Every time I’m at a book festival, I learn something new. This summer I shared a table with author Sylvia Hubbard at Sterlingfest, and learned to give attendees permission to pick up your book and browse through it. “It’s okay to touch it!” Sylvia told a man who was intently studying the cover. When he started reading with evident concentration, she asked him what part he was looking at. He then read aloud to her as if auditioning for the starring role in the movie version of her book. He was quite the entertainer!
It dawned on me that getting passersby look through your book is an important step towards making a sale.
Another idea from Sylvia is to pass out little swag bags to anyone who makes a purchase.
Here are more ideas I’ve learned over time.
12 Tips for Book Festivals:
- Bring a tablecloth in a color that will accent your books. I like having a cloth long enough to hide anything I stash under the table.
- Think vertical to create interest. Use easels, a tall stack of books, a framed poster or sign. (FYI, Sylvia mentioned that some venues no longer allow tall, free-standing banners because they block attendees’ views)
- For outdoor festivals, make sure what’s on your table will withstand a strong wind (pack tape, string, rubber bands, paper, and markers. I’ve even packed painted rocks)
- Set out promotional material: business cards, rack cards, book markers, flyers, brochures, candy, etc. Have something to hand to anyone who may be interested in buying your book for their e-reader. Rack cards are great because you can include a lot of information (see mine below).
- Make yourself approachable – don’t sit with your head down, fiddling with your phone. I like to ask passersby if they’re readers, then ask what kind of books they like to read. Remember, everyone at a book festival is there for a reason. It might be for your book.
- If you’re sharing a table with another author, it’s rude to talk about your book when they’re looking at your tablemate’s book. Keep quiet and wait your turn.
- Stand if you can. A tall stool works well if you need to sit.
- Practice your elevator pitch. Offer a few quick sales points. I mention my finalist awards and that my book has over 70 positive reviews on Amazon.
- Don’t be pushy. Give shoppers time and space to think.
- Remind people that signed books make great gifts.
- Keep a price list handy in case you leave someone else in charge of your table while you grab lunch or
use the restroom.
- Carry change for cash purchases, and get a SquareUp or PayPal Mobile Card Reader for your for credit purchases. Square magstrip card readers (plugs into your headphone jack) are free; processing fee is 2.75%. PayPal’s processing fee is 2.7%.
Surviving a slow book festival
It’s torture to sit through a slow book festival, but most authors will have deal with this unfortunate experience at some point. It’s hard to know exactly what happens at some events. I remember one humid 95-degree summer afternoon at the outdoor Ann Arbor Book Festival where the few people who walked through just seemed anxious to hurry out of the sun.
So what do you do when there’s no customers?
The good news is you are at an event full of fellow authors! These are your people! Network. Make connections. Ask them where else they’ve done author events, what works for them at events, what conferences they’ve been to, how they write, what they write.
Pass out your business card. Offer to feature other authors on your blog; ask if you can write a guest post for theirs. A book festival is the perfect opportunity to share and learn.
My rack card:
Rack cards are usually 4″ by 9″ in size, and they fit upright in a plastic stand. Their job is to convey information at a glance. A rack card can also serve as a fat book marker.
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of the award-winning novel In the Context of Love, a story about one woman’s need to tell her truth without shame.
2017 New Apple Book Awards Official Selection
2016 Sarton Women’s Fiction Finalist
2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist
2016 Readers’ Favorite Finalist
2016 USA Book News Best Book Finalist
“…at once a love story, a cautionary tale, and an inspirational journey.” ~ Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of National Book Award Finalist, American Salvage, and critically acclaimed Once Upon a River,and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters