Nicola has added two new signing events to her schedule for 2019, including CWC’s AuthorCon2019 in August and RidCon2019 in September. Be sure to check out the 2019 Events Page for details on each upcoming appearance.
I’ve been so busy I completely forgot to upload some of the really awesome photos from Marvel’s End Game viewing party with the Southern Geeks group! We had an awesome time last month with just a few of the over 5K members of the SGG. Everyone was out in cosplay (except for me – I didn’t have time to really get a good cosplay together) and had so much fun posing with some of our local southern family. The movie was seriously AWESOME and I encourage anyone who hasn’t seen it yet to GO GO GO!!
We had all planned a road trip back on May 4th for the annual Free Comic Book Day but unfortunately, life got in the way for most of us, including myself. My good friend Deby and were all packed and ready to ride but we had some bad thunderstorms and tornadoes coming through the area so we decided not to go. This was to be my first road trip with the Southern Geeks but it looks like I’ll have to wait until later in the year when I hope to help them out at some of the local comicons coming up. Until next time, here are a few of the pics I snapped before the viewing party.
For even more fun photos and ramblings, be sure to follow me on social media!
Calling all WattPadders! I have joined the ranks of WattPad and will be posting new short stories and full-length novels from the Before the Sun Rises Series to my account. Each week I’ll be posting a new chapter to on-going stories, books, and more. Check out my WattPad account today and be sure to follow my account and all my books to your reading list so you will receive notifications each time an update or new story is posted.
Yeah, I know I’m going to piss off a lot of people with this. But hey, I’m nothing if not honest. I’m not the type of person who can sit idly by and watch newbie authors be taken for a loop with people who are always after money. So here are my top reasons why authors should skip the large-scale author signing events and spend their money elsewhere*.
*side note – if you really want to do book signings, work with local libraries and book stores. They are usually very eager to get local talent in their doors. And if you think you can’t pull in a large enough crowd on your own, see how many authors they can host and make it as large-scale of an event as possible. I’ve put together two events at my local library and both had a decent turn out. And if you write in some genre besides nonfiction and romance and really want to get more bang for your book-signing buck, head to the comicons. These tend to draw really large crowds even in smaller towns.
10. You are not a special snowflake. Unless you are a big-name author, chances are slim to none that you will actually sell enough books at these things to even pay for a tank of gas, much less the table rental fees.
9. These events aren’t geared toward getting exposure for the authors who attend or about bringing in readers. They are geared toward making money for the organizer of the event. They tend to be put together by other authors who want to organize an event, invite all their author friends, try to snag a few big-name authors to make it sound like it’s going to be a big to-do, and if they have room left over, they may let others join them. And again, unless you are a big name author, the few readers who do show up aren’t there for you.
Then there are the expenses involved – hotel fees, travel fees, buying your books, the endless free swag you need to entice the readers to your table – it gets pricey really quick, and that’s not even counting the table rental fees. And speaking of those fees, be prepared to pay your non-refundable deposit a good year in advance of the event, if not more. The rest of your table fees are generally due three months or more before the actual date of the signing as well.
Wonder why? It’s because it’s being organized by people who do not have the capital to pull off the event in the first place. They are depending upon the deposits and rental fees being paid up front by the attending authors to cover all the venue rental fees and other costs of putting the event together. And if something happens and you have to cancel your appearance, you are not going to get any of that money back as a general rule, even if the event has a huge waiting list of authors who are more than willing to take over your table. If you do have to cancel, the only way you are going to get your money back is to sell your table to another author. But you better double-check with the organizer first; some of the events have a non-transfer clause which forbids you from selling and thus transferring your table to another author.
8. The ratio of tickets sold to authors attending are more around the likes of 1:3, maybe 1:5 if you are damn lucky. Most are only around a 1:1 ratio. What does that mean? For every one author that shows up, there will only be one to five tickets sold. To do the math, that means if there are 100 authors signed up, you can count on approximately 100 tickets sold. 300 or more tickets sold is generally considered an above average show.
