Setup Your Author Business [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

As someone who is used to do vending on a regular basis, it’s been weird not doing shows this year. Whether I’m helping my sister at art shows or she’s helping me at author events, we’re usually on the road at least once a month, usually for a weekend. This year everything has been put on hold. Conventions are getting delayed until next year, big ones like DragonCon that have never been cancelled before. The COVID-19 pandemic is putting a hold on what we used to call normal, which is probably why it took me a while to make a new post in my vending as an author series.

This post is part of the Author Toolbox Blog Hop, a series where authors help authors through all aspects of their author career. I highly recommend clicking on the image above and going to check out all the other amazing blogs in this circle, after reading through mine of course. šŸ˜‰

So let’s say you would like to apply to go to a craft show or to a convention and have a booth or a table to sell copies of your books. However you’ve never sold your books before in person, and you’re worried about what it takes. Here are a few pieces of advice I have for anyone starting out.

Start an LLC

I know this seems a daunting task for anyone starting out, but let me explain how this is a good idea and how it will protect you. Having an LLC will protect you should your business ever run into any trouble. Let’s say you have to declare bankruptcy for whatever reason, that could be a sickness, an injury, or even a pandemic. If you do business through your own name, then your home, car, or anything else could be used to pay for the dues you owe. Creating an LLC isn’t terribly expensive, I believe it’s $50 to start one (here in Georgia), and you renew it every year for $50.

You’ll want to have a unique name, so you can check their databases to make sure that the name you’re choosing isn’t in use already. You don’t want to step on anyone else’s toes with using a name that’s already taken. Do your research, but trust me that you’ll appreciate it in the long run. Once you have your LLC setup, you can look at writing off expenses on your taxes.

Keep Track of Expenses

Create an excel spreadsheet for you and anyone else that will be helping you keep track of income and expenses. I keep track of any books I order for my business that I’ll be taking to sell at shows. I keep track of tables and tablecloths I have to buy for displays, and any signs that I’ll be using at the event. Basically if I have an expense that’s for my author career, I write it off on my taxes. Then I hand it, along with all the receipts I’ve scanned in, to my tax preparer at the end of the fiscal year.

Oh and sending out books for your giveaways can also be written off on your expenses. If you’re sending in the United States, make sure you also use Media Mail for your packages to save money there too.

Track Your Mileage

This is something that is typically forgotten, but all the travel time on the road is something you can include in your expenses. Download a free app on your phone like Everlance, and you can export everything in a handy excel spreadsheet at the end of the year. The wear and tear on your car, the gas, both are included in the dollars calculated in the app. We usually let it run in the background with our navigator app running in the foreground when we’re traveling to a show. It’s a simple and useful way to track your traveling expenses.

Of course, make sure you also keep track of hotel expenses, airline costs, taxis, mailing books for conventions, etc. At the end of the fiscal year, all of these items can be written off for your small business.

Cloud Storage Will Save Your Life

Currently I have a cloud storage account with 1 TB of space that we use specifically for our business. It’s really helpful to be able to pull a receipt out in the parking lot of a store, snap a picture, and upload it to the folder on your cloud storage account. You get used to it over time. You’ll be grateful at the end of the year that you were organized from the start, and instead of having to scramble to collect everything, you’ll have files and a spreadsheet ready to hand off.

Oh, and the cost of the cloud storage account is something else you can write off for your expenses.

Paying Taxes at Shows

So here’s the tricky part. Every state in the United States has their own rules for selling at shows and for paying taxes. Some of them don’t require you to provide paperwork in advance, and some of them do. It really depends on where you’re selling. It’s up to you to do your research and make sure you’re paying the taxes after the show.

In Georgia they have an event tax form, so for one-off shows you send a check to the city that you were a vendor in. I don’t believe all states have this form, but check where you live to see what the rules are. This is a perfect option for us since we only do shows once a month if that (or we used to pre-COVID).


I know it’s scary setting up your LLC and declaring yourself a small business, but once you start seeing yourself as part of a business, it helps you to say yes to more events. It helps you to walk up to bookstores and request to do book signings. It helps when you see a tax form to know where you stand. Remember that for the first five years or so you will probably be losing money as a business, and that’s perfectly normal. Expect it to take some time before you start to see true earnings.

Remember it’s important to protect yourself and your work. Doing research even if you’re a year or two out from making the leap to starting an LLC will help. I hope this has been helpful! Feel free to comment below if you have any thoughts or questions!

Book Releases: It Gets Easier As You Go [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

I’m back with another Author Toolbox Blog Hop post this month! This monthly blog hop gives advice by authors for authors. Today’s post is focuses on how doing book releases gets easier as you go, and why. Check out all the posts in this month’s hop!

When I released my debut full-length novel, Stolen, last year, I was daunted by the amount of work that had to be done prior to release day. There were eARCs to send out, book reviewers to reach out to, blog tours to organize, and in person signing events to schedule. I only had some idea of the workload it would take, and it was only when the wave passed by that I realized how much work it was and how well I handled it. I also realized how to do it better next time.

