetable cloth (see first picture) and hemmed it up. But even a clean plain white cloth dresses up a market table.
  4. Table. Ah, yes, the table. I found a four-foot table at Staples. It’s easy to assemble, folds in a snap, and isn’t too heavy or too long to hoist in and out of my small car.
  5. Chair. I bring a folding chair, unless the facility provides it (also see Table). But I rarely sit. It’s a lot easier to draw customers in if I stand. And yes, my feet hurt at the end of the two- or three- or five-hour period.
  6. Book stands. Right now I have a mish-mash. I like the black wire one best for not tipping over, but it wire book standdoesn’t collapse. Still experimenting. I hear the Container Store has a great selection. I got mine at Joann’s Fabrics in their craft section.
  7. Bookmarks. Some print up postcards. I prefer bookmarks, one per series.I also bring business cards, because they have my email address on them, but I give them out less often. Even when someone stops by my table who is interested but clearly not going to buy, I hand them a bookmark. They’re a big hit with kids, and who knows? Maybe their grandmother, who loves mysteries, will see the bookmark and check out who that nice author was.
  8. Email signup sheet. I print out a signup sheet, securing it on a clipboard, and IMG_0634invite anybody – everybody! – to sign up for my quarterly (or so) newsletter, making sure they know I never sell, loan, or rent my address list.
  9. Suitcase. I use a small suitcase I already had. I know Jessie found a cool piece of luggage (designed for a salesperson, I believe) that has all kinds of cool pockets and slots, and is the perfect size for mass-market paperbacks. My suitcase fits the books, the table cloth, most of the signage, and the tool kit.
  10. Tool kit.This cute metal carrot lunchbox, which someone gave me a birthday present in, holds many useful items, including all of the toolkitclosedfollowing: Square reader so I can take credit ToolkitOpencards. Spare cash for change. Bookmarks. Business cards. Tape. Pens. Ribbon to tie my banner on with. Extra pens. Clips. Other clips. Paper clips. A tiny flashlight. Camera. Little scissors. I think it’s infinitely expandable. And it’s not crushable.

So that’s my go-to-market/library/wherever list. Which only works when I’m driving to an event, of course. I find it refreshing to sell at a bookstore, because then they have the books, the table, the signage, sometimes even the tablecloth. I only bring the tool kit and maybe a sign. But extra books? Always in the back of the car. When I fly, I still bring the tool kit and a few extra books, and ship books ahead if I have to.

Readers: What do you take to author events? Or to a craft show, trade show, or other kind of event? Any additions to my list? Any good stories about when you forgot that once crucial thing? What kind of displays attract your eye?

30 Thoughts

  1. Edith, this is great! You have a very usable prep kit/list, and I hope that one day I will need it for myself. Until then I will share. I am going to copy and save this post—just in case. 🙂 Thanks to Hank for suggesting and to you for putting it together.

  2. Wow, you are organized! Excellent suggestions, all. I might add: if you have room on your bookmark, try to list your series books in order. People often want to know which came first. Also bungie cords can be useful, and maybe a screwdriver. An assortment of large S-hooks, again for hanging banners. Duct tape! (Sometimes you’re outside and it’s windy.)

    One of the oddest sales I’ve made was in a small sugar-house during maple syrup season. Be prepared!

    1. Sheila, I hope you will tell us something about “… the oddest sales I’ve made was in a small sugar-house during maple syrup season” and how we might be prepared!

  3. Sounds to be like you’ve got it covered.

    When I go to an author event, I usually don’t bring anything, planning to buy the book there. I might bring an old book from home to get signed in addition, but that’s it.

  4. This is a very helpful post, Edith! Really glad you mentioned it on the Sisters in Crime list. At my last author event (a book fair), I envied the authors on either side, who both had beautiful tablecloths and interesting props. I do keep a list myself because twice (!) I’ve forgotten to bring a decent autographing pen to a book signing. Arggh. Thanks for the comprehensive list — I’m bookmarking it!

  5. I bring about $100 in smallish bills to make change if I’m selling them myslef. I also bring my own price list and a stand for it so I don’t have to mark each book. A laptop opened to a spreadsheet works better for me than paper for newsletter signup. Sometimes I couldn’t read them from the paper! Sometimes I bring a themed candy dish and wrapped candies, too.

    1. Candy. Excellent idea. I’m afraid if I bring a laptop or tablet, it might disappear if I’m not paying attention. I don’t mark books – just tell them prices when they ask. Yes, always have ones and fives and a few tens in my tool kit!

      1. Oh yes! If you put out candy (individually wrapped), it draws people like bees to honey (ha). I once made tiny bags of gummy sour apple candy and stuck postage-stamp sized book cover pictures on them.

        And if your books are priced at $7 or $8, bring lots of singles!

  6. Great list, Edith! The only thing I have to add is some sort of wrap like a shawl or a scarf. I stick one in my bag just in case the weather at the event is colder than might be expected. For some strange reason almost every time I go to an event, even in summer, the venue is cold and I end up reaching for that extra layer.The few times I’ve forgotten to bring one I’ve been miserable!

    1. Go! Although you already have a superlative human-sized poster/sign thingy. Love it. And, of course, the real live doggie to amplify your sales. Somehow I get the feeling Preston is never going to want to come along to a book event…

  7. Edith, your list and the comments really cover the bases. Since my mysteries are loosely food based, I use mystery cookies rather than candy to lure people to my table. The mystery cookies are chocolate crinkles with an added ingredient, to be guessed by my visitors.

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