~Photo with my friend and supporter, Cathy, on the left. She surprised me by coming to one of the art and craft fairs this summer.
I’d been thinking for a while about getting out to more fairs with my books, and researched all the art and craft fairs I could find around Minnesota during the summer. There must be a thousand of them. I sat down with my calendar early last spring, and started deliberating. I eliminated some because of the cost of the entry fee, others because of known conflicts, and still others because the venue didn’t fit for one reason or another.
I chose six I felt were doable, and consulted with my husband because six Saturdays out of a Minnesota summer is a lot. Plus I have a pretty full schedule. overall. Two of the fairs were over 170 miles away, and I didn’t want to leave at 5:00 in the morning to get to them, so I found reasonable nearby hotels to stay in. I’d hoped to take my granddaughters with me to one of them, and my husband to the other, but neither panned out. I got rained out of one fair and wasn’t able to go, but that’s a risk with selling books at outdoor venues.
At one of the events, I shared a booth space with two of my author friends, so that was nice for two reasons: the cost of the booth was split three ways, and I was able to bring a canopy instead of the umbrella I brought to the others. Setting up a 10 foot X 10 foot canopy takes at least two people, and I didn’t want to chance finding a willing helper at the fair.
My sales booth is made up of a six foot table that folds in two, a folding chair, table cloth, and a table umbrella with a stand that I weight down with down with fifty pounds of weights. I also put bungee cords around the umbrella pole and attach them to the supports under the table. Every once in a while a gust of wind will come up, and the weights are crucial.
I have posters made of my eight books and hang them from the umbrella. Not as classy as against a canopy backdrop, but it works. I display my books on the table, along with bookmarks I give away, and a sign-up sheet for my “newsletter.” I assure people about the only time I send something out is when I have a new book coming out. I have hundreds and hundreds of people on my email list. What a great way to get the word out to a large number of people at the same time.
Another thing that has become more and more important at art and craft fairs is the ability to take credit cards. I’ve sold many hundreds of dollars worth of books because I was set up with a Square on my smart phone. Square takes a small percentage, but if it ensures a sale, it is well worth it.
I’ve enjoyed getting out to different parts of the state and meeting new people. I do my best to invite them to my booth by smiling and saying, “Minnesota mysteries by a Minnesota author.” Some stop, others don’t. Many like to talk, and ask questions, like, “Oh, are you the author?” Or, “Who is your publisher?” “When did you start writing?” Things like that.
Some fairs were better than others, but I always sold more than the entry fee, although with traveling expenses, sometimes I just broke even. Not figuring in the time factor, that is. I was also on a mystery panel in Wisconsin with fellow Twin Cities Sisters in Crime friends. And I’ll be with them again at the Minnesota State Fair on Read and Ride Day. Seven worthwhile marketing events in three months. I hand sell the majority of my books and it is paying off more and more as time goes on. Selling books is not always easy, but if you first sell yourself to readers, it is a giant step forward. People love meeting authors in person. I know I do.
Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mysteries.