By Christen Civiletto Morris
A friend talked me into sharing a vending booth at an outdoor fair so that we could sell copies of our books. (‘It’ll be fun! An inexpensive way to market! We might sell some books!’)
I decided to give it a try. My environmentally themed suspense novel could potentially be of interest to the fair’s new-age crowd. Plus, as a self-published author, I needed to get the word out.
With three days to prepare, we got right to work.
She suggested some type of a banner. My book cover artist had previously designed a marketing flyer that incorporated my ‘brand.’ A local printer used that file to create a three-foot long banner. He included corner grommets for versatility. It took a day and cost $25. Not too bad.
Check ‘banner’ off the list.
I focused next on logistics. How would we hang it? I wasn’t sure about the layout of the venue, so I packed suction cups with hooks, string, scissors, and two different kinds of tape. (Yes, duct tape was one of them.)
Day three revolved around payment. Cash only? Debit cards? I downloaded the free Square app on my iPhone. I didn’t have enough time to wait for the Square reader, which would allow customers to simply swipe a credit card through a device attached to my iPhone, but the app allows you to manually enter a customer’s card information. Set-up took about twenty minutes. I had to enter my bank account and contact information, but overall it was straightforward. (The device arrived ten days later.)
I set the sale price at $15 for ease of making change for cash-paying customers. I brought along about $60 in fives and ones.
I brought three cartons (16 copies each) of my book.
My friend suggested a few other items: a tablecloth in a color consistent with my brand; pens; a small rack to display the book upright and advertise the price; and postcards that included my website address for those just browsing. We brought a box so that people could drop a business card for a give-away.
We packed up plenty of water and mints, too.
The hour before the fair began was a little chaotic, but fun. Vendors were assigned tables under a portico in proximity to one another. Visibility was especially important in such tight quarters. We hung my banner on a window behind the table. My friend, however, had a tall stand with a vertical, roll-up canvas banner that featured a life-sized picture of her ($185). It drew plenty of attention. I’m not sure anyone noticed my banner until they were directly in front of the table. Note for next time: vertical stand.
Fair-goers arrived early. I honed a ten-second pitch about my novel. I had plenty of copies spread out in a pattern on the table. Lots of people simply wanted to talk –about the environment, God, writing, Niagara Falls (the setting for my book), etc. Those that stayed to chat eventually came back to buy a copy. One person who ‘doesn’t read’ bought a copy just because she enjoyed our conversation. Readers sometimes choose books simply because they connect with the author.
Approximately two thousand people passed by our booth in four hours. I ran out of change, although the Square app worked well for credit purchases.
The fair was a great success. I sold a few dozen books, and I encouraged each of those people to contact me with feedback or put up a review on Amazon. I’ve heard from a few already.
We’ve done a few other book signings since. Coffee shops (pictured) seem more than willing to allow us to set up shop. Next week, we hit the local Christian bookstore.
I’ve got the duct tape ready.
Christen Civiletto Morris is an author, adjunct, and attorney. She’s focused on faith-driven action for the care of creation, and is working on lawsuits stemming from the historic Love Canal disaster. She just released Green City Savior-an environmentally themed suspense novel set in Niagara Falls. She lives in WNY with her family.