Writers: Last minute tips for events

With Planet Comicon just a couple of days away (it starts this Friday) I wanted to talk a little more about what I am doing to prepare for the event.  In prior articles, I mentioned having mats to stand on and actually standing up to greet people.  Today, I wanted to go down through the list of things I am bringing, including the items I have to give away.

First and foremost, I am bringing copies of my books to sell, including Daughter’s Search, which just came out.  However, I am also bringing things for people to take with them for free.  Having something for people to walk away with is a great way to make sure they will remember you.  In today’s market, you don’t want to miss out on the people who will go home and buy the ebook instead of the print copy.

  • The primary item I am giving away is a bookmark (with the back side pictured in this post).  I’ve found more people are interested in bookmarks than in business cards and with the cost not that much more than a business card, I order 2500 at a time.  Last year I gave away almost all of the box I had ordered.
  • I do have business cards, but as I mentioned, I found that once I started giving out the bookmarks, fewer people were interested in the business cards.  However, they are easier to put into a pocket and I still hand some out both at the convention and other places.  (They also make great small bookmarks.)
  • I have copies of my world map and Antar castle.  These are 8.5 x 11 on glossy 100 lb paper, so there is some substance to them.  I find a lot of people like the map (gamers and just people who are into maps) so it is one way to draw in some interest.
  • I have brochures that contains information on the books.  I’ve found that these are quite popular as well, though they are more expensive and generally only people who are actually interested in the series take them.
  • Plastic shopping bags.  I have four books now and I want people to be able to carry away a whole set without them getting damaged.  The bags are clear so that other people might see the books (a little free advertisement).  I meet another author once who went to the expense of getting bags custom printed with the cover of the book and he had one of those ‘doh’ moments when I suggested the clear bags.

For my table’s display:

  • I have a large fabric rectangle to use as a tablecloth.  Normally, if I have a stand-alone table, I have a regular tablecloth to cover the table and sides to hide the boxes under it.  However, at larger shows, often the tables are side by side with a long plastic cover over the length of the tables and a regular tablecloth will not work.  For these, something that covers the top and front is what I want and a trip to the local fabric store will do the trick (sew the edges though).
  • I have a banner stand with my name and an image of the map on it.  It’s a good way to get some color and height at the table, which helps to draw people over.  It is a bit of an expense, so I opted for something that would not need to change often (I did not list my books on it).
  • I have another banner for the front of the table.  This is one of those outdoor banners that have grommets and the cost is much lower (something like $30 with shipping).  On this, I have my website and images of the covers.  With each new book, I’ll have a new one made.  It also coves a good deal of the front of the table, which can hide things.  However, I still recommend a tablecloth to make the top of the table look nice.  For the banner, I use a number of Velcro clips to attach it to the table.
  • I have a bookshelf to hold copies of my books where I can place the covers forward.  I find this is better than just stacking them up and leaning one against the pile.  The pile method often results in a book falling over.  The bookshelves can take a bit to find, but they do not have to be expensive.
  • I have signs with the prices and any specials.  These I put into acrylic holders so they stand up nicely.
  • I also have acrylic holders for the maps, brochures, bookmarks, and business cards.  Again, nothing too expensive and they are easy to find at an office supply store.
  • I do use my iPad to play a loop of my book trailer.  It wasn’t something I sought to do, but I have it and so I use it.
  • I also bring some USB battery charging packs.  Electricity can be very expensive at shows and the charger will make sure my phone does not die (I use it for credit card payments) and it will also keep the iPad running.
  • Finally, I have myself.

Many of these things you can acquire over time and you don’t have to go out day one and buy them.  For the brochures, bookmarks, business cards, and even the banner for the front of my table, I’ve been using GotPrint to print them.  I’ve found the service reliable, the quality high, and the prices reasonable.  I know a number of other people who use them and I was happy when I received the recommendation to try them out.  The merchandise bags I get through Uline.  Again, I’ve never had trouble with them.  Just make sure to get your supplies well enough in advance.

So, that is what I am bringing and a few of the tips I have learned in doing shows and events.  If anyone has additional suggestions, I am always happy to learn new things and love to pass them on.