It’s not just about sales [Book Events Series]


As many of you know, from June this year I started doing a range of in-person events. From local markets, to mini cons, to school visits – I’ve got a whole lot lined up. At the outset, my goals were sales, marketing, and generally building awareness of me, as an author / artist. The sales have been a great boost, but the auxilliary benefits easily outweigh the (small) financial benefits.

A quick note on sales

At every event, I have sold something. At some events, I have made a profit, at others a loss, and some I’ve broken even. Overall though, I have made a profit over this year’s events (which is sales, minus cost of printing, petrol and any event fees). A profit is nice, as it contributes towards my business costs, but as long as I don’t make a loss – I’m happy.

Building word of mouth advertising

In conjunction with my social media presence and my webiste / blog, I am beginning to meet people who have had my books recommended to them. One of my primary goals with attending events was precisely this, so it’s great to see this happening in a mere three months! At live events, I have the opporuntity to truly connect with people (whether they buy my books or not) which contributes to word-of-mouth generation. Word of mouth is a powerful way to advertise, because we tend to trust recommendations from people we trust – it just makes sense. (Forbes has an article of WoM here).

Building brand awareness

Similar to the above, I am starting to meet people who recognise me as an author, or specifically as ‘Zee the author’ which, apart from being really, super exciting, shows how quickly brand awareness can begin to occur. My profile photo on all social media platforms is a clear representation of myself, and helps with recognition.

Creating new opportunities

It was from a library-run event that I was offered to be a part of ArtWeek Auckland, a massive arts event held in our city. I also developed connections with teachers and art centres, and have learned about other events worth attending. By networking with other people at these events I have been privy to wonderful opportunities, on a personal and career level.

Market research

Another benefit is learning who is interested in your work, why they’re drawn to it, and what makes them buy. I’ve found that most of my books have been bought by grandparents, aunts or uncles who have bought the books as gifts – but then started reading them and realised they liked it, too! This gives me a good idea of my buyers (adults) and my readers (adults and children). Most of the children that have been interested have been in the 9-13 year old range.

The warm fuzzies

It is incredibly motivating and heart-warming to watch people’s faces light up in wonder as they read some of my work, or flick through my picture books / colouring books; to have previous buyers come up to me and rave about how much they loved my work, and to hear people exclaim how beautiful and professional the books look – and you published yourself? Wow! I also get to share my journey with other writers and creatives, meet some wonderful people, and inspire young writers that this whole writer thing is posisble.

And if that hasn’t convinced you, I don’t know what will!

This article is part of my Book Events Series, leading up to the NZ Independent Book Festival.

Activities & Entertainment [Book Events Series]


Here in Auckland, NZ, we recently had Storylines, and event which celebrates children’s fiction. Some of my writer friends attended, and the author who’d been the most successful had had an activity going -in this case, origami. Another table I saw that was attracting the crowds was the bookmark ladies, who customised pretty bookmarks with beautiful calligraphy.

Last weekend, I attended LibraryCon, a mini ComicCon event organised by Auckland Libraries. The most crowd-attracting tables were ones that had interactive activities. One table had a ‘minicade’, or mini arcade of games and really drew the crowds (one of those games was called ‘Womp’ and I am already addicted to it!). Another table had a drawing gig – if you gave them a 5-second sketch, they’d fancy it up for you and make it look pro.

So – what can you do to entertain your audience? Think about things that are related to themes in your work, and consider what skills you have (or which friends owe you favours…).


For a book festival, I really think bookmarks are a winner. They’re over-used for good reason, as which book-lover ever has too many bookmarks, right? But, think about how you can customise them or make them an activity.

For the NZ Book Festival, I’ll be doing colouring in bookmarks as a free activity. This ties in well with my products, as I have adult colouring books and imagination / creativity are strong themes in my fiction work. It fits my target audience (children and ‘peter pan’ adults). It’s something I can do myself, and as it’s black & white printing I should be able to keep my costs to the minimum.


Having a competition or giveaway is an easy way to engage with and audience, albeit briefly. However, if the entry requirements include an email address, it could open the doors for further communication later. On this topic, again think about what is relevant to your audience. One prize pack I will have is a colouring in / art pack, and another will be aimed at readers of children’s books.

Photo Booths

In the age of social media permeation, photo booths are fantastic. We had a small photo booth at my last book launch, which was run by James Stonley Photography (see the photos here), and it can be as simple or as complex as you like. Two things I’d recommend are to a) have someone (not you) to look after the booth so you’re not running around trying to do a million things at once, and b) have good lighting.

In terms of social media, you could upload the photos straight to your accounts (make sure you let people know that’s what you’re doing), and / or ask people to tag you in their photos.