7. Readers who come to these things are there to visit with very specific authors. These aren’t like the comic cons and other conventions. You don’t have thousands of people casually walking through checking out all the tables. It’s a few hundred people at best who came with a specific game plan in mind – they know which authors they want to visit, which books they want to buy, and they do not tend to be out there looking for new authors to start reading. Remember, they had to pay to get into these things. If they want to “browse” they can do that, for free, at any ebook retailer or their local library.
But they’ll come along and pick up some swag and that will help, right?
Sure, you’ll have people who will walk around and grab a bookmark or a flyer – which will get dumped into a bag filled with all the shit from all the other tables and then added to a scrapbook (if you’re lucky) or a memorabilia box where it is promptly forgotten as it gets mixed in with everything else. These things are looked at more like trophies, no matter how ‘sensible’ the item might be, like a pen or a lip balm.
But at least you got some swag into the hands of readers, right? Yeah – no. You would have come out better sending those bookmarks to libraries in your local area (or hell, ship them to libraries out of state if they will take them) where there are, you know, actual serial readers.
I know what you are thinking – that you are bound to get some exposure, right? Even if your not a big-name author, you think you are sure to get some of the run-off from the other authors attending, right? Or maybe see a spike in sales after the event because of all the ebook buyers? Yeah, about that.
6. You’re going to be in a room full of other no-name authors who may have one or two readers who showed up to buy a ticket and visit with them. And we’re back to the number crunching again – see reason number 8. And reason number 7.
But it’s good to help get your name out there, right? I mean, the whole reason to go to these things is to meet with readers and hopefully get a few new fans. That’s worth all those hundreds of dollars spent. It’s all about networking.
5. Look, let’s get down to the nut-cutting, shall we? Do you want to know the real reason why authors go to these things? So we can post it on social media and pretend we are relevant in this industry. So it looks like we have an actual career. They can claim it’s all about networking all they want, but that’s the real reason if they are honest with themselves. Just look back at numbers 10-6. These things don’t bring in large crowds, and the few who do show up are generally not going to take a chance on someone they’ve never heard of. The ROI for going to these things are miniscule, even for well known authors.
But surely there has got to be some benefits? I mean, if you’re in a room full of other authors and there are readers and they are walking around taking things off your table, your’re bound to get a tiny bit of exposure, right? Well…
4. You’re better off spending those hundreds of dollars on real advertising. Let’s say for argument’s sake BookBub was going to charge you $200 to only send out your book information to, let’s be generous here, 300 readers. Would you think that was a good deal? And let’s say that out of those 300 readers, 90% of them had never heard of you and weren’t known for taking chances on a new-to-them author. Would you be so quick to hand over that $200 for such a small ROI? Probably not, so why would you want to plunk down $200 on a table rental plus book costs, swag costs, travel costs, food costs, hotel costs, etc. just to potentially gain a half-dozen readers? There are a lot more efficient ways to advertise than traveling long distances to sit in a room full of other no-name authors in the hopes one or two readers from the one bestselling author sitting across the room from you might decide to buy an ebook six months down the road.
Now, I’m sure there are going to be those who think, ‘Well, if I get a primo spot in this event then everyone will have to walk right by my table and I’ll be there waving them right over to my table and carrying on actual conversations with them so they’ll be more likely to remember me after the event.’ Okay, reality check time.
3. Unless you are BFFs with the event organizer(s), you are going to be placed in the nosebleed section of the event. Hey, someone has to end up in the shitty section, right? Not all the spots are going to be primo spots, so unless you intend on getting seriously buddy-buddy with the organizers then you are going to be shit outta luck when it comes to table placement. I’ve been to more than a half-dozen of these things in my own backyard where I was a local known author and guess what? I not only ended up shoved into the back corner as an afterthought, but I also had pretty much no fans to show up. Oh, and yeah, I didn’t get much traffic over at my table, even with me waving them over and begging them to just talk to me about their favorite genre. Unless you plan on tossing dollar bills at them, and that could get weird pretty quick, then they are pretty much going to avoid you no matter how much you smile (and that could get weird too).
