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.
I 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.
- 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.
- Signage. I finally got a table-sized banner made. It wasn’t expensive, and my local 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Book stands. Right now I have a mish-mash. I like the black wire one best for not tipping over, but it doesn’t collapse. Still experimenting. I hear the Container Store has a great selection. I got mine at Joann’s Fabrics in their craft section.
- 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.
- Email signup sheet. I print out a signup sheet, securing it on a clipboard, and invite anybody – everybody! – to sign up for my quarterly (or so) newsletter, making sure they know I never sell, loan, or rent my address list.
- 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.
- Tool kit.This cute metal carrot lunchbox, which someone gave me a birthday present in, holds many useful items, including all of the following: Square reader so I can take credit cards. 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?