What I Learned About Author Events: Part 2

Many of you will remember that Blood in the Past was originally available in e-book only. Then something strange happened. Friends and family and acquaintances and Hubby-pants’ coworkers were asking for a print version. I started to realize that even though my own Kindle is never more than seven inches from me and much of the population has embraced digital reading, there’s still a substantial chunk of readers that prefer holding actual dead trees in their hands. And I was neglecting them. And that wasn’t all. I belong to two local writing groups and they often organize signings and author panels. Not having a print version of my books to sell at those events put me at a disadvantage.

So in September I made Blood in the Past available in paperback and in October I had three, count ’em THREE, author events. Last week I discussed my very first event. Today I’ll discuss the second event, what a train wreck it was, and what I learned from it. (This will be a three-part series as I share my experiences regarding each event.)

My second event, the week after the Collingswood Book Festival, was the Witches Ball. You may remember my experience with the Witches Ball from a recent Jerks & Irks post. If you missed that post, you can go back and read all about the minutiae of that annoying ass day. Be my guest. But don’t get me wrong–the opportunity itself was great and I’d love to do it again next year. The Witches Ball is a Halloween-themed Festival, geared toward adults, with musicians, a beer garden, and vendors of all kinds. It’s an event designed for people drawn to the macabre, so writers of thrillers and horror fit right in. The best part about it is that it is NOT an author event. Let me explain…As an author, you have to think outside the box and think of yourself as a craftsman, as a vendor. The author I shared space with sold vampire fiction and between her books and my own psychological thrillers, we had a lot of people stop by our tables. And I’m pretty sure we were the only authors there. Unfortunately the weather was just shy of awful and I was only there about two hours and only sold two books. But let’s see what I learned:

  • The Witches Ball is an outdoor event and the weather looked unfavorable. There was talk it would be postponed to the following weekend, so I dragged my feet preparing my box of wares and printing out my vendor instructions and parking pass until the last possible moment. FYI the turnout for postponed events is usually far less than that of the original date, so event hosts will hardly ever postpone if they can help it. I learned this later, so plan on the event taking place. Also, print out any relevant information the moment you receive it because I accidentally deleted the email with the vendor instructions and parking pass (see the aforementioned Jerks & Irks post) and it kind of ruined my life.
  • Last week, I said to remember to take care of yourself in terms of the weather? This week I learned you have to prepare to take care of your merchandise in terms of the weather. It was very windy and after a while it started to mist and drizzle. This was the first event where I had to provide my own table and display. I brought a card table and a cheap plastic tablecloth, but as soon as I got there, the wind prevented me from even laying the tablecloth down. So that’s one thing I learned: spring for a heavier tablecloth and/or bring tape. Hubby-pants suggested buying clamps of some kind. I don’t have any more outdoor events until next year, but that’s something to look into.
  • After I managed to tame my tablecloth, the wind disrupted everything on top of the table. My standing signs, my business cards, the decorative throw cloth I bought to disguise the cheap plastic tablecloth. Even my stacks of books, since they’re so lightweight. It was a mess. When I managed to steal a few peeks at the author I was with, her table was adorned with decorated paperweights and those marbles fancy people put in vases. I’ve already bought some of those and they look really nice even at indoor events where they’re not needed. I might also invest in a banner that lays flat on the table to take the place of my standing signs, in the event of another windy day.
  • Did I mentioned that it rained? I need a tent. ‘Nuff said. (I’m saving for one.)
  • One other thing I forgot to mention was that the Witches Ball was held at night. Halloween, geared toward adults and the macabre…you might have guessed that. But if you’re selling BOOKS at night, and people need to READ the back covers, and SEE your other merchandise, you should probably have some artificial light on your table. Again, I was forced to check out my fellow author’s table. She’d been to the event before and had several battery-operated lanterns and tiny-tap-lights she’d bought at the dollar store. I don’t know when I’ll have another outdoor event at night, but I’ll definitely keep my eye out for something that matches my current display.
  • Finally, I want to talk about interaction. Last week I spoke about how terrified I was to talk to anyone about my book, which probably hurt my sales. At the Witches Ball, Kristen, my fellow author and vendor-space-mate, helped bring me out of my shell a little bit. Her table was quite elaborate and attracted a lot of attention (as did her costume and candy), and she was always kind enough to mention me and my books, the genre, etc, while ushering people to my table. She would even ask me questions to get me talking in front of the potential readers, even if they were the same questions over and over in front of each new group of people. Once people got to my table, I felt a little more comfortable talking to them, since I had been “introduced.”
  • So what did I learn? Always prepare for the show to go on. Always print out any relevant documents right away. Always prepare for the weather and time of day in every way imaginable. And just like last week, customer interaction is key. The people I spoke the most to, bought books, even though I was cold, wet, and my wig was crooked. Refer to the picture below. 😛


5 thoughts on “What I Learned About Author Events: Part 2

  1. Another useful post, thanks. I’ve done outside stalls for non-book events and they’re a nightmare. I once had to promote road safety stuff at a football tournament in the summer heat. As if that wasn’t challenge enough, I had to wear a bright yellow t-shirt, which made me look liverish and attracted every bug in a 30-mile radius. Not a good look.

  2. Pingback: What I Learned About Author Events: Part 1 | journeyofjordannaeast

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