How did it all go? What I learned from doing a #booksigning

A little while back I write this post about my nervousness about taking a stall to flog my books at Bury Christmas Fayre. A week on, let me fill you in on how it went.

Stall with author in situ, yes, I buffed my nose with Mr Sheen.

Stall with author in situ, yes, I buffed my nose with Mr Sheen.

Truth is, I forgot to write down what I sold on day one, going solely on the amount of extra money. Looking back on it that was a Bad Idea. That said, I reckon on it being about 5 copies of book 1, a set of post cards and 4 sets of Christmas cards.

Nuff said, the next day I kept a religious tally of everything I sold: 8 copies of Book 1, 5 Boxed Sets and a copy of books 2, 3 and 4. I also sold 7 lots of art cards which I’d brought along, just in case. On the Sunday morning, one of the people who’d bought a boxed set contacted me by e-mail and bought another one. This netted me total sales of 11 packs of art cards, one pack of post cards and 40 books: enough money to pay for the stall, the banner, the stock and most of my outstanding credit card bill. I just wish I’d done the Sunday, too, and netted a profit!

So what did I learn? Several things. Here they are.

  1. Plan your stall in advance.
    Work out your bulk discounts, special offers, etc and make a price list. Print several copies of the price list, and get them encapsulated if you can, so that customers – or you – can spill coffee on them without fear. A calculator is handy and a cash box and some of those plastic stands you put books on (I got them off ebay too: 10 for £14). Make sure you’ve ordered enough books. Too many is probably better than too few.
  2. Make sure you have everything you need – or at least, the stuff you know you need.
    This can’t be stressed enough. Read the requirements given by the venue. Do they want you to bring your own table and chair? If they provide these remember to bring a table cloth. I used a dark blue cotton single sheet which cost me £7 on ebay. Bring water and some lunch (you will get hungry and thirsty no matter how unlikely it seems with all the adrenaline that is in your system). Write a list of all the things you are taking and tick off each item as you put it in your car.Life saving items for me were: plastic book stands, scissors, sticky tape, blu-tack, food, drink, price lists and a last minute purchase of some wacky sweets (more on that story later).
  3. Pimp your stall.
    Yes, make it pretty, bring a banner print off pictures of your covers so that if you have the good fortune to be in front of a wall you can pin them up – I did this but I didn’t bring enough. Make it striking so people are drawn to come and have a look.
  4. Have something to give away.
    I had two things: bookmarks advertising the series as a whole with blurb and e-mail address, plus sweets. You need the sweets to be wrapped because… well you’ve seen that e-mail that gets sent round every now and again about the wee on the bar nuts, right? So: wrapped sweets are good. It was my extreme good fortune to be in possession of some chocolate brussels sprouts. These were really just those mini chocolate footballs you can get but wrapped in sprouty looking green foil rather than the usual football foil.
  5. Provide something that will make people linger.
    In my case, it was two things. I had a tribble that people could pet – it cost me £10 at LonCon and it’s supposed to squeak but it broke on day two.*
    So I had the tribble for people to pet but what actually worked was the simple premise of providing a bin for the chocolate wrappers – in the form of a K’Barthan Series mug. That meant that the juxtaposition of the words ‘chocolate’ and ‘sprout’ was enough to get most of my potential customers’ attention. They then spent enough time diddling about trying to get the foil wrapper off the sprout for me to bend their ears about my books and cards. I also offered free book marks so if they were interested but not sure they had something to take away. Somebody downloaded a copy of all four books the following day, so I suspect this was one of the ebook users to whom I gave a book mark.Final note: When providing foil wrapped sweets of any description, at least three people an hour will eat the sweet with the foil on.
  6. Bring some bling. I read a post recently which gave excellent counsel against buying too much branded stuff off Vistaprint and the like. So… yes, you will get by on bookmarks and a t-shirt. However, if you do find an offer for reduced fridge magnets, post cards or the like and if your art work is really cool, it’s worth having a few things. One couple were humming and haaing as to whether they should buy the first book or the full set. I had discounted the full set so it was £39.99 instead of £46, which is what it would have been with all the books at full price. I had already added a set of three post cards to make the brown paper parcel more interesting. So I gave them a minute or two and then said, “look, I shouldn’t try to force you one way or another, but if you do buy the full set I’ll throw in a set of fridge magnets worth £3.” They bought the set.
  7. Enjoy yourself. Very important this one. Especially if being yourself, on the stall, is going to give them a sort of mini preview as to what the books are like to read. If you’re smiling and laughing with people and cracking jokes, others will stop to join in or listen. It also helps if you know the people on the tables around you and you can take the rip out of one another or just big up each other’s products.

