Updated: Jun 13, 2019
Book events, conferences, and vendor opportunities are great ways to gain exposure, connect with new readers, and expand your network with other authors and industry professionals. But if you're a new author, chances are, readers aren't familiar with you or your book(s). At a book conference, buried beneath a sea of other authors, it can be difficult to stand out and get noticed, let alone sell some books! Many authors leave book and vendor events with little sales, often not enough to break even. Here, we'll cover seven ways to stand out at book events and sell, so you can avoid being one of those authors.
1. Dress Like You Give a Damn
No matter what your style is, whether you like to be suited up or casual, if you're neo soul, punk, or goth, be true to yourself, but do it with purpose. Be deliberate. Think it through and plan it out. Be well groomed. Make sure your hair is in place, your makeup is just right (if you wear it), and your clothes are clean. Show up ready to show out. When we look our best, we feel better about ourselves. We're more confident and ready to take on the world. Your buyers will notice!
2. Look Alive and Leave the Table Behind
Sitting behind the vendor table, looking bored half to death is a repellent for potential book buyers. If you look like you don't care, neither will they. Get up, walk around the table and stand in front, ready to greet and engage. If possible, bring an assistant with you to man the table while you work the room. Grab your promo materials (bookmarks, postcards, flyers, etc.) and spark natural conversation with people about topics other than your book. If you notice they're wearing something you like, compliment them. If you see they've purchased something interesting, ask them about it. Be friendly, be natural, and be yourself. Keep the conversation short and at the end, hand them a promo card, introduce yourself as an author at the event, and tell them where to find you.
3. Eye-Catching Table Display
Make sure your table display is neat and aesthetically pleasing. Bring a table cloth. Arrange your books into different decorative piles, with a few propped on book stands. Use tabletop poster boards of your book covers, and add any props or visual cues that support your book and your brand. If you have merchandise like t-shirts, pens, or mugs, arrange them neatly on the table as well. Refreshments, goody bags, or free gifts are nice touches. Life-size retractable banners are great attention grabbers, and will pull buyers in.
4. Memorize Your Elevator Pitch
People have short attention spans, and with dozens of vendors vying for your potential buyers' attention, time is of the essence. Reduce your book's description to one or two sentences--no more! Make sure it's catchy, with a powerful hook and it describes the essence of the book's story, theme, or message. Memorize your elevator pitch, and be ready to spit it on the spot when buyers ask, "So, what is this book about?"
5. Be Your Brand
As an author, you are your brand, which means you've set an expectation and must deliver on that expectation every time you show up, with a mix of tangible and intangible elements that define you as an author. Knowing your brand and how to implement it is a must for any marketing or sales venture, and book events are no exception. Branding determines how you will present yourself and your display table and how you will interact with potential book buyers. Make sure you represent yourself well! For a step-by-step guide to build a Bestseller Brand, check out our Bestseller Branding Workbook.
6. Ease of Purchase
Most people attend book events with a set amount of money they plan to spend. If they're spending cash, that means they went to the ATM before showing up, and the machine likely spit out twenties. Price your book(s) in increments of ten for ease of purchase and exchange of change. If your book is $15, make it $10. If you have two books, price them one for $15 and two for $20. The buyer will most likely choose the two for $20 deal every time. Accept credit, debit, and cash payments, and have an assistant handle the payment transactions while you engage your customers.
7. Make Eye Contact and Smile!
Make eye contact with potential buyers, even from across the room. When you catch their eye, give them a smile as an implied invitation to visit your table. It's cliche, but a smile really is your best accessory. It's warm, inviting, and welcoming. It will attract people to you and incite conversation. Wear your smile for the duration of the event. Your cheeks should be hurting when it's over.
The key to standing out at book events is to be attractive. No, I don't mean being pretty or handsome. You may be blessed in that department, and that's great, but it does little for book sales. Present yourself and behave in a way that attracts people to you. Pull them in with your polished appearance, popping personality, and eye-catching display. You'll leave that book event with a pocket full of cash and a slew of new readers.