Live Feeds

If you’ve got a hashtag going, you could show a live feed on a projected screen of people using that hashtag (Twitter is ideal for this). People love seeing their names and tweets on the ‘big screen’ so is a great way to engage at an event and stay in touch later.

This article is part of my Book Events Series, leading up to the NZ Independent Book Festival.

How to promote an event on social media [Book Events Series]


Social media is a wonderful tool, and in my experience it’s more about the build-up to an event / product launch than the actual day itself. I’ve found that about a month is a good time to start advertising, with more frequent posts in the week leading up to the big day. Below are some things that you can share on social media leading up to an event (warning: link-heavy).

Progress Updates

If I’m working on an illustrated book, I post daily updates on Instagram, Facebook (and sometimes Twitter) with photos of my drawings as I progress. This helped me with both What Stars Are Made Of and The Caretaker’s Colouring Book to build interest and to get pre-orders. For text-only books, Facebook and Twitter are the best social platforms for updating word counts and editing progress.

dragon, adult colouring book, coloring book, illustration, nz artist, instagram

An Instagram update.

Promote Others

Are there other people who you can promote alongside you? For the book festival, I’m posting an author a day over on my Facebook page. For the book launch of Lucy’s Story, I also shared Jennie Cruse and James Stonley, who participated in my launch party, and my illustrator, Jane Thorne. Social karma works!


A weekly countdown to an event is a fun reminder for people that your event is coming up. A weekly basis is not too obtrusive (I think – let me know if you disagree). I make little graphics using PicMonkey (free, web-based software). They are easily sharable, and if it’s an event that there are lots of other people at, it’s something they can use as well.

Week four countdown to the NZ Independent Book Festival, 2015. See more on my Facebook Page.

Week four countdown to the NZ Independent Book Festival, 2015. See more on my Facebook Page.


Festivals and events need display stuff, merchandise & giveaways, and lots of other preparation. You can share your shopping, your display items, merchandise that you’ll take with you and even just text-only updates about what you’re doing to prepare for your event.


You can also ask for advice prior to the event – do people prefer Display A or Display B? Yellow or blue? Recently I asked about whether people would be put off purchasing if I didn’t have EFTPOS available, which led me to research more heavily into my mobile EFTPOS options.

This article is part of my Book Events Series, leading up to the NZ Independent Book Festival.

Display Advice [Book Events Series]


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.

Blockhouse Bay - Aug 2015

Blockhouse Bay – Aug 2015

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.


Be practical

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.


This is the second installment in my Book Events Series. The first post was on merchandising ideas, and the next will be on how to promote a book event on social media.

Merchandise Ideas [Book Events Series]


So before I get into my merchandising ideas, October the 3rd & 4th is the NZ Independent Book Festival. It’s the second annual event of its kind and a first for New Zealand. Over the month leading up to the festival, I’ll be doing posts that are specific to writers who want to make the most out of author events.

The ideas I put forth are primarily from my own experience, but as well as my own blog posts, I’ll be doing a link round-up every week of other articles that (I think) are worth reading. Or skim reading. Or at LEAST looking at the pictures 🙂

Why Merchandise?

Other than the fun of seeing products inspired by your own books, merchandise expands the price range, is a great freebie, and can work as advertising. My print books are in the $13-$60 range. Having pens that are $3, colouring books at $10 and bookmarks that are free provide something for people who want to support you but don’t (or can’t) spend a lot. Because it’s got your logo / artwork / title / name on it, merchandise is one way of advertising – and it gives people who have already bought your books something else to fall in love with!

How to Design Merchandise

Basically what I do is take an image I like from the book (my illustrator and I agreed on my right to merchandise in our contract – make sure you check that you are not breaking copyright) and then I stick a quote on top. That’s actually it. I use PicMonkey, which is a web-based, free to use software.

Merchandising Ideas

The list is massive! Pens work wonderfully for me, and bookmarks are a no-brainer (what reader couldn’t do with another bookmark?). The colouring books work really well (thank you to my sister for convincing me to do them!) because it’s using what I already have – think Harry Potter in the Triwizard Tournament. What are you good at? How can you use that to build products around your books?

  • bookmarks
  • pens
  • colouring books (I do custom pages if you’re interested)
  • tote bags
  • t-shirts
  • jewellery
  • greeting cards
  • postcards
  • fine art prints
  • mugs
  • notebooks
  • temporary tattoos
  • flash drives
  • rulers
  • calculators
  • stickers
  • silicon bands
  • phone cases
  • keyrings

…and honestly, the list goes on and on and on. Be creative!

For more information on the NZ Book Festival, go to