There are a million and one ideas for how to set up a display space, how to showcase your books – and how much to spend.
My first event was a book launch, and the lovely ladies at the Pt Chev Bookshop took care of the display for me. Next was a school visit, at which a display wasn’t relevant. After that, however, were the markets.
Stick to a theme
My very first stall had a jumble of things – my books, some of my mum’s crafts, postcards, and some bags made by a friend of mine. I sold very little that day and looking around at other stalls I soon realised that my products needed some cohesion.
Since then, I’ve pared down what I put on the table, and I leave some space for the products to be seen clearly. The products that get the most visual attention are the ones I make most prominent, so I use my hardbacks as display pieces, and have my paperbacks laying flat. Now that I’ve got a colouring book as well, I use a small easel to display that.
Tell people who you are
Another lesson I learned pretty early on was that people didn’t know I was the author of the books I had. I remedied this with a table-front banner that has ‘meet the author’ across the top to tell people who I am. Sometimes I take a blackboard a long that summarises the answers to my frequently asked questions.
At a book festival, it’s a bit different. People are expecting to see the authors with their books, so at the NZ Book Festival my focus is on letting people know I’m a children’s author, generally in the fantasy genre.
Of utmost importance for me was the ability to carry everything myself. Sometimes my partner helps me with set-up and pack-up, but often I’m on my own. I invested in a table that folds and has a carry-handle (from Bunnings), a comfy folding chair (from the Warehouse) and a trolley suitcase so I could wheel it to and from the car. I still have to do two trips sometimes, but it’s manageable overall.
Stay on budget
Like most of authors, I’m on a fairly tight budget. I bought a table, chair and banner, as well as fabric to make a fitting tablecloth – these I consider essentials. I also bought little chalkboards to write prices on, which have actually managed to get almost as much attention as the books!
All up, it was well under NZ $150, which I consider an investment as I’ll be re-using these items (you can see on my events page that they have been use a LOT). Other than that, I use an easel that I already owned, and have utilised one of my ukulele stands as a book display stand. It also means that for large events, I don’t have to invest a huge amount, because I already have some display materials.
Having said that, if you are only doing occasional events, there is usually an opportunity to hire from the venue.
Do a mock set-up
Easily the most valuable thing I did was to set up a mock stall at home. This gave me a realistic idea of the space I had to work with, what could stand on its own (hardbacks) and what needed help (paperbacks), and how long it would take me to set up.