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!

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.

Author Vending: Finding Events [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

Today’s post is part of the Author Toolbox Blog Hop, basically it’s a bunch of authors putting together helpful information for other authors. I was approached by Raimey a couple of weeks back because she noticed my tutorial videos, and thought I would want to join. This is obviously something I really enjoy doing, so I was happy to be part of their blog hop! You can find all the other posts for this month showing up over the next couple of days here.

When you first started out in the author business, if you’re anything like me, you had highly unrealistic expectations of what the book business was like. You assumed that author tours were these magical series of events where a publicist setup the locations and all the author had to do was show up, sign copies, and talk about books. That’s so far from the truth, it’s no wonder people get overwhelmed when they learn that much of this lands on the author’s shoulders to organize, stock, and attend.

My very first author signing at Story On The Square in April 2018.

As part of my ongoing Author Vending series, I’m talking about tips and tricks that up and coming authors can use as they attend festivals and shows to promote their books. There are a lot of steps that an author might find themselves struggling to figure out. I want this series to be a guidebook to those authors just getting their feet wet.

Whether you are an indie author or traditional, working with a small press or the big five, unless you’re a big name author, chances are you are going to be responsible for setting up your own book tour. The words book tour sound intense at first, but really you just have to think of it as a series of places where you’ll be doing readings and signings. It’s an opportunity for your friends and fans to see you and buy copies of your books. Even if you only do a couple a year, they can be huge promotional tool to get your name out there and to get people talking about your work.

The first major step is finding events to attend as a vendor. Ideally if you’re just starting out as an author, you’ll want to find a venue that has the following requirements:

  • Low cost – This may seem like a no-brainer, but this is essential for a first-time author vendor to choose their first events at places where they have the ability to break even. A $50 author booth, where you’re selling your books for $10-15 a piece is more likely to be successful rather than one with an initial cost of $100+.
  • Local – Try to find a venue that doesn’t require you to drive far. That not only makes it easier for you to get a return on investment, but means that if you get there and realize you forgot an essential piece of your setup, you can still run back without stressing out.
  • Not necessarily author focused – Sometimes if you’re the only author at an event, it helps you stand out. Your booth will attract the readers, and you’ll be surprised how often people will want to buy a copy for themselves but also one as a gift.
  • Support group – If you have a hard time talking about your books or your worlds or characters, don’t be ashamed to bring a friend or family member to help out. Ideally having someone in the booth who has also read your book and loved it will help to champion your work when you’re too nervous to do it yourself. The more you encounter these situations though, the easier it becomes to figure out how to describe your work.
A book signing from earlier this year, April 2019, at Book Warehouse.
I had so much more confidence (and book swag!)

So now that you have a good idea what to look for, how should you find events in your area?

  • Look for libraries and independent bookstores. Many indie bookstores will already be planning an author signing event, and libraries are always looking for more exciting events for readers of all ages.
  • Look for events you’ve attended before. Even if it’s a craft-focused show, you may be surprised at how well you do, especially if you’re familiar with the layout and guests.
  • If you’re struggling to find local events, or want to branch out, Facebook is a great place to start. Start an Author Business Page and make sure you list your hometown there. You may have festivals reach out to you to attend their show. Look around for events your friends are attending, or events a few months out. You’ll be surprised how quickly you find places looking for vendors.
  • If costs are still too high for you, see if you can find an author/artist/crafter who is willing to share a booth with you. You get less display space, but it’s much easier to break even with half the cost of the booth. This may help you get into some high traffic venues too like fan conventions.
  • When attending events, make sure you walk around and see what else is there. I’ve found a few author festivals that way. You’ll be surprised how often other authors will use those events to promote an author-specific event.
  • Join an authors group near you. I’m part of the Atlanta Chapter of the Horror Writers Association, and I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned in just the 1.5 years I’ve been part of the group. Some people have been doing this for decades longer than I have, and there is always more to learn.

I hope this helps you in finding that first event, and in getting the nuts and bolts down of what is required for it. Usually it’s just having the confidence the first time, and with each event afterwards it gets easier and easier.

Although online promotions can help really get your name out there, I’ve found that it still doesn’t beat a local event. You get the chance to talk about your work, to talk with fans, and to sign books in person. You ultimately are creating a unique experience for your fans, and even though at times they can be a lot of hot work, it’s totally worth it.