Hi there! Just back from the Maryland Faerie Festival, where, sitting at a table with 3 more-experienced author/self-marketers, I learned various valuable things:
1 Have a small easel so you can prop up a copy of your book on the table.
2 Be prepared for rain. Carry your books in a plastic box, not the cardboard one that the printer shipped them in. Bring your poncho and umbrella. (I did that!) Don’t leave them in the car. (Did that, too.)
3 Bring a pretty tablecloth. If the venue is providing the table, it may well be beat halfway to death. Even if it’s brand new, something that coordinates with your cover colors or book’s theme will be better than plain wood or formica. Everyone around you will be signalling “Look at me!” Might as well go with the flow. This is definitely the time to leave your introvert self at home.
4 A horizontal banner across the front of the table draws the eye to your books displayed on the table. A vertical banner, no matter where you put it, will draw the eye away from the tabletop. It may be useful at events where I have my own booth, perhaps, or in a store signing where space is limited, but not in a booth shared with a group.
5 Have a 20-second elevator pitch memorized and use it consistently. I kept waffling around. I’m pretty sure I used the same pitch for each of the sales I did make, and I wish I could remember which one. The pitch should either be general enough to appeal to a variety of audiences or customized for each one.
6 I don’t talk loud enough. My voice does not carry. I have that husky thing, not the piercing nasal tone that cuts through the bagpipe concert on the other side of the festival grounds.
On my way home, I stopped at Walmart and rectified 1 & 2. A quick tour of my fabric stash took care of 3. Working on 4 & 5. Vistaprint is running a promo.
As for 6, I need a voice coach. I joined Toastmasters, but every time I give a talk I think I’m shouting and they tell me I don’t talk loud enough. No one explains how that works. They all have normal voices and never have to think about it.
The Fairy Festival was fun and interesting. One of the authors wore very nice fairy outfits, the others dressed like normal folks. I don’t know that the fairy outfit helped sales, although more people took her photo. I was somewhere in between in a long sundress, but no glitter/wings/headgear, etc.The one who did best was the author with a 4-volume series. He had the first 3 volumes available separately or bound as one, and the fourth as a standalone volume. He had his pitch down plus fans coming by. The fairy-costumed author only brought one of her books, the one that was not children’s mysteries nor involving ninjas. She did have handouts for the non-fairy-appropriate books, but probably could have sold a few of the others, as she ended up talking to kids outside of her book’s age-range and referring them to Amazon. But then she’d have more weight to haul to and from the car.
The author who sold the most books is Ben Anderson, and he has a great pitch. His books, The McGunnegal Chronicles, “…take place in Ireland in the 1840’s. The McGunnegal children discover that their grandfather has a secret in his potato cellar: a portal to the Otherworld.” His venues are fairy festivals, children’s events, Ren faires, and Irish festivals, and that pitch works for all of them. He’s a great guy, too. Loaned me, the noob, his spare tablecloth and an easel, gave me pointers, leads for other events, and caffeine when I hit my midafternoon slump. (A veteran festival bookseller, he came prepared with a 6-pack of iced tea.) You can see his work at www.mcgunnegal.com.