Preparing for your First Book Market

TLDR: A few weeks ago, my husband stumbled across an advertisement for a brand new Book Market starting up called Books and Browsables here in Dublin (St. Patrick’s Park, Sundays 11-4 pm).

I jumped on the opportunity and booked myself a table at the event. I’ve never done a book market, and I was unsure how to prepare myself for it. Below I list my experience, what I took, and how it went overall.

 

Preparing to Sell

My excitement quickly turned to stone cold fear. Like a deer in the headlights, I had no idea what to do next. Simply having a table at a book market isn’t a guarantee to sell books. I needed to draw people to my table and supply as much information as possible in less than the 1 minute it would take them to walk on by.

Lucky for me, I’m a member of several self-publishing groups on Facebook, and they are chock-full of marketing ideas to get people to stop at your table.

Product: Make sure you have some

First things first, make sure you have plenty of books ready to sell. Currently, I have less than 20 copies of each book in my home. I quickly ordered 100 author copies of each book; then tried to breathe through the panic once I realized the books wouldn’t arrive for three weeks!!! Okay, brain, remain calm! It’s going to be okay; you have enough copies to get you through the first day. As of this posting, it’s been almost three weeks; my books will be arriving any day now.

Supply List: Things you (may) Need

For this market, I need to provide all my own supplies. It’s outdoors, and I don’t have a car, so everything must be portable and easy to set up.

Table:  I bought this metal folding camping table. It folds out to be 4ft by 2ft and comes with four folding camping chairs.

Tablecloth: I bought a colorful PVC tablecloth from my local home store to cover the table and make it stand out.

Marketing Swag: Things to hand out

For the following items, I designed them on Canva and used a local printer (digitalprintingireland.ie).

Bookmarks: I created a bookmark for each of my two books, with a picture from the cover on one side and information about the two books on the back. I used flowcode.com to create a scannable QR code that links back to my Amazon page.

Stickers: I created a temporary logo with my name and email address and made that into a sticker. Then I used my book covers to make a sticker for each book. These turned out a little smaller than I expected, and I’m not quite sure what to do with them at the moment, but I have them for when I figure it out.

Stickers with logo
Mystery of the Cursed Elves Stickers
Journey Through the Fairy Door stickers

Postcards: I wanted to create a sell sheet (1) if booksellers come to the event. Instead of fliers, I made postcards since they are easier to transport and quick to hand out.

Postcard sell sheet

Banner: I only have a table, and I wanted a poster attached to the front, so people know exactly who I am and what I’m selling. I think I’ll upgrade to a PVC vinyl poster that is more durable in this weather.

Banner for the front of the table

Fun Extras: To Bring People Over

Prize Wheel and prizes: I created a spinning wheel kids can spin for a chance to win prizes. I bought random toys like bouncy balls, stamps, and rings from the dollar store. I also purchased some fidget toys in bulk from Amazon for a mystery grab bag.

spinning prize wheel

Stickers: Kids always love stickers, so I bought a bunch (again from the dollar store).

Activity Sheets: I created a word search, maze, and word scramble using characters and themes from my books (2). I also used some illustrations as coloring pages and attached my info to the back page, including a QR code leading to my website and newsletter sign-up. These I had printed at a local copy shop.

Packing it in and out:

REI Bags: I have these fantastic travel bags from REI; they fold up when not in use and hold a lot of stuff.

Foldable Hand Truck: We bought a fold-up hand truck at Costco a few years back. It’s been great for hauling bags through the airport and is working out for transporting everything to and from the market.

Folding hand truck, with table strapped onto it.

 

Day One: How My First Day Went

The day started slow, and I wasn’t sure I was going to sell anything. I’m an introvert, and throwing myself out there was difficult(3). However, I smiled, greeted people as they passed by, and talked to everyone who stopped at my table.

I had my daughter with me, and she was great about asking kids to spin the prize wheel. For the kids under 3, we gave them a free sticker and bookmark. The older kids spun the wheel, got to pick a bookmark, and got the activity sheet. Not everyone who stopped bought a book, but I gave out several bookmarks, hopefully leading to extra sales.

I ended up selling ten books, which was more than I expected. About 50% of the parents who stopped to spin the wheel ordered a book. The other half thought their kids were too young for chapter books. I had several grandparents and other adults without kids stop and buy a book for Christmas presents and/or a gift.

All in all, the day was successful. I put myself out there, I put my books out there, and I made some sales.

Learnings:

Balloons: I plan on adding balloons to my table to attract the attention of more kids.

Bigger Prize Wheel: I need a bigger and more stable prize wheel as well as a sign advertising the free spin to win prizes.

Clear Plastic table cover: It’s Dublin, and it rains sporadically. I need a heavy-duty clear plastic table cover to drape over the books in case of rain and a place to attach my poster so it stays protected.

Book Stands: My books mainly were lying flat all day. People had to approach the table to see all I was selling. I’ve ordered some plastic book display stands to showcase the books better. Perhaps if people can see the books from a distance, it will draw them to me.

Conclusion:

A book market is a great way to get your middle-grade or chapter books in front of adults. It’s nearly impossible to market directly to your target audience in this specific genre; you have to reach the buyers of books.

Anyone can do a book market or book fair. It does take a little start-up money, but it won’t break the bank if you plan accordingly and shop around for the best prices. If you can make your booth or table stand out, you should turn a profit and make that money back, plus some. Be sure to welcome everyone who passes by, be friendly, and give them something to take home with your information on it.

Most importantly, have fun!

Setting up the table, too windy to put the banner up first thing.
My view of St. Patrick’s Cathedral from my table

Footnotes:

1) Sell Sheet: a quick advertisement you give to bookstores or librarians to get them interested in selling your book. You can read more here.

2) Use your search engine to find “create your own…crosswords, word searches, and/or mazes”. This Teacher website is an excellent place to start.

3) I’m an Introvert. The event left me physically and mentally drained. I ended up taking an hour nap when I got home. It took me an entire day to recover. Still, I’ll do it again because it’s worth it. Just be aware you may need some recovery time.

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