#MKTG – Part 7 – In-Person Events #BookFestivals

Hi, SE’ers! It’s Jan again to talk about another marketing opportunity for authors.

COVID put a halt to in-person events for authors for a full year, but things are now back in full swing. I did three this year with great results. People seem hungry to get out and about.

The first event was on Memorial Day weekend at the Lone Star Book Festival in Seguin, Texas. The location is about a five-hour drive for me, but Texas is a big state.

What I want to talk about here today is the nuts and bolts of doing an in-person event.

First and foremost is how your table appears.

Here is mine from the May event.

Photo by Jan Sikes May 30, 2021

You will notice I have two banners. One is a table runner and the other is a vinyl banner with grommets for hanging. Later, after this photo was taken, I rearranged my books to include the four biographical fiction novels in one grouping, rather than having them spread out over the table. I place award stickers on all of my books that have won awards and display my award plaque. It’s hard to see in this photo, but to help bring attention to Ghostly Interference, I use a red Harley-Davidson motorcycle I bought on Ebay.

The second event I did was in Lubbock, Texas, sponsored by the Friends of the Lubbock Public Library. This event was very well attended with over fifty authors, live music, entertainment for the kiddos as well as panels and workshops. This was my first opportunity to sit on a panel and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

At any rate, here is my table. Since I couldn’t have a banner, I opted for a tabletop poster. I didn’t notice it at the time, but my table runner could have used a tumble in the dryer. 🙂 I had the tabletop poster made at my local UPS store.

Lots of authors opt to have candy on their tables to draw folks over. I give away bookmarks or a tri-fold with all of my books included.

So, let’s talk about author swag.

The most reasonable resource I have found for bookmarks, table runners, and banners is BannerBuzz. I have no vested interest in this company, they just give the best deals I’ve found with a quick turnaround. The second and coolest discovery I made during this year is that Canva offers printing services. I had no idea. But I created a trifold in Canva with all of my books and short stories, a one-line bio, social media links, and a QR code, then ordered the print copies direct from Canva. They are beautifully done, high quality, and inexpensive.

The cost to reserve a table at any of the events I attend is from $40 to $60. I won’t pay over $60.

Here are some don’ts if you are going to participate in a book festival.

  • Don’t stay seated behind your table – Stand when you see someone approaching.
  • Don’t keep your nose buried in an electronic device – if you look busy, people won’t bother you. Be engaging.
  • Don’t immediately talk about your books – Talk about the weather, the cool purse they are carrying, their baby, or whatever else you can think of. I will often ask a potential customer what kind of books they like to read, then go from there.
  • Don’t hesitate to make eye contact and smile.
  • Don’t make anyone feel pressured to buy your work. Stay casual in talking about your books. Most often, the potential customer will ask, “What do you write?” There is your opening.
  • Don’t talk so long that the customer’s eyes glaze over. This is where your elevator pitch comes in. Short and sweet. Then, if they are interested in knowing more, they will ask.

The results:

Between the three events, I sold over forty books that I would otherwise still have sitting in my storage room. But the best part of this marketing opportunity is connecting one-on-one with potential readers and networking with other authors.

When I went back to Seguin a couple of weeks ago, for the Pecan Festival, two different ladies searched me out to tell me they had purchased my books back in May and that they had loved them. That, my friends, is why I keep writing. Their genuine smiles and sincere words made all the hours of solitary work worthwhile.

What about you? Have you done any in-person events this year? I’d love to hear from you.

Also if you’ve missed other posts in this Book Marketing Series, you can find them below.







70 thoughts on “#MKTG – Part 7 – In-Person Events #BookFestivals

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  12. Great tips, Jan. I love your banners and thanks for the tip on Canva’s printing services. That’s a nice feature. And excellent tips about engagin with visitors to your table. I always try to chat people up. 🙂 I give away a lot of promo book marks. A couple things I learned:
    1. Candy is good, but no chocolate! I had one gentleman get chocolate on my book. I ended up giving it to him as a gift because he’d ruined it. Lol
    2. Free raffles are fun… for mugs or other swag items, but never raffle a book. They’re less likely to buy one if they might win one.
    I can’t wait to do these again. They’re a lot of work but so FUN!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fantastic additional tips, Diana. I totally agree about the chocolate. It’s popular, but not a good idea. The Canva printing services were a nice find for me. I was very pleased with the quality, promptness, and price. Giveaways are also great! Thank you so much for your comment and for adding to this post!

