With schools reopening after the summer break and leaves just beginning to show their fall colors, Christmas is one of the last things on our minds. As authors, though, we need to stay a few steps ahead of the season. Though the holidays are still a few months away, late summer and early fall are when many craft and holiday bazaars open and close their registration for vendors.
Selling your books at a bazaar may not have occurred to you but let me suggest them as a great venue to share your writing. At any local bazaar, there usually aren’t many authors so your product will stand out as unique and if you can find the well-attended bazaars, there will be a lot of people looking for gifts to buy—people eager to support local artists and authors.
Finding a bazaar
To find a good bazaar, first consider ones you have enjoyed in the past. Were they well-attended with a variety of vendors? Are there organizations, schools, or churches you’re a part of that run one every year? Is there one held at your local fairgrounds or convention center? Give their office a call and they will be able to direct you to the person in charge of the event. You can also ask your friends on Facebook or Twitter if they know of a group holding a bazaar this year. I guarantee they will be able to come up with several you’ve never heard of and will be able to give you details on attendance and how organized it is—details you may not easily find out otherwise. Crafter friends will be especially helpful. If there’s not a bazaar in your town, there will surely be one, or many, in a town nearby.
If there aren’t any bazaars in your area, consider getting several artists together and holding a bazaar of your own in someone’s home. You can have different artists spread out between the kitchen, dining room, and living room, serve hot cider and cookies, play some Christmas music, and ask all your friends and family to stop by. This is a fun social time as well and aside from the refreshments, comes at no cost.
Some bazaars charge a flat fee for booth rental. Others charge a percentage of what you sell and some charge a combination of the two. You may also pay more depending on the size or location of the booth or whether you want access to electricity. Larger bazaars with more traffic will typically charge more for their booths and some that are cheap hardly have any traffic at all. There are exceptions but you need to carefully consider cost against projected sales. Is the up-front cost worth the potential profit? Think about your options and choose your bazaars carefully. You can only do so many in one season.
Rent a booth with a friend
To make the bazaar even more affordable and drive more traffic to your booth, consider asking an artistic friend to sell at a bazaar with you. Splitting the cost of a booth makes it cheaper for both of you and with a greater variety of products to browse, more people will stop by to check out what’s for sale. Going with a friend also provides company and someone to watch the booth while one of you takes a break. If you have more than enough books for one booth or sharing is against the bazaar’s policies, you can still arrange to have a friend be in the booth next to you. You may also be a crafter yourself—perhaps you make jewelry or are an artist. Bring your inventory along with your books. If you’re a poet, try matting or framing some of your work and selling that as well.
Setting up your display and what to bring
Before you bring your books to the bazaar, lay them out on your kitchen table at home and set up your display like you will at the event itself. This way you’ll figure out what you need while you still have a chance to find it. Some items to consider bringing are:
- Tables and chairs. Some bazaars provide these and some do not. Check first.
- A tablecloth or eye catching fabric matching the theme of your books to cover the table with
- Business cards and a card holder
- Price tags
- Good pens for signing books
- A receipt book or other way to keep track of sales
- A calculator (not your phone in case it runs out of battery)
- A way to take credit card payments such as a square from Sqareup.com. (You will need your phone for this.)
- Change (small bills and coins) and a money box
- Healthy snacks, lunch, and a water bottle. Food may or may not be available at the venue.
- Picture stands on which to set your books—a vertical display is more eye catching than laying them out on the table.
- Boxes or crates to give your display multiple levels.
- A way for people to sign up for your newsletter if applicable. Perhaps you can run it as a raffle–the person’s name you select at the end of the day wins a free book.
- Display posters of your covers or other such signage to catch the eye
- Bookmarks or postcards advertising your books
- A bowl of free candy is always fun and provides another reason for people to stop by.
- A way to display the prices of your books not on the books themselves. Some people don’t know where to look for this—make it obvious.
- Masking tape and scissors (just in case)
- Customer bags for when you sell the books. These can be purchased at a discount online or at a local store.
- Eye-catching display items that go with the theme of your book. For example, if you’ve written a children’s book about dinosaurs, have a large stuffed dinosaur with you. You could even buy some stuffed dinosaurs at wholesale prices and sell one with each book as a set.
- Buy some craft twine if you have more than one book and make up a couple of sets decoratively tied together and sell them at a discount. This works especially well for series.
- Bring something to do you can quickly put down in case the bazaar is extremely slow.
- A way to carry everything in and out of the venue
As you talk with customers and sell your books, you’ll find other things you’ll want to bring to the next bazaar. Make note of it and add the item to your list. Keeping a checklist of what you want to bring to every bazaar inside the container you carry it all in is a great way to make sure you have everything you need before you leave the house for the next one.
Selling at a discount
Christmas bazaars are a great time to discount your books as people are more likely to buy a gift when it’s on sale. You can do this individually or, if you have a series, you can sell them together for less than you would charge if sold individually. For example, if you have a trilogy you sell at $12.95 each and someone buys two ($25.90), point out that for just $4.10 more, they can have all three for only $30.
Spreading the word on social media
Make sure to announce to all your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter followers and friends what bazaars you’ll be at and when. Talk about how excited you are, give the address, and then when you’re there, take photos of you at your booth and post them. Even if someone does not come to the bazaar itself, they’ll still be reminded you have books for sale and Christmas is coming.
While you’re there
At a bazaar, it’s important to find a balance between being friendly yet not pushy. Even if people don’t buy your book this year, they may remember how you treated them, how you took the time to talk, and will buy your books next year. Make sure they know how to contact you if they decide to buy one later or, if they buy a book at the bazaar, point out where you printed your website so they can order the other books or additional copies later. Also, make sure you can tell them what your book is about in only one or two sentences. People will ask. No matter what, be kind to everyone you meet whether it’s the bazaar organizers, fellow artists, or customers. You never know what bridges you’ll want to cross later so do not burn any now. No matter how disorganized or ill-attended a bazaar might be, simply learn the lessons and move on. The artist community can be tightly-knit and you want your name to be one people will think of when other opportunities arise.
Evaluating a bazaar
Once you get home and put your feet up, think over the day. What went well? What can be improved upon? Do you want to do that bazaar again next year? Was it well-attended? Was it well-organized? How were your sales? Was there anything else you needed? Anything you don’t need to bring again? With so many bazaars held around the holidays, don’t waste your time next year on one that only had a handful of people walking through it this year. Keep track of the ones you liked and make sure you know when to sign up for them again.
Going to holiday bazaars as an author can be a lot of fun. You get to talk with readers and if you do the same bazaars repeatedly, you’ll gain name recognition and people will be more likely to buy from you, especially when you publish a new book. It’s a great selling venue and a fun chance to meet other creative people.
Are there do’s and don’ts you have found helpful when renting a booth at a bazaar? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!