*Incidentally, despite the fact it broke after two outings the company who sold it to me refused to replace it. Even if I’d used it every day we’re talking about my contacting them in October after purchase in August. Can you believe that? They wouldn’t sell parts for it either. This is another blog post, in itself, but basically, the moral of this story is: avoid giving your custom to http://www.tribbletoys.com or http://www.startrek.com – they are rip off merchants selling shoddy, over priced goods which break straight away and their customer service is piss poor.

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33 Comments

Filed under General Wittering, Good Advice, Humorous Fantasy Author

33 responses to “How did it all go? What I learned from doing a #booksigning

  1. Great advice, MT. Your T-shirt and banner look great!

  2. Jemima Pett

    Fantastic!!
    And this post gets my “Best Book Advice from an Author” Award of the Year… can I reblog it some time? 🙂

  3. Great post! Having fun at a book signing will definitely draw people to your booth. I have a slideshow of dogs that runs on a laptop, and it always attracts customers. I tell them (truthfully) that all the photos except one (my own dog) were sent in by readers and fans of the series, and I share snippets I’ve learned about each dog as the slides progress. I vary the pitch or pause the show, depending on what they’re interested in. This has definitely helped sales.

    Love the banner! Care to share the source?

    • That sounds cool, the thing with the dogs. The banner came from vistaprint, I’m not sure if they are set up in the States yet but they’re worth checking out. I had to pay full rates for mine because I needed it by a certain date but otherwise, if you’ve time to watch and wait to snap up a bargain, they have great sales.

      cheers

      MTM

  4. Thank you for sharing. Now I’m sharing on Twitter with my friends. I’m really looking forward to hosting a booth or participating in an author event. Having authors share their experience helps a lot!

  5. Excellent post — good advice and you made me lol at the foil part. Congratulations on your courage and success. 😀

  6. Great advice here. Mind if I include a link to this post in the Writer Resource Section of my blog?

  7. Reblogged this on willmacmillanjones and commented:
    I love doing these signing events. They are the best fun an author can have (beside typing THE END on the next manuscript)

  8. That sounds like a good result and yes, Sunday would probably have been good too. Part of the issue about stalls and sales is the need to have a lot of vertical media. Makes it much easier to look at. I’m not suggesting anyone invests in expensive exhibition boards, but they are good for drawing people in. Similarly, vertical displays on a stand are easier than having to bend over. Anyway, basically, glad you got some sales, because that’s the bottom line.

    • Yeh, vertical is definitely good. One friend suggested using stands to prop up the books and it was excellent advice. Thanks to Will Macmillan Jones for that one.

      Cheers

      MTM

  9. Brilliant post Mary! I’m so proud of you, you did fantastically! Great advice too! 😀

  10. That really is excellent advice. Will have to bookmark this page and re-read it when I’m ready to ‘hit the road.’
    Chris

  11. Well done, I do hate selling my own book at things like that so rarely do it. I probably should be coming up to Xmas but between scarcity of time and reluctance, I haven’t organised any. I found my ‘Would You Marry A Farmer? Yes/No’ badges great for getting people into conversation so anything that can do that is a win win. I like your idea of bookmarks, plus your illustrations are brilliant.
    Agree, you do need high energy and the ability to laugh and chat and crack jokes.
    I found a bumbag really handy, never bothered with a cashbox, just stashed it all away in the bag around my waist.
    40 books sounds pretty good – well done.

    • I like a bag in theory but I have this number dyslexia thing which means that ideally I need all the coins set out in little boxes so I can count them out right, otherwise I muddle them up.

      The badges sound like an excellent idea, like you say, it gets them thinking. 🙂

      Cheers

      MTM

  12. Excellent post MT, lots of good information and I did laugh to think you had regular visitors who ate their sweets in their wrappers! Well done, sounds as if you were really organised. 🙂

    • Ah you flatter me ambassador! I was amazed at how many people thought they were gob stoppers. Just goes to show that the average human’s eyesight isn’t so good! 😉

      Cheers

      MTM

  13. Kev

    You did really well… that pic of you is brilliant! You’re stall was so colourful and attractive. Love it! 🙂

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