2. Be prepared to be schooled. Well, be prepared to go back to high school. And you thought your days of cliques and back stabbing were over? You wish. Welcome to the wide, wonderful world of indie publishing, where bullying runs rampant, and if you aren’t friends with the cool kids then you may not even be invited to these events. Yep, a lot of these things are by invitation only. Don’t like it? Then don’t become the squeaky wheel begging to be let in because believe-you-me, you get on one of these people’s shit lists and you’re doomed to stay on it for the duration of your career. And don’t think for a second your fellow authors are going to back you up if someone decides you are just being jealous because you didn’t get invited. People are going to side with the organizer or just keep quiet so as not incur the wrath of anyone. And I’ve got the screenshots to prove it.
And finally, the reality check that is surely going to hit you in your ego:
1. We are not rock stars. Unless you are seriously one of the top 6 bestselling authors of all time, even if you are making enough money to make EL James jealous, people don’t really care to actually meet you. I’ve seen photos of some of the large scale signings she’s attended and there weren’t hordes of fans lined up to see her. Seriously, porn stars get more people at their table than even the big name authors. People aren’t going to camp out overnight just for the off chance they will get to be one of the first in line to meet you. I’m sorry, it sucks, and as much as we’d like to think our rabid fans would come out to support us, it just ain’t happening. I’ve had ample opportunity to meet Anne Rice, who is my personal authoring mentor, and yet I’ve passed up going to meet her every single time. After all, she’s no Bret Michaels. Oh, and speaking of rock stars, at least they get a cut of the ticket sales. Authors? Nope, we have to pay to be there and the organizer gets to keep all the proceeds from charging people to come see you. Welcome to the freak show.
So this pretty much sums up why attending author events that charge any type of table rental or admission fee are a complete waste of time for authors. It is a large amount of money to spend for a very low, nearly non-existent ROI. It’s not very good for networking as the crowds tend to be smaller. Unless you are really big, top-earning bestselling author, you are not going to attract a large crowd of fans. Even the best paid authors aren’t always getting fans lined up to meet them. Most readers who attend are there for a very select few authors and have little interest in finding others they might enjoy reading. And since you are probably going to be in a room full of other unknown authors, you aren’t going to see much foot traffic because the few readers who do attend are only there to support their favorites. Your time, and money, would be better spent on real advertising where you get more bang for your buck. If all else fails and you really can’t help yourself when it comes to buying bookmarks and other swag, then network with some of the event organizers and send in your stuff for their VIP bags. Most of them are super-happy to receive the freebie items for their bags plus it gets you about as much exposure as you would actually being at the signing. Plus, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper. And if by some miracle you see a huge spike in sales after that show, then by all means, try attending it.
Bottom line, if you do decide to start doing the signing circuits, then keep this in mind:
- Be exclusive. If you really want people to be excited to see you, then only attend one or two signings a year, and make sure it is the same ones. The more accessible you are to readers in the flesh, the less likely they are going to drive out of their way to come meet you. Making yourself exclusive to a very few, specific events means you are more likely to have readers show up to meet you if they know this could be their only chance to meet you.
- Go easy on the autographs. The fewer autographs you have in existence the more sought-after they are going to become. Don’t go crazy signing every piece of swag you have on your table. Sign only your own books that you sell at the show or those readers bring in. And if the event is selling some type of anthology, coloring book, keepsake autograph booklet, etc. for the show, then make it clear you will only sign the first XX number of people who show up at your table asking for your autograph. You have to start thinking of yourself as a business commodity and stop begging people to take notice of you.]
- Choose your events wisely. You want to go to the ones which offer you the most bang for your buck. If you have the money to travel, this means finding the largest events which has the largest turn out, preferably one which has at least two very well-known authors. I’m not talking about authors who slap USA TODAY bestseller on their books because they managed to list as part of an anthology or someone who is “well-known” in the indie business. I’m talking about a bonafide house-hold name author who is guaranteed to bring in the readers. If traveling isn’t an option, then pick the largest one you can get to.
