Things I Learned at a Craft Show

5x5 Book Craft SaleLast weekend Jayne Peters, Mindy George and I attended the Christmas Festival of Crafts at Middle Musquodoboit. This was my first official book-selling event, and the first craft show in which I was a seller not a buyer.

I planned ahead, trying to think of everything I’d need to create an attractive display and to make transactions go smoothly. Well, after a few hours, I had a list of things to keep in mind for future craft shows and selling events, as well as book selling in general.

Here is a list of things to remember for next time:

1) Bags: We forgot to bring them. When I got home the first day I looked around the house and found a few small Christmas gift bags that would easily accommodate my novels. They were perfect for a Christmas craft show but would not due for any other time of year. So I need to look into getting either blank plastic bags (I don’t want to advertise a grocery or a large box store) or plain paper bags for non-Christmasy events.

2) Genre Tags: Not everyone asks about the genre of a book, but I can see they’re interested in knowing where a book fits into the scheme of things, so little tags that state Fantasy, Romance or Mystery will help. Children’s picture books are obvious and don’t need genre tags.

3) Age Level: I was asked several times if a book was age appropriate for a child, or “is this good for a 14-year-old?” Although questions like this start conversations, I know it’s possible someone might be looking for a youth book but won’t ask and simple walk by. If they see a sign stating ‘Great for kids in grades two to five’, they might stop and take a peak.

4) Descriptions: I’ve read about this before. I can’t remember what others called this particular blurb for your book, but it’s the short blurb we’re supposed to give when someone asks, “What’s your book about?” I thought I would be able to explain my book in a few concise sentences without prompts, but guess what? I can’t. I have several books and short stories published, so it’s difficult to remember them all clearly.

When I arrived home Saturday evening, I created five little cards with blurbs for the books I was selling. These were ‘off the top of my head’ summaries in which I tried to capture the essence of the story to hook readers.

Here’s a rendition of them:

Book Blurbs

Between now and the next selling event I’ll improve the blurbs and how they’re presented.

5) Local Authors Sign: Within two hours of the show starting we realised we were missing an important information sign, one that told visitors to the craft show that the books in front of us were written by local authors…and those local authors were us! When we shared this information with buyers, their interest in our books rose sharply. Several said they loved supporting local writers, and many bought copies.

I quickly made up a simple sign and placed it on the table. When I got home, I created a more professional sign. I also made one that said, “Yes, we wrote these books!” and one which stated our first names and the community in which we lived.

Book Blurbs Local Authors

6) Change: Always take more change than you think you’ll need because…you’ll need it. This is more true if you don’t put into practice what I learned in Number 7.

7) Book Pricing: The price of a book doesn’t matter when you sell online and people pay with credit cards, with cheques or through PayPal. However, if you plan to sell like I do—paperbacks in person at craft shows and farmers markets—then think about giving back change.

If your book is $14.99, the most change you’ll ever have to give (unless someone brings a fifty dollar bill) is one loonie and a five dollar bill (to accommodate a twenty dollar bill that everyone gets from the banking machines). If someone buys two copies, the math is easy $15 x 2 = $30. Ten dollars in change from two twenties. Easy stuff, eh?

If you had priced your book at $14.95, then you’ll have to give back a nickel with that loonie and five dollar bill. The math is a little more difficult but not rocket science: $14.95 x 2 = $29.90. Selling two books means you’ll need a dime for change instead of that nickel (or two nickels).

Books priced at $12.50 forces the seller to keep a satchel of quarters on hand. This would be painful for me since I save all my quarters to build my dream castle. I haven’t spent one in almost two years, so this would force me to give dimes and nickels as change. Either way, this means lots of change on hand.

The math is easily done in the head ($12.50 x 2 = $25), but not if you sell two different books ($12.50 + $14.95 = $27.45). The change then equals 55 cents from $28.

In the future, I’m considering dropping the 99 cent ending and going with a straight price: $15 or $9 or $5. What do you think? Does $14.99 really sound cheaper than $15?

Either way, the craft show experience has taught me to think about the change aspect of selling in person.

PS: In Canada, the government has eliminated the penny, so we don’t have to return one cent to buyers. Still by rounding off the price, it makes the tag look cleaner.

8) Business Cards: Definitely have business cards clearly (not fancy, hard-to-read text) stating your author name, website, contact information (email/phone number) and other pertinent information (such as author of Shadows in the Stone). They create connections to customers who may not buy now but who may buy in the future.

9) Colouring Sheets: If you have a children’s book with illustrations, see if you can get a few pages created as colouring sheets to give to children as they stop or pass. The adults with them might not buy a book, but they walk away with something to connect them with you. Make sure the title of the book, author’s name and website is noted on the colouring sheet.

10) Next Book Announcement: Create a post card, or half sheet or full sheet with information about your next book that visitors can take away with them. This is a great way to start generating interest in the future book before it becomes available. Again, make sure the title, author name, website and other contact information appears on the take-away material. Add an illustration of the cover (if you have one), a short description of the book and the predicted release date.

Book Blurbs Upcoming Book

11) Display Unit: Books should be displayed in an attractive manner. Neat stacks of books are…neat, but they aren’t attractive. Little props that help books stand upright are great to provide height to the display. I’m going to brain storm other ideas to display books. I’ll let you know what I come up with.

12) Decorations: What decorative items can you add to a table to make the books more attractive? For my Nova Scotia – Life Near Water, I added sea shells, a glass starfish and smooth rocks to enhance the seashore theme. I also used a lovely crafted holder with a battery-operated candle. This display was organised on a Nova Scotia tartan placemat. I’ll brainstorm for more ideas for the next sale.

NS Life Near Water candle

13) Which books were most popular? Children’s picture books. My lesson over the weekend was that children’s books are big sellers at craft sales. The first day I sold the last two copies on hand of Mystery Light in Cranberry Cove by Candy McMudd, and I think I could have sold several more. One need only look at the buyers at a craft show to see that the majority are women over forty who probably have grandchildren. Many women were looking for Christmas gifts for their grandkids and loved the idea of giving them books. This told me that I’d better get those two planned children books ready for next Christmas craft show season, as well as to stock up on Mystery Light in Cranberry Cove.

What do you think? Have you sold books at a craft table or similar venue? What did you learn from the experience?

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4 thoughts on “Things I Learned at a Craft Show

  1. Interesting article, Diane. The expression you may have been searching for is “elevator pitch.” Pitch your book in the time it takes to go up or down in an elevator. When I was at the craft sales I had several copies of my book of poems “Cats are Brats.” 16 poems on four sheets of pager making a16 page booklet that I printed, folded and stapled myself. Sold them for $2 which more or less covered the cost by the time I added a color cover stock cover. But people always had an opinion one way or the other of the subject of cats and would often stop to express it. Getting them to stop is the first step in selling them one of my books or your books.

    • Ah, the elevator pitch. Yes, that’s it. Thanks, Art. I’m great at remember things, but not the names of things.

      I recall seeing “Cats are Brats”. It’s a very neat idea. People love (or hate) cats. I’m in the love/hate mode because while our cat doesn’t bother me, I’m the one who has to clean up after it and meet it at 5:30 in the morning when I get out of bed. It’s not easy walking through a dark hallway with a black cat weaving in and out of your legs.

      I’ll have to think of something to get people to stop. Fudge! Perhaps I’ll make and sell fudge. Everyone was talking about it at the craft show.

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