Long before my novel More Than You Think You Know was released I’ve dreamed of being in the tents with my fellow authors. It happened last weekend in Eagle Harbor, Michigan, and will happen again this weekend, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. -4 p.m. Sunday at Copper Harbor Art in the Park. I’ll also be living another dream, being on the porch at Grandpa’s Barn, da Harbor book emporium behind the one-room schoolhouse, from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday.
That’s my first bit of advice whether you’re established or just beginning, like me. Team up with other authors. It’s fun and there’s somebody to watch the booth if you need a bathroom break.
It helps that I’m familiar with their books, but even if I wasn’t, it’s simple enough to listen and learn. Debbie, Corey and Kristin teach by example.
Bring extra conversation starters for your book. Corey has a portfolio of character drawings—and samples of Magical Lixy Fruit from Land of Enchantas.
“I had some this morning,” he confides to a shopper. “It tasted like bacon.”
Book signings go smoother with advance planning.
Kristin writes out the name she’s signing her books for before she writes it in the Snow Country and Copper Country. This is great advice because it is hard to autograph and talk at the same time. I already messed up one book (sorry and thanks, Jackie Johnson!) If Corey messes up a signature, he just scribbles “Author’s Brain Fart” above it with an arrow.
Debbie’s got as many tips as she does books (check out the selection here), from bringing small snacks for grazing (it took me all day to eat my kale salad, with continuous is-it-stuck-in-my-teeth checks), to bending inexpensive metal bookends up on the ends, to allow her to stack multiple copies neatly.
As this regular on the Upper Peninsula festival circuit notes, outdoor venues have their own challenges, from waterproofing to wind mitigation.
Here’s my list for Copper Harbor Art in the Park:
Rain Gear, bug dope, sunscreen—even in a tent, the elements creep in. I burned part of the back of my arm the first day of my first show. The next day I slathered on the sunscreen before I even left.
Easy-to-grab-and-swallow munchies—cheese cubes, apple slices, crackers, veggies, sandwiches cut in fourths—other nutritious snacks, chilled bottles of my favorite tea, and my water bottle. I might even follow Debbie’s lead and take “three squares” (dark chocolate as a late-afternoon pick-me-up).
Folding four-foot table with a carrying handle—And draping for it, book stands like these, cardholders, and visuals (like maps, character sketches—things that can help you share the stories that resulted in your book).
Miscellaneous tools and materials—Duct tape, masking tape, towels (for wiping off dew, mopping spills, or stopping off at Keweenaw Beaches for an impromptu swim), screws, screwdriver, scissors, hammer, nails, and work gloves.
Wipes and/or hand sanitizer—Useful after using festival porta-potties.
Bags for books—Some folks want them, some don’t. So it’s nice to offer the option. Kristin had one of those nifty plastic bag holders. Perfect for recycling your grocery story and store bags. Corey uses the wrapping material his books come in to wrap his books when buyers want extra protection for their purchases.
Rocks, clips and other weights to hold things down in the wind—Luckily I had my crystals with me last weekend. Pretty and functional. A little girl wanted her grandma to buy my pink quartz.
Change and a money box/pouch that either locks or can easily be secured on your person—Change breakdown for a normal show-till here: two $20s, four $10s, four $5s, five $1. (It’s better to offer your book for a whole-dollar amount, rather than, say, $18.95. And don’t forget to factor in sales tax).
A Square, PayPal or some other mobile device for accepting credit card payments—If you have a big protective case on your phone like I do (Otterbox) the Square plug-in is too short. But you can order a cable adaptor to plug it in. This will be a moot point in Eagle Harbor and other places that do not have decent ATT phone reception (yes, ATT, I’m calling you out).
Receipt book—Debbie writes an invoice if for some reason her electronic payment processor won’t pair up with her phone. She gets the customer name, address and phone, gives the customer her address, and asks them to mail her a check. Readers are awesome humans. In the more than two decades she’s been writing and selling her books, she’s only been stiffed twice.
Wheeled cart, bins—anything you’ll need for a long haul in places where you can’t drive into the venue. Just make sure what you choose isn’t too big to handle.
Bookmarks, cards, other takeaways—even if they don’t buy today, it’s nice to have something to put in their hands.
Sell sheets—In case you run across a gift shop or bookstore owner who may wish to stock your book.
And last but not least, plenty of copies of your book!
Debbie’s rule for stocking your trunk: when you get down to 25 copies, order more from your publishing venue if the selling is fast. If it’s slow season, order more copies when you get down to 15.