Whatever you decide to do, remember you are representing yourself not only as a business, but as a business professional. Unless you have some serious cash to burn, I would strongly recommend not doing the signing circuit at all. There are much more efficient ways to use your advertising dollars which will have long-term benefits you simply cannot get attending a book signing.
It’s about that time again, kiddos! Join me for possibly my one and only book signing for 2018 as I converge on the IP Casino Resort & Spa this Saturday, 3/24/18, from 12pm to 1pm with over 70 other authors for a day full of books & fun!
I’ll have limited paperbacks available so if you want to grab one, be sure to hit my table first. I’ll also be selling autographed 11×17 posters, a variety of jewelry including the vampire protection necklace, earrings, and keychains. All jewelry is hand-crafted by me.
If you haven’t liked my FaceBook and page, joined My Vampire Fix readers group, or joined my newsletter, you need to do that ASAP! I have a HUGE contest coming up in the next few weeks so you will not want to miss out. Links to my readers group and FB page are below. You can join the newsletter by clicking on NEWSLETTER in the menu at the top of the page.
Until next time divas!
Peace, love, & books y’all!
Nikki on FaceBook
My Vampire Fix Readers Group
With the release of Clan of the Claw, the third book in the Before the Sun Rises Series, I am hosting my first Q&A session over on Authors AMA. This will be a week-long Q&A session discussing the series and the soon-to-be-released spin-off series, Fallen From Grace. If you’ve ever had any questions about anything dealing with me as an author, any of my books, or anything else, please feel free to join me from January 20th – January 27th for my first ever #AskMeAnything Q&A session. See you there!
CLICK HERE to join. You can ask questions at any time, but answers will not post until the #AMA starts on January 20th.
In an effort to keep everyone up-to-date on what is going on in my writing career as well as the indie author world, I am once again renewing my mailing list. If you are interested in receiving news approximately every 2 to 4 months regarding all things author and book related (including yours truly), CLICK HERE to join The Supernatural World of Nicola C. Matthews. If you opt-in to include your mailing address, you will periodically receive goodies from me as well such as autographed bookmarks, InstaFreebie story codes, pens, and other cool swag. Just one more way I’m working to keep my readers in-the-know on all things books and to thank them all for supporting me and the rest of our awesome indie community.
I am happy to announce that book 3 in the Sweet Seductions Series, Jinx’d!, will be released late next month. Stay tuned for cover reveal party, release party, and release date!
The first annual Southern Fantasy Author Event is being held Saturday, August 13, 2016 at the Laurel-Jones County Library in historical downtown Laurel, MS from 9:30 am to 2pm. Come join fourteen fantasy authors from across the south for a day filled with fun, prizes, and down home charm. You won’t want to miss your chance to hang with some of the south’s best fantasy authors and get to know the writers behind the pen. There will be a raffle with all proceeds benefiting the Laurel-Jones County Library. Prizes include autographed paperbacks, candles from the Shining Sol Candle Company, and a 7″ Amazon Kindle Fire tablet and cover. Come join as we celebrate southern hospitality and authors who make fantasy into a reality.
This year is the first year I have been able to attend any author events. To date I have attended both large and small events, and will be hosting one in my home town in less than 6 weeks. For my first event, I count myself lucky because it was a very large event. The final ticket count to the public, prior to the event, was over 300 tickets sold, and that’s not counting the ones who strayed in because they were already at the venue and saw the signs. One of the smaller events I attended only had around 100 tickets to be sold. All in all, it’s been quite the learning experience.
Before I get into the meat of this post, I want to set some realistic expectations. If you think author events are all about selling books, I hate to disappoint you. It’s not about selling books, it’s about exposure. It’s about meeting readers, engaging with them, and hoping to connect with new fans. Most readers who attend these events aren’t looking to purchase books; they are looking for new authors and reading material for their kindles. They generally grab swag off your table and will look you up weeks or even months later to see what you are all about.
