MT McGuire Books

How did it all go? What I learned from doing a #booksigning

A little while back I write this post about my nervousness about taking a stall to flog my books at Bury Christmas Fayre. A week on, let me fill you in on how it went.

Stall with author in situ, yes, I buffed my nose with Mr Sheen.

Stall with author in situ, yes, I buffed my nose with Mr Sheen.

Truth is, I forgot to write down what I sold on day one, going solely on the amount of extra money. Looking back on it that was a Bad Idea. That said, I reckon on it being about 5 copies of book 1, a set of post cards and 4 sets of Christmas cards.

Nuff said, the next day I kept a religious tally of everything I sold: 8 copies of Book 1, 5 Boxed Sets and a copy of books 2, 3 and 4. I also sold 7 lots of art cards which I’d brought along, just in case. On the Sunday morning, one of the people who’d bought a boxed set contacted me by e-mail and bought another one. This netted me total sales of 11 packs of art cards, one pack of post cards and 40 books: enough money to pay for the stall, the banner, the stock and most of my outstanding credit card bill. I just wish I’d done the Sunday, too, and netted a profit!

So what did I learn? Several things. Here they are.

  1. Plan your stall in advance.
    Work out your bulk discounts, special offers, etc and make a price list. Print several copies of the price list, and get them encapsulated if you can, so that customers – or you – can spill coffee on them without fear. A calculator is handy and a cash box and some of those plastic stands you put books on (I got them off ebay too: 10 for £14). Make sure you’ve ordered enough books. Too many is probably better than too few.
  2. Make sure you have everything you need – or at least, the stuff you know you need.
    This can’t be stressed enough. Read the requirements given by the venue. Do they want you to bring your own table and chair? If they provide these remember to bring a table cloth. I used a dark blue cotton single sheet which cost me £7 on ebay. Bring water and some lunch (you will get hungry and thirsty no matter how unlikely it seems with all the adrenaline that is in your system). Write a list of all the things you are taking and tick off each item as you put it in your car.Life saving items for me were: plastic book stands, scissors, sticky tape, blu-tack, food, drink, price lists and a last minute purchase of some wacky sweets (more on that story later).
  3. Pimp your stall.
    Yes, make it pretty, bring a banner print off pictures of your covers so that if you have the good fortune to be in front of a wall you can pin them up – I did this but I didn’t bring enough. Make it striking so people are drawn to come and have a look.
  4. Have something to give away.
    I had two things: bookmarks advertising the series as a whole with blurb and e-mail address, plus sweets. You need the sweets to be wrapped because… well you’ve seen that e-mail that gets sent round every now and again about the wee on the bar nuts, right? So: wrapped sweets are good. It was my extreme good fortune to be in possession of some chocolate brussels sprouts. These were really just those mini chocolate footballs you can get but wrapped in sprouty looking green foil rather than the usual football foil.
  5. Provide something that will make people linger.
    In my case, it was two things. I had a tribble that people could pet – it cost me £10 at LonCon and it’s supposed to squeak but it broke on day two.*
    So I had the tribble for people to pet but what actually worked was the simple premise of providing a bin for the chocolate wrappers – in the form of a K’Barthan Series mug. That meant that the juxtaposition of the words ‘chocolate’ and ‘sprout’ was enough to get most of my potential customers’ attention. They then spent enough time diddling about trying to get the foil wrapper off the sprout for me to bend their ears about my books and cards. I also offered free book marks so if they were interested but not sure they had something to take away. Somebody downloaded a copy of all four books the following day, so I suspect this was one of the ebook users to whom I gave a book mark.Final note: When providing foil wrapped sweets of any description, at least three people an hour will eat the sweet with the foil on.
  6. Bring some bling. I read a post recently which gave excellent counsel against buying too much branded stuff off Vistaprint and the like. So… yes, you will get by on bookmarks and a t-shirt. However, if you do find an offer for reduced fridge magnets, post cards or the like and if your art work is really cool, it’s worth having a few things. One couple were humming and haaing as to whether they should buy the first book or the full set. I had discounted the full set so it was £39.99 instead of £46, which is what it would have been with all the books at full price. I had already added a set of three post cards to make the brown paper parcel more interesting. So I gave them a minute or two and then said, “look, I shouldn’t try to force you one way or another, but if you do buy the full set I’ll throw in a set of fridge magnets worth £3.” They bought the set.
  7. Enjoy yourself. Very important this one. Especially if being yourself, on the stall, is going to give them a sort of mini preview as to what the books are like to read. If you’re smiling and laughing with people and cracking jokes, others will stop to join in or listen. It also helps if you know the people on the tables around you and you can take the rip out of one another or just big up each other’s products.

*Incidentally, despite the fact it broke after two outings the company who sold it to me refused to replace it. Even if I’d used it every day we’re talking about my contacting them in October after purchase in August. Can you believe that? They wouldn’t sell parts for it either. This is another blog post, in itself, but basically, the moral of this story is: avoid giving your custom to www.tribbletoys.com or www.startrek.com – they are rip off merchants selling shoddy, over priced goods which break straight away and their customer service is piss poor.

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