Working an author booth at a local festival or fair can be a fun way to directly connect with the community. It can land you contacts that can lead to other appearances, and you can most times sell your product directly to the public. But, as with all things, it pays to be prepared.
1. If Outside, Prepare for Bad or Changing Weather. Prepare for temperature swings in the spring and fall (big festival times of year); prepare to pack up or cover up the booth quickly to protect product; protect yourself from the sun, which is actually closer to Earth in winter; and always be personally prepared for rain. Your booth may be a long distance from your vehicle.
2. Follow the Event’s Guidelines to the Letter. Review the guidelines before you go. Know what you can and can’t do.
3. Take a Small Cooler. Bring a cooler filled with ice and your favorite refreshments. Don’t forget medications that must be cooled.
4. Plan for Payment. If you will be selling your product to the public, plan ahead for how you will receive payment. Will you take credit cards? If so, how? Will you accept checks? Will you hold off on shipment until they clear? Will you accept cash? If so, plan to bring change and a receipt book.
5. Plan to Pay Taxes on Sales. Don’t plan on ignoring the fact that you should be collecting sales taxes (if applicable in your state) from customers and then paying the state (that’s cheating and your state needs the taxes you collect now more than ever); instead, read up on sales taxes before you go. For me, the State of Florida offers much assistance at http://dor.myflorida.com/dor/taxes/sales_tax.html. Check with your state’s sales tax division to learn the specifics that apply to you.
6. Don’t Forget Your Business Cards. You never know who you’ll meet. Make it easy for them to connect with you after the event.
7. Bring Flyers on Your Products. Many people won’t buy at the show but will buy later from home on their computer or other digital device. Make sure your product’s flyer gives them the information they need to buy after the show. You may even want to offer a show (fair or festival) discount to encourage at-show sales.
8. Bring a Cover for the Table. Many festivals’ tables are in awful shape or just downright ugly, and you can cover them quickly and easily with a colorful, freshly laundered twin flat sheet or rectangular table cloth.
9. Bring a Stand for Your Product. Don’t put your book down flat on a table. Get it up on a book stand so it can be seen by passersby. You can get inexpensive, acrylic ones at an office supply store.
10. Print Signs at Home. Don’t make handwritten signs when you get to the festival; they look tacky and homespun. Decide what you want to say on your signs, print them in large, large type (that can be seen from across the aisle) and slip them in clear acrylic sign holders (again, available at office supply stores). “Register to Win!” and “Meet the Author” are always good sign choices, and freebies are always a good draw.
Copyright 2011 by Betsy Lampe
Betsy Lampe is the marketing manager for Rainbow Books, Inc., a 33-year-old publisher of self-help and how-to nonfiction, and mystery and historical fiction. firstname.lastname@example.org