Most authors only sell two to four books at an event, I somehow managed to sell 8 at my first event (over 300 tickets sold) and 6 at the smallest event (only about 100 tickets sold). The girl whose table I was sharing at the largest event sold something like 28 books. That is not the norm. I repeat, selling that many books at an event is not the norm. And when taking into consideration I spent approximately $800 to make $16 in profit, selling those 8 books doesn’t look quite so impressive. Let me repeat that, I spent over $800 in books, swag, hotel rooms, food, and gas on just one event to make a measly $16 in profit. And I count that as doing extremely well for one of these events. Thankfully I had enough swag left over to carry me over for two more events, but that is still a lot of money to spend on handful of events every year. In total, I have spent over $1k between books, swag, hand-made swag, hotel rooms, food, and gas to attend just 3 events. So if you are going into these events thinking you are going to make a lot of money, sell a lot of books, or even break even, you are going to be very disappointed. I will say that I met a LOT of really great people, I made a lot of connections, I gave away a lot of swag, and I had a lot of fun with my fellow authors and readers. Hopefully in the coming months, all those people who took pens, bookmarks, and rack cards from my table will eventually look me up on Amazon and buy a book.
So if you are not scared off by now and still want to do this thing, let’s get started on what all I learned from the events I have attended so far this year.
- Be Prepared Part 1 – Table Presentation Makes the Difference
Upon setting foot inside my first event for setup, I quickly realized I had not prepared nearly enough. Even though I had spent months crunching numbers, deciding on what swag to purchase, and buying it a few pieces at a time, I still was not prepared.
When I went into this, I had only ever seen a few pictures on other authors’ Facebook pages in regards to what their tables looked like. Most of them just had their items spread out on it, and so I assumed that’s how all of the events looked. Man, was I ever wrong.
Nearly every table at this event was seriously decked out, like the authors had hired a professional party planner or table decorator to do their spread. I cannot possibly stress how important it is for your table to stand out in these events.
I suggest doing a dry run prior to going. Practice setting up your table, arranging your books and decorations so your table looks eye-catching. And don’t just depend on the event to supply a nice table-cloth. I suggest bringing another one as well. I didn’t make the same mistake twice. The next events I attended I asked the coordinators how large the tables were and measured that space out on my dining room table. I did a dry run with my table, and it paid off. I also brought a maroon table-cloth with me and used it, making my table at one of the events the only one with a table-cloth which was some color other than white. I’m glad I did this as at one particular event I was stuck in the very corner where no one could see my sign. I think the bright color drew people in.
Remember you are trying to pull in new readers and the best way to do this is for your table to be eye-catching and inviting. Think of a theme that surrounds your books and get to decorating! This is why I chose a maroon table-cloth, to go with the vampire and paranormal theme running through my books, and it also matched the color scheme of most of my books. Trust me, waiting until you get to the event to decide on table layout and theme is not the answer. I wanted to cry when I got to my first event and realized I had not really planned out my table appropriately. Thankfully I had so many things on my table I still drew people in at that first event, but you definitely want to have a theme and a plan for your table layout prior to the event.
Also, be sure to bring something you can prop up your books on, like a mini-easel or one of those little things you use to display decorative plates. If you have a lot of books, investing in a small, table-top book display is a very good idea. I didn’t have any of these things at my first event and so people couldn’t see my books unless they walked up to my table. I lost potential buyers and readers because of this. For my next events, I had a table top collapsible book shelf which people seemed to like. They didn’t have to worry about knocking over the books on display. I had a lot of people picking them up and actually looking at them and reading the blurb. At my first event, people acted like they were scared to touch the display.
