Welcome to Part I of a two-part series on attending holiday shows, a.k.a. craft shows. Not long ago I read an article about craft shows being one of the Indie author’s best friends. So understandably, when one came knocking on my front door unexpectedly, I decided to answer the challenge. I had no idea what to expect, but I thought I would share my impressions with you. Before I continue, I should state that the article did warn that it is important to attend several shows and find out which ones prove successful. Luckily, craft shows can be found year-round, although they are more prevalent during the holiday season.
Since I had never attended a craft show to sell books, I decided to treat it as I would a trade show. I grew up in a family-owned business and learned first hand (from an old-pro) on how to work a convention booth. Armed with that experience, I took to task setting up a last minute table. I definitely got a lot of things right, but I missed the mark on one very important aspect. But, we’ll get to that later in Part II.
To get ready for the show, I ordered additional books to increase my stock on hand. For the booth I knew I wanted attention-grabbing posters, so I designed and had those printed. I was able to re-use one from my classroom visits so I had a total of three on easels. I would have loved to put together a banner for the front of the table, but unfortunately, time did not allow me to design and have one shipped prior to the show. Next, I put together a video of photos submitted by teachers and parents of children enjoying the Dani P. Mystery books. I set it to run on a Galaxy Tablet and looped it continuously. This enables your visitors to see the excitement on your readers’ faces! What better advertisement could you possibly ask for?
You will also want to pack marketing material. For me, this included sample books, bookmarks, business, cards, coloring pages, and review cards. What are review cards? They are just like business cards but they are a “thank you” for reading your books, and a reminder to your buyers to please review your book on Amazon or Goodreads. You will also want to include candy on your table. People love stopping to pick-up a piece and it will also get them looking at what you have available for sale.
When signing up for the event, you will want to inquire about your space. How large is it? Do they furnish the tables or do you bring your own? Is electrical available? Is it a juried show? All of these questions (and possibly more that you might have) should be asked prior to the day of arrival. For the show I attended, the fee included a 10 ft. table. With advanced permission, I opted to bring my own table so that I could set-up my easels in my available floor space. In retrospect, I think next time I would accept their 10 ft. table and set the easels on top of it. My area felt a little two crowded. It would have been better had I ordered a table cloth to fit their table, and it would have been one less thing to pack.
You will also need to decide how you will handle financial transactions. If you are going to a very small show, like the one I attended, you can easily take care of it yourself. However, if you are going to attend a larger venue, you will definitely want someone to handle the financial affairs while you sign books. Also, please be sure to bear in mind that some holiday shows last two or more days and have thousands of visitors so you will definitely need that extra person to assist and give you short breaks.
A few days prior to the show, I set-up a Square account. This was one of my smartest moves! You can download the free software. What I loved about this is that it handled the tracking of all the sales, which made balancing the cash box at the end of the day a complete breeze! The only time you pay a fee for this service is if you take credit card payments. Even then, it is a small fee and well-worth offering the convenience to your customers. Remember, they are more likely to make a purchase if they can use their credit card when they are running low on cash. For my “register” I used my iPad on a Stabile 2.0 stand. It worked great! When I arrived at the venue, I inquired if they had secure WiFi available. They were extremely gracious and gave me the passcode to their wireless connection. However, even if you do not have this option available to you, Square allows you to take offline credit card payments.
This concludes Part I on getting prepared for a holiday show. Join me next week for the final segment where I discuss the actual events of the day, and decide for yourself whether holiday shows are worth your investment.
Wishing you all the best,