Author Convention Kit

2017 was the first time I ever attended an event as an author. Since then, I’ve learned a few things about hand selling my books and appearing “in persona” at conventions and events.

If you’ve never attended an event as an author before, here’s a list of some of the things I find essential for a successful day.

Books. Well, duh. Obviously, you need to have something to sell. It can be difficult to gauge how many books to bring, especially when first starting out. For my first event, I brought about 20  books and sold 3. I brought the remaining books to my second event, and sold 6.

By the time I got to the Tri Kappa event last weekend, I’d gotten a rough feel for what I was able to hand sell in a given period. I also had more books available, which really worked in my favor.

If you have a series, I recommend bringing 2 to 3 times the number of 1st books as the rest of the series (so if you bring 10 full sets of your series, bring 10 more copies of just the first book). That’s because new readers will either buy the entire series in one go, or they will just pick up the first book.

Your experiences will vary, but this is a pretty good baseline. If you’re just starting out, don’t take more books than you can comfortably carry by yourself because you will probably be the one hauling them in and out of the convention hall.

Payment options. I have a small cash box I picked up at Walmart years ago for about $20, probably less. This box is metal and it locks.

Since my books are priced at $15 and most people pay with $20s, I make sure to keep lots of $1 and $5 bills on hand.

I also have Square set up on my phone, which is wonderful. There is a small fee for each credit card purchase, but it’s negligible (I think it’s something like 3%, which is standard). I prefer not to take checks from people I don’t know, and being able to take cards makes things much faster and easier. There’s no fee to get the app or the little tool that plugs into your phone, and just a $.99 charge to get the system set up.

Ephemera. I take 2 kinds of ephemera with me: Freebies, and goodies with purchase.

I had stickers made with the Night Shift Montreal logo. I have two sizes: the small one is about 1″ in diameter, and the large is about 2.5″. Freebies anyone can pick up from my table include the small stickers, and business cards and bookmarks that list my upcoming releases. Usually the freebies are a bit older, so they might not have the most up to date info on them, but they will have a list of all of my social media, my amazon page, and 3-4 of my books listed so the reader can find them later.

When someone buys a book, I always sign it and give them a few extra freebies–one of the large stickers, a bookmark or post card (usually something newer and prettier than what’s on the table), and an updated business card.

I do change these regularly, so come up with what works best for you! Be creative, and try to tie it back to your books if you can. I get all of my ephemera from Vistaprint.

Laptop. I’ll admit it, I’m a powerpoint junkie. I love putting together slide shows, and I have one set up just for book events. The slides scroll through my covers, snippets from reviews, attention grabbing lines from the books, and on the last page there’s a list of upcoming events and releases. I set this to play on infinite loop, and usually have one of my writing playlists playing quietly in the background. It’s bright, it’s colorful, and it’s different, and really helps to draw people in.

Tech. In addition to my phone and laptop, I always bring relevant chargers, a spare phone battery pack, a power strip, and a short extension cord. The power strip and extension cord are great because they don’t just help you–they help other presenters around you.

Set dressing. “Set dressing” is what I put on my table to make it more attractive. Things in my kit include a table runner (just a fabric remnant I sewed up the rough edges on) which matches the color scheme of my books (it really classes up the table), a few accessories (like a candle holder with a flat top I can use for elevating things), a knit shawl (I write about magical knits, remember?) and a few accessories that make me think of my books or main character. I also have a banner for the series, which can be hung with duct tape or command hooks.

I keep all of this in a grey milk crate, which can then be turned on its side and used as a book shelf, or turned upside down and used to elevate my display, depending on what I need that day.

Miscellany. I also bring a pad of paper for notes, duct tape, scotch tape, scissors, plastic grocery bags for shoppers, fasteners for my set dressing (see below), and at least 3 pens for signing. Preferably, these are felt tip and acid-free (sharpies are not archival and can yellow or eat through the page eventually), but no matter what they write the first time I pick them up–no messing around with getting ink flowing. Hand selling means a busy day, and I don’t have time to fuss around with pens that only work half the time.

In my experience, conventions are always either too hot or too cold, so I always bring an extra sweater and a fan (one of the manual folding kind). Of course, I also bring my other essentials: water, pain killers, sinus medication (sinus headaches always hit at the WORST time), and a small sewing kit.

An assistant. This is optional, but very helpful. Your assistant should be a reliable person who can fill in the blanks for you. Someone who can be moral support when you’re nervous, who knows enough about your books to answer questions and talk to readers if you’re busy with another customer, someone who can help fetch and carry and watch the table when you make that inevitable bathroom break.

So that’s it. That’s what I take with me, and for the most part it all fits into 1-2 medium sized boxes, plus my purse or tote bag.

Have questions? Is there anything you think I missed? Let me know!

Would you like to see me at your local convention, or at a school group, book group, or other organization event? Check out the Events and Appearances tab to find out how to arrange it!

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