      Liked by 1 person

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  14. This is such a brilliant post! It covers pretty much everything and is packed full of useful, practical advice. It’s helpful to see the impact of the way you present your ‘stall’ and I particularly liked the tips on what to say when approached by a potential reader. Many, many thanks, Jan. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s wonderful, Jacquie! I started to participate in a Farmer’s Market here, but the weather never seemed to cooperate. Maybe next year. Having something at your table to attract people is key. I’ve even seen authors dress in period costumes. And, it’s always great to have something to giveaway. Thank you for leaving a comment!

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Our main library used to do a local event every year, and I attended quite a few of them and was on panels several years, but no one ever sold many books there. I still think it was worth meeting people and fellow authors. I always enjoyed it. I have to say, though, that I never did the banners and posters you did, and I wish I had. I’ve been on panels at writing conferences, too, and always enjoyed answering questions from people in the audience. Great information!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I really did enjoy participating on a panel in Lubbock. It was so great to answer questions and interact with the audience. All three events this year were wonderful. I hope next year we’ll all have more opportunities to get out in public and talk about our work. Thank you so much for stopping by!

      Liked by 2 people

  16. Jan, your table looks awesome! I’ve always used VistaPrint for author swag and table props, but I’m going to look into BannerBuzz and Canva. I’ve always liked what I’ve purchased from VistaPrint but it never hurts to comparison shop. It’s been two years since I’ve done an in-person event thanks to the pandemic, but I have two virtual ones coming up shortly.
    Your tips are spot on. This is an excellent post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I used to only use VistaPrint but their costs have skyrocketed, so I had to look elsewhere. I guess it’s because printing costs have gone up everywhere, but it wasn’t only the printing cost but shipping too. At any rate, you are absolutely right. It pays to comparison shop! Thank you for your comment, Mae!

      Liked by 2 people

  17. That’s good advice in general when you are having a booth at a fair, selling your books or products. I like the hint that you need to be prepared for either hanging a banner or having a tabletop poster. I agree that it doesn’t make sense to gift people with candy, rather with something they can use and is a promotion for your own work.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your comment, Erika. People always like to walk away with something in their hand, even if it’s just a bookmark. I’ve had lots of people take a bookmark and say they only read on their Kindle, so maybe they go and order the books. Have a great day and thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 2 people

  18. I didn’t do any author events this year, but I have done a few in the past, and I was asked by a local library to speak about my book. I took ten copies to each event and sold out twice. I was pleased with that result. I actually like to engage with potential readers, even if I don’t make a sale. You learn a lot. Thanks for the great tips for author swag.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for stopping by, Michele. I have found that when I am asked to speak anywhere, I sell a lot of books. That’s a great point. I also agree that we can learn a lot from others. I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for your questions, Craig. When you ask if I have to purchase a lot of copies for resale, my answer is “define a lot.” 🙂 Normally, I take twelve copies of each book to a live event. I’ve only sold out one time. When you order your print books through Amazon print-on-demand, the cost is very reasonable. For example, I can get print copies of “Flowers and Stone” for around $3.00 including shipping. Then I sell them at live events for $10. Hope that answers your questions.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I love it, Joan. Even at events where I haven’t sold many books, I always enjoy talking with potential readers and meeting other authors. It’s interesting to see other authors’ marketing ideas. Thank you for stopping by!

      Liked by 2 people

  19. I love your enthusiasm as much as I love your tips, Jan. I’m looking forward to public events – zoom just can’t replace person-to-person contact. BTW, you’ve got some great promo material! 😊

    Liked by 2 people

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