- Be Prepared Part 2 – Book Sales
Thankfully I had the good sense to take my Square card reader and to get my account set up prior to the event. If you don’t have a Square account, you really need to get one, or some other type of POS service. There are no monthly fees for using Square and they charge just 2.75% of the sales to swipe the card. It is automatically deposited into your bank account each night.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough sense to think about all the people who would be paying with cash and would need change at my first event. Thankfully I only had to make change a few times, but coming prepared never hurt anyone. The author sitting at the table next to me came equipped with a locking money-box. Smart man. But if you can’t go all out on locking cash drawers, I do recommend you bring change for $100 to include ones, fives, and tens. For my next events, I invested in a small locking cash drawer ($16 at Wal-Mart) and brought change. I was glad I did. It made it a lot easier than digging through my wallet under the table.
- Be Prepared Part 3 – Information on Swag
Swag has to pack a big punch in a small size, so think long and hard about what you want to include. The most popular swag at my table was my business cards, my rack cards, and my bookmarks at my first event. I had postcards too, but people did not seem as interested in those. So when preparing your printed swag, keep in mind you want to make it super easy for potential readers to find and connect with you.
For my second event, people were more interested in the hand-made magnets and my bookmarks. I had business cards, business card magnets, and two sets of post cards as well as rack cards at my table, but the only thing anyone took were the hand-made magnets and bookmarks. You never really know what will be a hit at each event, so I suggest buying small numbers of various items, just make sure it includes some way for customers to find you. The hand-made magnets I had were just a tiny bit larger than a quarter and was one of my logos which had my website address on it.
For my rack cards, I included a list of all my book titles, all my social media links, and my website address. Unfortunately I didn’t have sense enough to put my Amazon author page link on it, but with my book titles and my name, I at least made it easy for them to look me up at Amazon.com.
For business cards, you have to include even less information, so besides your name and your tag line or “brand” (for instance, all mine have ‘paranormal fantasy author’ on them), I included my website address. It’s the one place where all my stuff links together – social media, my blog, my amazon author page, etc.
For bookmarks, I suggest creating a brand logo, like the one displayed at the top of this site. People really like the logo and it is why they kept picking up the bookmarks at all the events I have attended so far. I had several people tell me they loved the eyes and asked if they could take extras for friends or giveaways for their blog. Bonus!
As with your table, you want your swag to be eye-catchy and to stand out. Bright colors, unique logo, and an awesome brand or tag-line is a must. It takes some doing, and I’ve wasted quite a bit of money on items that I ultimately didn’t use because I came up with something better. I often use the pre-made designs at Vista Print and add my own little flair such as my tag-line or a small logo. Just don’t give up and if all else fails, remember to keep it simple. So long as the swag stands out on your table, you’re good to go.
I would like to add that proofreading the information on your swag is even more important than making it catchy. I had a typo on the back of my rack cards that I didn’t even notice until weeks later – after I had already given out several hundred of them at two different events. There’s nothing more sobering than having to trash a few hundred pieces of swag all because I didn’t take two minutes to double-check the sentence I typed. Yes, it matters, and if you are one of those who thinks something like that doesn’t matter, you have no business being an author. Sorry, but it’s the truth. Your swag is an extension of yourself as an author, just like your books. It all has to be perfect, even though perfection isn’t achievable. Double standard, and indies are held to an even higher standard than trade authors.
- Be Prepared Part 4 – Bring Your Wheels!
I thought about this the week of my first event, and by that time it was too late to really do anything about it. So my husband and I ended up making two trips to my car carrying very heavy boxes a half-mile and up two sets of elevators to the event room. Needless to say, after doing that for both the setup and the break down, my shoulders and back were killing me. So be sure to take something with wheels that is large enough to hold everything for the event so you are not making multiple trips. I saw authors with everything from large wheeled suitcases to large wheeled Rubbermaid containers. If you have tons of boxes, I strongly recommend a collapsible dolly as well. Whatever you choose, your back will ultimately thank you.
On that note, be sure to find out if the room where the event is being held is on the ground floor, and if not, if the place has an elevator. After my first event I invested in a wheeled repurposed tool box which I absolutely LOVE. It holds all my books and swag, leaving me to carry just my banner and stand, my new collapsible book shelf, and one more small container with my purchase bags and table decorations. Unfortunately, one of my events was on a second floor of a place which did not have an elevator. Getting my wheeled box up the steps was quite the challenge. It had to be carried down the steps once everything was over, and I wasn’t physically able to do it, which meant one of my fellow female authors carried it for me. Yes, I was embarrassed and forever grateful.
