A couple weekends ago, I was at the local comic con, where a number of local Champagne Books authors banded together to represent the company. We had local authors representing fantasy, romance, and erotic romance, most of whom were present at the table at one point or another.
We found, through watching the book tables next to us, and having discussions with other authors, some key steps to creating a good book table that will draw people in and tempt them to buy books.
1. You need a LOT of books at your table. When we first set up, we had a couple copies of each title at our table, but we found people weren’t picking them up. At the tables next to us, where they had 10-20 copies of each book sitting out, passers-by would pick one up and flip through it. Quantity is key. Stack your books and display a couple of them upright.
2. You need FEWER titles at your table. We had eight titles at our table. The other nearby tables had, at most, two titles. I think people were overwhelmed by the sheer variety of stuff we had, especially since it represented a number of different genres. Fewer titles would be better, with larger quantities of each.
3. You need to be relevant to the event. Comic cons generally draw people who are into comic and geek culture. The fantasy books at our table were a good fit with this. The romance and erotic romance titles weren’t the greatest fit and were picked up less. During my time here at comic con, I realized that my erotic romance titles would go over better at a sex-based adults-only convention.
4. You need something to draw people to your table. Books, alone, will not draw people. The table next to us had some Halloween decorations to liven up the table, which were appropriate given that one of the books had “tombstone” in its title. And erotic romance author a little further down the row had a giant blow up of the latest release cover standing on her table.
5. You need free giveaways — but with restrictions. Since we had five authors represented at our table, with eight titles, we had a whole mess of free stuff (plus free stuff from another author who didn’t have books represented, plus stuff from a local artist we are connected to). People didn’t know what to look at or what to pick up. Apparently, it wasn’t even obvious that it was free. Bookmarks, postcards, magnets, pencils, business cards, tattoos… it was all too much. Fewer items, high quality items, are better. Especially if they are items people will keep. People often keep bookmarks, pens, and magnets; they don’t often keep tattoos and postcards.
6. Your table needs some design and organization. It needs a nice table cloth, it needs books neatly stacked in one area, it needs free stuff organized in its own section.
7. Things need to be in reach. The first day, no one picked up a book to look at it. We realized that was probably because everything was at the back of the table and out of immediate reach. So, the next morning, we pushed everything forward — all the books now sit at the very front of the table — and immediately people picked up stuff to look at it and we had a big jump in sales.
8. You need to be engaging, but not overly so. People often will not buy something if you’re overdoing your selling efforts, but they’re also not going to buy something if you ignore them. The best, I’ve found, is a polite smile, a greeting, and maybe a question about how their day is going. That’s a harmless opening. They know you want to sell stuff, but you don’t come across as desperate.
9. You need to think about self-care. Don’t wear yourself down. Keep healthy and happy. Bring some healthy snacks and lots of water — don’t munch on chips and candy and pop and coffee all day. Bring a colleague or friend who can watch the table for an hour while you go for a walk and a mug of tea.
10. Don’t go into this as all or nothing. If this is your first time doing a book table or you’ve only done it a few times, don’t get discouraged if you’re not selling much of anything. Talk to your neighbours who seem to be selling well — what have they found to be effective book table strategies? Walk around and watch what people do. Are they drawn to certain types of displays? Are they avoiding others? What makes people smile? Take these lessons and apply them to the next book table you put together. This is a learning experience.
I hope those ten tips helped — they certainly helped me get through the weekend. I was dreading this, initially, but I learned to have fun and am now looking forward to taking a more head-on approach to this business.