Now I’m prepping for the sequel for that book, Broken, to be released on April 7th. This book release is very different from my experience with Stolen, and I wanted to share what I think has improved this time around compared to last time.

  • Book signings are easier to book. Last year I went to a number of small and indie bookstores to do signings. It was an eye-opening experience. I had to find places that would take an indie author and a small publishing company. Not all bookstores do, and I was shocked to discover that. This time around, I already have locations that I’ve made connections with. Some of them, like Story on the Square and The Southern Pen, stock copies of my books already and are preparing to stock Broken as well. This takes a huge weight off my shoulders this time around.
  • Have readers to reach out to. If you’ve ever started going down the rabbit hole of trying to find ARC book reviewers, you know how helpful this is. Most times when I reach out cold to a blog site, I get crickets. And there are a ton of potential book bloggers. It’s just a lot of time spent with sometimes very little reward. This time around I have a group of ARC readers and reviewers to reach out to, people who loved my first book and are excited to read the second book. Not having to spend time organizing all this also takes a huge weight off of me.
  • I have local fans. I’ve been to enough local shows and events now that I have people who work hard to come out to my book signings and readings. It’s so flattering, but it also means there’s the pressure to create regularly and to constantly improve my craft. I enjoy this, so I don’t mind. It also means that I don’t setup a signing and don’t have anyone appear any longer. I usually at least have one person show up.

These are just a few of the areas that I think are easier this time around, but each one makes a big difference. Instead of gaining all of these contacts and experience, I can focus on new projects and organizing all of these events instead of trying to find them.

For those looking to publish multiple books, I hope this eases that feeling of being overwhelmed when faced with what to do on your first book publication. It will get easier as you go, even though it doesn’t seem like it will at first. The goal is to improve as you go, learn the ropes, make mistakes, and get better with each release.

Author Vending: How Many Books [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

Between shows and writing deadlines (and my full-time job), it’s been a busy few weeks since my last vending post! I was worried I wouldn’t have time to participate this month, but I know that folks really appreciate these posts, so here I am. If you find this useful, please consider sharing it with other authors you know!

I participate in the Author Toolbox Blog Hop just about every month. It’s a bunch of authors who help other authors, and it’s pretty cool to see how many topics get covered each month! This will be the last post for this blog hop for 2019 because they skip November and December — another reason I wanted to make sure I could participate.

One of the first questions I got when I started this series was how many books to bring to signings? Unfortunately there is no straightforward answer like ten or something like that. It really depends on a lot of factors, and I’ll discuss a few that I’ve encountered here!

How long is the event?

This may be answered in hours or days. If you’re doing a two-hour author signing at your favorite small, independent bookstore, then ten may be a good number to start with. However if it’s 2-day free outdoor event and each day lasts eight hours, then you’ll want to have more than ten books on hand. Depending on other factors, you may expect to sell 10-20 books a day for example, so take that into consideration.

How well known are your books?

Let’s say this is your first book. Awesome, congrats! However if you don’t have a well-known name, then you’ll want to focus on drumming up interest for the event ahead of time. Still most authors will admit that they only had friends and family at their first event, if that, and that’s perfectly fine! It’s about more than just selling your books, it’s getting your name out there and learning how to do these events.

If you are fairly well-known though, or you do enough marketing ahead of time, you may want to bring more than ten books to your two-hour book signing. Those may go really fast!

There is a lot of plantlife in the Stolen series.

Where are you selling?

So this is more than just the difference between a small, indie bookstore and a big two-day festival. With this question, I’m meaning who are the readers that your book targets? I write books where people are often in the woods. Therefore my books tend to appeal more to people who have also lived closer to nature. However people living in an urban metropolis may not have as much of a connection with the book aesthetic.

This of course isn’t always the case. Lots of people read widely and enjoy variety in their books, but you can expect an urban fantasy for example to sell better in urban areas than rural places.

I also write young adult books. I’m fortunate in that this appeals to a wide audience range, but remember that picture books probably wouldn’t sell as well at a horror convention. Keep your audience in mind when stocking and setting expectations for your sales.

The She-Wolf of Kanta – from my first indie bookstore signing!

Do you have a distributor?

This really applies to library signings, bookstore events, and book festivals. If you have a distributor, such as through Ingram, you may not need to worry about bringing your own copies. That means the host event can order copies on their own, and may request to stock a few as well after the event is over. A distributor means that if the books don’t sell, the host location can send the books back instead of being stuck with the additional copies. This can save you a lot of time and headache, but you are also relying on the host location to know how many copies to order.

