Well, well, well. It’s been a minute since we’ve shared a blog post! After sharing the cover reveal for The Throwaway Queen, it’s been go, go, go. I created a soft and hard launch for my third book! And then we completely focused on our FanX book booth.
Sometimes, I have to pinch myself: we’ve been going to FanX for years as fans. This year, we went as Artist Alley exhibitors. This was my first time selling my books in person. Before, it was just online orders. This year, I took this to another level.
Whether you’re an author or creative who wants to have a booth, I’ve finally collected my thoughts for you. I hope these tips helps you!
Set Your Goals & Expectations
“Was it worth it?” was one of the many questions I got after FanX ended. This sort of a complex question for me because I didn’t know what to expect before the event. Would I make zero sales or would I sell all my copies in hours?
I had this idea in my head that the experience alone would be worth it. I would have an opportunity to show my book to a new, fresh audience. There were so many people who were drawn to the book covers and took pictures if they didn’t buy. I hope that this interaction meant something; I’m sure many folks will get copies on Amazon or something.
As I started to sell copies, I felt this warm, comforting feeling. Within minutes, these people saw my books and purchased them. There was so much love for my debut novel—a book that I published four years ago. The money was obviously great but the way people clutched my books in their hands like treasures is something I won’t forget.
I’m waxing poetic but my point is that it’s so important to have expectations. To others, they might look at my experience and think “she lost money; what a waste.” No, it wasn’t a waste—not when this opportunity created ripples for me and my work. And yes, I will likely do more events like this again.
Bring a Team
While it is possible to travel, set up the booth, run things, and take things down, it’s much more fun if you have a team of people. It was so great to have extra people to not just put the booth together but to also sit with me and support me. I did most of the talking but I got a high-five from Travis or my brother, Nicholas, every time we made a sale.
It’s also nice to stand up, walk around, use the restroom, get food, etc. and know that someone’s there to talk to curious readers. I recommend having at least one other person there who can be with you during the whole event.
Keep Track of Expenses
I know—the joke is that authors are good at language arts instead of math. However, authors like us are technically small business owners. In the past, I’ve been putting off this responsibility but this time, I wanted to keep track of my earnings and expenses. This is key if you want to answer the question: was it worth it?
I used this document to track all my expenses. (You can make a copy for yourself. You’re welcome!) With each expense, I could see how many books I would need to sell to break even. In my case, I needed to sell 50 books. For full transparency, I sold 19 books. But as I’ve shared with family and friends, these copies covered the cost of my booth. I thought that was a touching coincidence.
I still have all the other printed copies, so I know that if I sell them, I will eventually break even on the booth. I have upcoming events and plans to hopefully get these copies out of my spare room.
Get Creative With Payment Methods
There are so many ways to get paid, y’all! We immediately recognized that we should’ve had a card reader/card payment option on hand. We worked on it but it was overwhelming. I do know that I’ll have one in the future. But if you want to avoid that problem, consider having a card reader, cash (for returning change), and accounts like Paypal or Venmo. We had a little QR code that lead to those platforms and that made things pretty easy.
Understand Your Marketing Style
Running a booth definitely brought me back to my retail job and missionary days. And in those experiences, I really didn’t like “bothering” people. So I had to learn really quickly how I would confidently talk to customers. So first, I put a lot of emphasis on my booth so that the visual would attract people.
So the typical interaction involved waiting for someone approaching my table, avoiding intense eye contact, saying they could pick up the books if they asked, and telling them I could answer questions if they had them.
I then asked them what they liked to read before going into detail about my books. Since I had YA epic fantasy on one side and NA fantasy on the other, I listened to what they said before actually giving the book spiel.
And the book spiel was succinct. I shared the genre and major themes before summarizing the plot. More often than not, by the time I was done, they’d already decided whether they wanted to buy. This process worked for me and I felt good about it.
You may decide to go harder or softer than me. That’s fine! I’d argue that your marketing style will match your priorities. My priorities included not guilting anyone into buying from my booth, connecting with my target audience, and sharing my gratitude—regardless of whether they spent money.
Assemble a Survival Kit
Beyond your wares and décor, it pays to be prepared. We brought scissors, tape, a good signing pen, meds, water, snacks, comfy clothes, a mirror, menstruation supplies (just in case), and paper. It’s nice to have supplies to create pricing signs or that sweet, sweet “sold out” sign. FanX was basically a full-time shift for 3 days, so I tried to have everything that I’d need for a full day’s work.
I was delighted to know that I was allowed to bring my huge water bottle and my own snacks into the venue. That meant that I could save money and stay hydrated. If you have any dietary restrictions and the like, come with all your necessities.
Take Notes on What’s Working
Like I mentioned, The Messenger got a lot of love at this event. And it made sense—if people were ready to give me a try, they were going to buy the first book of my duology. I’d say that most people who bought my books or came straight to my booth did so because of the covers. I felt a sense of pride that I invested a lot in all my book covers. As I looked at the other book covers around Artist Alley, I honestly thought that mine were pretty good.
I made other notes about why people came to my booth. This information helped me understand how to carry out future booths or online marketing endeavors.
Show Yourself Lots of Love
I thought that a good night’s rest would be everything I needed to recover from the event. But it turns out, I’ve needed at least a week to recover. As I write this, I still don’t feel like I fully recovered. Even as an extrovert, I did a lot of talking and interacting with people. It took a lot out of me!
There was also the emotional weight of the whole thing. It was very personal! This is me and my life’s work on the table—no biggie, right? I attended this event just weeks after releasing Throwaway Queen. I talked about this in a previous post, but I think I’m still wading through some post-publication depression. It’s hard to describe but I felt a profound pride and sorrow for weeks. I still do. But I’ll be okay—especially because I have loved ones who checked in and kept me smiling.
With any huge event, bubble wrap those days with days—weeks—of self-care. Don’t plan something right after these events. If possible, try to plan one huge event per month if you’re in book release mode.
I might have more thoughts later but this is a great summary. I hope this information will help you feel confident in your upcoming events—regardless of your business experience. You’ve got this! If you have more questions, you can write them in the comments or DM us. We’d love to help and cheer you on however we can.