- Location, Location, Location – and yes, be prepared to feel like you are back in high school.
Understand your table location at the event is going to be mostly out of your control. Let’s face it, someone has to have the shitty spot no one wants, so if you are just starting out and are not a “big name” in the indie world, don’t be surprised if you find yourself in the back of the room or shoved off into the corner somewhere. Like I said, someone has to end up there. If it’s not you, it will be someone else. It’s just the way things are.
The room I was in for my first event was oddly shaped and my table was almost in the corner. Thankfully the author whose table I was sharing was attracting a lot of readers, as was the table next to me, so I got lucky and got run-off traffic. Despite this, because of where we were located, I did notice a LOT of the attendees did not come down far enough to get to our table, resulting in possibly missed sales and people who did not pick up any swag to remember me by. I really believe the really bad table placement combined with me not being very well-known in the area attributed to the dismal number of book sales, especially considering I sold just 2 fewer books at an event with 1/3 of the ticket sales.
At another event, I was shoved off into a corner by the door. No one could see my banner, and the only thing I had going for me was the author whose table I was sharing seemed pretty popular and the fact I was sitting beside the door so those who came in that door stopped at my table first. With that in mind, this is why having a very eye-catchy table is a must. If you are unlucky enough to be seated where the foot traffic is not going to come by you by default, then you definitely want to give them a reason to be drawn to your table. For the event where I was shoved off into the corner, I was the only one with brightly colored table-cloth. I believe it caught a lot of people’s attention and set me apart from the rest.
- Smile – No One Wants to Meet a Grouch
I’ve never smiled so much in my life as I do at these events. Yes, I know by our very nature writers tend to be introverts, but at these events, those who are not friendly and outgoing will lose potential readers. At my first event, my table mate and I went so far as to wave people over to our table and ask them to come chat with us. If you see someone standing close by eyeballing your table like they are debating on whether or not to visit your table, give them a big smile, wave at them, and ask them to come chat with you. Seriously. Just smiling at them is not enough, but when you are chatting them up about their favorite authors and genres, then it puts them at ease and more willing to look at your titles. If nothing else, invite them to take swag from your table and remind them all your items are on Kindle/Nook/iTunes etc. Even if they don’t buy a book that day, hopefully they’ll go check you out at a later date.
On that note, I’d like to discuss a big key difference between large events and small events. For my first event, there were over 300 tickets sold. For the first two hours it was like Grand Central Station. People were zooming by my table so fast I barely had time to speak to them. I noticed some people bypassed my table completely because there were already people at it. And because there were so many people, everyone was lined up waiting to get to all the tables, so my time to chat with each person was severely limited. I got the feeling a lot of people may have felt rushed because of others waiting in line, which meant my time spent engaging and interacting with potential readers was greatly compromised. At that first event, I only sold 8 books, and I believe that low number was the result of many factors, not only due to the high amount of traffic, but also my table spread and location.
At one of the last events I attended, there were just a handful of authors and less than 100 readers who attended. It was very relaxed and I was able to chat with a lot of readers and pitch my books to them. In other words, there was a lot of author-reader interaction. I sold 6 books which was phenomenal considering the low number of attendees when compared to the number of books I sold at my first event and the number of readers who attended. People did not take as much swag from my table at the smaller event, or at least it didn’t feel like it.
- Sometimes Less is More
I will say that I went overboard with my swag at my first event. I ended up with pens, rack cards, two different types of business cards, bookmarks, and postcards. For my next events, I added in another set of business card magnets, hand-made magnets, and another set of postcards for my new release. Everyone was really happy to take them off my hands, but to be honest, it really wasn’t needed.