If you don’t have a distributor, that means you are your own distributor. Usually the host location will take a percentage of sales at the event, and then you take any copies that didn’t sell back home with you. Some places will also allow you to put books on consignment with them. This means they stock your copies on their shelves, and when they sell you get a percentage. If they don’t sell and they don’t want to keep them stocked, then you pick them up. It’s a lot of additional work on the bookstore’s end, so many don’t permit consigned books for this reason. They also don’t want to be left with additional stock either because that’s storage space that could be used for books that are selling.

Will you be shipping books out?

This may seem like an odd question, but can you imagine how much it would cost to bring 50 books with you on a plane? Quite a bit! So it’s way easier just to ship them to a friend who lives close to the event you’re attending and pay the much cheaper media mail rates. That said, if you’re trying to save money, you may want to ship out fewer books and just deal with the risk of running out of copies.

Do you want to run out?

Again this one seems like a strange question, but if you flew out to a location for an event, and don’t want to ship your books back home your strategy may be to just run out! That saves on additional costs and also looks good if you sell out at the event. The drawback is that you may miss out on additional sales that you could have made and if you’re not careful you could sell out early!

I hope this helps! Again this is just from my experiences of doing this for a year and a half. In a few more years I may be adding more to this list. If you enjoyed this information, feel free to share or leave a comment below!

Setting Up an Art Booth

So I talk a lot here about setting up an author booth in my Author Vending series. But I also get experience being a helper at shows too. My sister is an artist, and her work is actually the reason we started going to festivals and shows to begin with.

Much of the practice we’ve had with display, booth traffic flow, air flow, etc. we’ve gotten through the art shows because usually they’re outdoors and you get full control of the look and feel of your area. It’s great to have that freedom, even though it does mean a lot of physical work at times.

I wanted to share a video from one of her recent setup videos at the Grant Park Summer Shade Festival, located beside Zoo Atlanta. We both watched a ton of setup videos for authors and artists before we started attending our own festivals, so I always recommend that to people getting started. The good part is that once you get materials, you can use them again and again, though the first year is usually your biggest investment.

Check out the video below, and make sure you check out her website at MorbidSmile.com and her Youtube channel. You get to see how much we struggled with the tent this time too haha! Though the end result is definitely worth it!

Author Vending: The Importance of Signage [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

Dang the last four weeks have been rough. Between three back-to-back shows, a week-long vacation, and getting sick (twice now!), it’s been a difficult time lately. However I knew I wanted to get a new post up for my second time participating in the Author Toolbox Blog Hop.

If you want posts from authors dedicated to helping other authors, then be sure to check out this series! Posts go up each month (though November and December get skipped). As an author, I love being able to give back, and having a deadline to keep me motivated!

One of the first decisions I had to make when I started vending as an author was finding where to sell books and where to do signings. Once I had that figured out, I had the difficult decision of figuring out what to bring. That was a lot harder than I expected it to be, but I knew that signage was important.

Signage Can Be Small

It doesn’t matter if it’s as simple as a chalkboard sign, or as elaborate as a self-sending vertical banner. Having signage with you instantly signals to a visitor that an event is going on, and they’re likely going to read it to learn more.

When I had my first author signing event, it lasted two hours at an independent bookstore, and it poured down rain through half of it. I didn’t have a huge turnout, but I did have family and friends that showed up, and that was a big inspiration for me. The only signage I had was a sign we had made out of a dollar store plate and chalkboard paint that my sister drew out for me. It was super cute, but didn’t draw in people like I wanted.

My sister, Kelley, did an amazing job with the chalk art on this! We were prepping for my first signing at Story On The Square!

Larger Signage Gets Attention

Flash forward to our first outdoor festival, where we didn’t know how to have proper airflow with our tent and it was super hot. What brought people in was a giant vertical sign we secured onto the outside of the tent. People saw horror author and were super excited to check it out.

Our first outdoor festival: Geranium Festival! We just got done setting up at dawn. Featuring Kelley in the back!

Fast forward again to the Next Chapter Con a couple weeks back. People walked up to the table and read my author sign behind me. “YA Fantasy and Horror”, they would mumble to themselves. Then they’d look down at me and smile before asking, “Where’s the horror?” I could point them in the direction and let them read the back copy to decide if they were interested, talking about the book as they checked it out.

Got to break out both banners at Next Chapter Con a couple weeks back!

Banners Help Regardless of Genre

It’s important to know how to describe your work, and while at first I was reluctant to have an author banner that would represent both the fantasy and the horror that I write, in the long run it’s been very helpful in drawing in people. I found a way to make my author representation capture both aspects of my work, which I talk more about when I revamped my business cards.

When the banner is posted outside of our tent, folks will stop to read it, talking about the blurbs and the covers. When I walk up and introduce myself as the author, they get so excited!

The banner allows people to stop and talk about your work without you having to be part of the conversation. Let them decide if your work is interesting or not. And let your banner do the talking so you don’t have to do all the work.

When you’re vending as an author, use all the help you can get to portray your words without relying on solely your books. I think of signage as a menu for your books. You want to portray taste and composition before eating the meal itself.