Give Local Book Sales a Try

We even had a table at my very first Comic Con!

By Linda Wilson   @LinWilsonauthor

A group of fellow children’s authors and I have formed a loosely-knit group of book sellers extraordinaire in our hometown, Albuquerque, New Mexico. We keep each other informed of upcoming sales and fairs by having our names on the lists of local events. One person fills out the application, and if accepted, those who want to participate share the cost of the booth or table(s). When possible, we carpool to the events.

The events include retirement communities’ arts & crafts fairs, church fairs, and high school and college fairs. Other participants at these events are vendors selling their hand-crafted wares, such as jewelry, hand-sewn and crocheted items, canned goods, and about any other hand-crafted item you can think of. Aside from being fun, especially around the holidays when sales are at their peak, a lot of effort goes into participating. Ideas gathered from my own background as an elementary teacher and grade school volunteer, and the many clever displays by vendors I’ve observed, I’ve come up with “The List” of items I need to make sales. I hope these ideas will help you avoid some of the pitfalls I first fell into before I became an experienced book seller entrepreneur. 

The List 

Set-Up 
  • After applying and being accepted to an event, check the rules to see if tables, chairs, and tablecloths are provided. Also, for outdoor sales some organizers offer canopies. There are also rules about where you can park to unload, and where to move your car when done. If you need your own tables and chairs, I recommend purchasing portable folding tables with handles. I own two 8’ tables which turn out to be necessary for most sales, and a folding chair. We usually are able to rent a 10 x 10’ space. 
  • A collapsible folding utility wagon cart can help cut down on the number of trips you need to make for setting up your supplies. 
  • Rectangular black tablecloths show off your wares in style. A spiffy table scarf shows off the theme of your books and/or the season. Since we live in New Mexico, we use Southwest scarves, or scarves for the season. 
  • Often, depending on the number of authors sharing the space, room on and around the tables is limited. So, any seasonal decorations need to fit. Around holiday time I’ve draped a Santa hat on my book display, or have decorated with a sprig of holly, etc. Bright colors are a good idea for attracting potential customers to your table. 
  • A canopy for outdoor sales is a good idea. I purchased a blue Crown Shades 10x10 pop up canopy and have been pleased with it. US Weight Tailgater Canopy Weights helped keep our canopy from harm at one outdoor sale that was extremely windy.
Display 
  • Many different types of display stands are available on Amazon. I chose one (pictured below) that would allow customers to see the books at eye level so that they could browse more easily than if the books were simply stacked on the table.
  • Two-three 8 x 10” picture frames make a professional appearance for displaying special certificates your books may have been awarded, your price list neatly typed and easy to read, and also a photo or two of the characters in your books.
  • A banner, which can be created and purchased from local graphics shops or from a company such as VistaPrint, is a terrific way to draw people to your table.
  • Also, large posters of the front covers of your books can be made at Staples and displayed on stands near your table. Floor stand-up signs are a terrific way to advertise yourself and your books. A lack of space would be the only thing that would prohibit this type of advertising, but floor stand-ups are very effective.
Mobile Payments 
  • Be ready for sales made with good old-fashioned cash by going to the bank and having plenty of change. Square is a popular way to collect payments, or Square’s many other competitors.
  • Purchase a receipt booklet for customers who want a written receipt.
  • Purchase bags, found inexpensively on Amazon, which are appreciated by customers for your books and their other purchases.
  • Keep a supply of pens.
Incidentals
  • Every sale is different, and often you won’t know what to expect about what your space is like until you actually arrive. You will be glad you kept a supply of incidentals, which include:
        Hanging your banner: Often you pin your banner to the tablecloth at the front of your table.                     Sometimes you can hang it behind you if there is a wall or open space. Large safety pins for                    pinning your banner on your tablecloth through rivets on four corners of the banner
  • Scissors
  • Scotch tape and stronger tape, bungee cords and plastic ties, and a step ladder for hanging your banner behind your table
  • Various size clips
Other incidentals 
  • Sharpie markers
  • A table-size white board for various notes, and dry-erase pens
  • A phone charge
  • Don’t forget your lunch, snacks, and water!
Last but Not Least: Ideas to spruce up your sales
  • Before each sale, I go through everything and to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything, and pack it in the easiest way possible. I take plenty of books. Extras that aren’t used for display are kept underneath the table.
  • I make sure I’ve put stickers from awards my books have won on each book.
  • I have purchased bright colored fabric bags and tissue paper for people who buy my books in bundles of four or five books. This idea has worked beautifully. Customers seem happy to have the fabric bag in addition to the books. The bright color bags are attractive displayed on the table as well. Selling books by the bundle has been a terrific sales approach.
  • I have also purchased bags for people who buy one or two books.
  • I have purchased, and in one case created, small swag gifts to go with each of my books. Here’s the breakdown: 
A Packrat’s Holiday: Thistletoe’s Gift: A small owl, which is a character in the book.
Cradle in the Wild: I found a craft idea for making a bird’s nest online, which is the subject of this book purchased the materials, which include Spanish moss for the nest, small pom pom balls and wiggle eyes to look like birds, and packed the materials in zip-lock bags to hand out to customers who buy this book.
Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery: A pen with a fluffy, fuzzy top, to encourage writing in a diary.
Tall Boots: a four-leaf clover to signify 4-H. 4-H has endorsed this book. Membership in 4-H is encouraged.
Waddles the Duck: Hey, Wait for Me!: A small rubber duck.

Swag giveaways, such as bookmarks and flyers are always a good idea to keep handy for customers to take with them who aren’t ready to buy but want to stay in touch with you. Now, off you go on making local sales! What I enjoy most by making local book sales is reaching out to my local community and meeting my readers. This approach has been very rewarding for me in my quest to write articles and stories for children. I hope you will find your own reward in this approach, too.
Our book display stand
under our canopy at an
outdoor book sale

Linda Wilson is the author of the Abi Wunder Mystery series and other books for children. Her two new releases are Waddles the Duck: Hey, Wait for Me! (2022) and Cradle in the Wild: A Book for Nature Lovers Everywhere (2023). You’ll find Linda on her Amazon author page, on her website at LindaWilsonAuthor.com, and on Facebook.

Click the links for free coloring pages and a puppet show starring Thistletoe Q. Packrat. While you’re there, get all the latest news by signing up for Linda’s newsletter.  Connect                                with  Linda: FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram

4 comments:

Karen Cioffi said...

Linda this post is impressive! Thanks for being so generous with sharing your 'local book sales' skills. Authors who might have been thinking about trying it now have a blueprint!

Terry Whalin said...

Linda,

Thank you for these practical steps and insights for every author to begin in their own backyard. Conventional advice for getting media is to start local and expand from there. It's also where we start to sell our books.

Terry
author of Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success (Revised Edition) [Follow the Link for a FREE copy]

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Linda, funny you should mention this. I just posted a free ad on a platform in our area called Alignable. I seems rather dedicated to local promotion or at least better at that than widespread promotion though I do have some followers who live a distance away. Like clear across the nation, Ha! Still, I thought I'd pass it along as a #TheFrugalBookPromoterTips.
Best,
Carolyn

Linda Wilson said...

Thank you for your comments. As I've said in my posts, local sales is what I've turned to. They've been fun. After the holidays I'll be embarking on visits to local venues that I'm hoping will zero in on my market: parents, grandparents, and anyone who cares for children. I've learned some ropes, so now know that my market will need to be present so I can display my books. I've offered several presentations and I will be working on more. I will be posting about my progress. The main thrust is to tell the story from my book (reading it has turned out to be too long for some listeners), followed by a fun craft.

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