Case in point, my table mate at my first event was only giving out small bookmarks and a piece of hand-made buyer swag for anyone who purchased a book. Despite this, she nearly sold out of the 30 books she brought with her PLUS she gave away all the bookmarks she had. If it’s on your table, they WILL take it, but it’s a lot of money to waste on something that they may or may not keep up with. As someone who has walked around at these events, when faced with tons of swag choices, I feel really bad about taking one of each. I know that is what it is there for, but there is something about authors sitting behind those tables eyeballing you that is just unnerving. It’s why I try to talk to people and invite them to take things off my table. I want them to take it, it’s why I bought it, but I don’t want them to feel guilty about it.
My suggestion is to keep things simple. I like pens because it’s something the readers will actually use. And if they use it around others, even better. However, most people are really particular about their pens, so the cheap ones generally get tossed out pretty quickly. Unless you are splurging on really expensive, gel pens, skip them. Bookmarks, however, seems to be something people love picking up, but then again, why wouldn’t they? They need them for the books they are buying, they like using them, they like sharing them, so bookmarks are a staple product to have at your table. My next favorite thing is rack cards. You can pack a LOT of information into a rack card, and they double as bookmarks as well. Business cards are handy and they are fairly cheap, so I would definitely keep those around.
Postcards, in my opinion, were a waste of money for me. Sure, I like them, and they can be used as a bookmark or even mailed. But let’s face it. Readers who go to these events collect these items, which means it goes into a scrap-book or a bag or a drawer and they never look at it again. Bookmarks and rack cards, however, tend to get used. Despite this, I still have a weakness for them, and tend to purchase them when I can get them cheap.
In all honesty, I spent way too much on swag for all of my events. The only good thing is I won’t have to buy more swag for the other events I’m doing later in the year. I had enough of it left over I was able to donate some to my co-author for her event, and may even have some left over to donate to a few other event VIP bags. But if you are starting off, I suggest finding out how many tickets have been sold to the event previously and use those numbers as a basis for how much swag to order. One or two pieces of swag, along with a special “buyer” swag for buyers is really all you need.
- Pricing is A Factor
The first event I attended had a FB group just for the attending authors. Someone had asked how much everyone was charging for their books. It’s a great idea to get a feel for this and if it is possible, ask the other authors who are going how much they are charging. You do NOT want to over-charge or under-charge when it comes to your books. However, selling them at a loss may not be an option either.
I’ll be honest. My books were priced where I lost money on the one through my publisher because it costs me so much to order them. The rest I had priced at the same price as they were on Amazon. Despite this, my table mate at my first event was offering huge discounts when buying both of her books together, and these weren’t small novellas either. To be honest, there is no way I could have sold my books for the same price, not without taking a hit on them. I feel it put me at a disadvantage as those who visited my table thought I was over-priced. Despite this, I feel my books were reasonably priced for their size and the lack of sales could have been from a variety of different reasons. However, I do strongly recommend anyone attending the events to ask what others are charging and plan accordingly. Even if you have to sell them for what you have in them, it’s better than having to drag all those books back home and missing out on a potential reader leaving with one of your books in their hands.
At my other events, I knocked the price way down. Books I had been selling for $10 were knocked down to $8 and those which had been $12 were knocked down to $10 and when buying them together I offered large discounts. I had went through and changed a lot of the covers, so I wanted to get rid of them. Pricing may have been a huge factor on why people were buying more at this event.
With that in mind, I strongly recommend having your book prices in plain sight. It took me two events before I realized I should have had the price on them. Most people ask, but there were some who may have not purchased simply because the price wasn’t posted anywhere and they didn’t want to ask. And if you are selling other items such as mugs and tshirts, always have the prices of those items clearly marked.
- Take Photos
Seriously, take photos of not only your own table, but the tables of authors who have a really catchy table spread. Learn from your peers, and take photos so you’ll have something to look back on later to improve your own design layout.
All in all, being prepared is the number one thing. You have to think about the event from start to finish, what all is happening, and what items you will need. Learn from others, ask questions, don’t be afraid to fail, and most importantly, have fun! You can’t expect readers to come to you if you don’t look like you are having an absolute blast.