I’m doing a book stall at a Craft and Gift Fair on September 18th. It’s been several years since I last did one, which was in my (then) Village Hall. So I knew everyone, and a reasonable number of people knew me. This time I’m going with a commercial fair organiser, and I know nobody.

This is my Insecure Writers Support Group post, in which we share our successes and failures as writers, our insecurities, in fact. Anyone can join in, just sign up at the IWSG Sign-up page, write a blog post on the first Wednesday of the month, and go back to that sign up page to link with everyone else–or a goodly sample. Our host is Alex J Cavanaugh, and his co-hosts for the month are: Rebecca Douglass, T. Powell Coltrin @Journaling Woman, Natalie Aguirre, Karen Lynn, and C. Lee McKenzie!

And I’d already prepared this post when the notification came through that Diane Wolfe had written about this on the IWSG blog. There’s better guidance there, so do look it up!

Insecure Writers Support Group badge

My first book stall since 2015

Regular readers know I moved from Norfolk to Hampshire (UK) just before we went into lockdown in 2020. Naturally, it’s been hard getting to know the area, and joining any events or clubs has been impossible. Partly spurred on by my cover illustrator, Dani English, doing virtual cons to make up for lack of physical ones, I decided to see if there were any gift fairs that I might be able to get into. I was mainly thinking of Christmas fairs, but I found this company Mynt Image, who do monthly fairs in a number of larger towns in South-Central England.

Two of the venues are within five miles of me–Romsey and Winchester (which is a big fair, as you’d expect, what with the cathedral, where Jane Austen is buried). But Winchester hasn’t yet opened up to post-covid events. So I’m doing Romsey Town Hall on Saturday 18th September.

Romsey book stall

You’ll notice they had one in August, so I went along to case the joint, as it were. I’m glad I did, as parking, wifi and a few other things were worth checking out in advance. I helped a lady on her glove stall with her Zettle, and she pointed me to the public wifi log in, so that’s set for this month. More on Zettle below. It’s only a small room, but it had a good flow of visitors, and some were buying, too.

Checklist for a stall

This got longer of course, as time went on. If you want to ask about anything on it, leave a note in the comments.

  • Book stock (including some proofs for people to get their grubby hands on)
  • Book display
  • Giveaways e.g. bookmarks
  • Banner display
  • Tablecloth
  • Public Liability Insurance (required by the organiser)
  • Money/float
  • Credit card / paypal readers
  • Price list

Most of late July and August were taken up by this, plus putting together the winter short story collection (launches 4th October), and the beta version of Zanzibar’s Rings. I think I got a bit carried away.

Banners and other printing

I already have banners for the Princelings series and for my dad’s memoirs, White Water Landings. I decided I was ready for a Viridian System banner (which meant I needed the final cover for Zanzibar’s Rings).

Then I read some discussion online about ‘meet the author’ badges and tee-shirts, which seems to be the big thing when having a book stall. People aren’t interested in books, except when they’re meeting the author. Well, I have a tee-shirt, which actually still fits, with my main covers on it. And I was thinking about a banner for the short story collections. So the banner for the short story collections has ‘Meet the author’ in the middle of it!

If you shop around, banners aren’t expensive, provided you can do your own design on Photoshop or similar. I use Solopress in the UK, and banners are about £30 each. Like these ones. They also did 500 bookmarks from my design for about £40. Next time I get some, I’ll do a design with a different series on it.

2021 banners book stall

And of course, I had to check how many copies I had of each of my titles, and order more. How many?

  • Princelings of the East (first in series) 18
  • Other Princelings titles, 6 of books 2 &3, 4 of the rest
  • Viridian System, 6 each of 2
  • Flash collection, 10 each of 4 titles
  • White Water Landings, 21 in stock (potentially a good seller in this area)
  • Dylan, Deirdre & Dougall, 5 colour, 10 B&W
  • BookElves vol 2, 3 (last three paperbacks)
  • Notebooks, 5 each of 2
  • Gift cards for the ebook box sets (about ten of each)

It’s scary how these books add up!

What about credit card sales?

There seem to be two ‘entry level’ systems (for occasional users like you and me), SumUp and Zettle. Zettle links with your PayPal account. This seemed to me to be the best way forward, but I asked both Dani and the icecream man on the beach what they did! Dani uses Zettle for her cons–and so does the ice cream man, who commented on the need to link it either to your phone or rely on local wifi, which can be iffy.

I got Zettle. It’s easy to use if you work on the main website as well as the App, which you need with you to tot up the sale and show the price on the card reader. I don’t see how to set up stock other than on the site in a browser. But setting it up is easy then, and it’s just a question of deciding on your prices. I hope it works on the day. A back-up is to have your Paypal app ready, and your Paypal QR code on your pricelist. Then people with the Paypal App on their phones can pay you that way, or with iPay, I think, too. Yes, you have to trust they’ll pay, but hey, we sell books, not works of art or jewellery.

My Zettle storefront (on the App)

So, I think I’m set up and ready to go. Fingers crossed. I’ll tell you how my first Hampshire book stall went next time.

I’ll tell you how much all this added up to, as well. But most of it will be ready for the next fair… I’m waitlisted for December in Romsey, and now I’ve signed up for 19th November in Salisbury too. That’ll be a big one!

And now… the Question of the Month

How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

I’m sure we’ve discussed this before, but I searched back to 2016 and couldn’t find it. There’s no right answer, or possibly even constant answer. I was at a con where Elly Griffiths, Val McDermid, and someone else were asked this question. I think we’d class them as highly successful. They’re not only top selling writers, they’re on tv too. Elly still wonders what it means. But to them, success is only about the next book.

So I don’t even think about ‘success’. It’s an achievement to get a book out there–I could stop there–that people enjoy, however small my audience. And setting ourselves a target for ‘success’ is probably going to bring disappointment. Have some achievable goals, instead.

Preparing a Book Stall | September 2021 #IWSG
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14 thoughts on “Preparing a Book Stall | September 2021 #IWSG

  • 1 September, 2021 at 9:52 am
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    Hi Jemima – congratulations on this post … you seem to have done a thorough job and interesting to read what’s involved. I’m sure you’ll have fun and will get to know the people in the area … good luck – I wish you all the best – Hilary

    Reply
  • 1 September, 2021 at 12:13 pm
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    Yes, having achieveable goals and makng them is a better way to focus our energy. Good luck your book stalls.

    Reply
  • 1 September, 2021 at 2:57 pm
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    Those are great banners! Hope that event is a success and others open up for you soon.

    Reply
  • 1 September, 2021 at 2:57 pm
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    This looks so good, Jemima. You are really prepared – and best of luck selling lots of books. (although we all know sales is not the main reason why we write!)

    Reply
  • 1 September, 2021 at 3:24 pm
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    Good luck with your book stall!
    I just did a con this past weekend and was happy with how many books I sold. I also need to make more animal hats as I brought those and they were popular.

    Reply
  • 1 September, 2021 at 4:23 pm
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    Setting achievable goals is one of my short comings. It takes me forever to decide which things are possible and which are really too far out in the universe–sort of a Don Quixote syndrome.

    Setting up that booth took an amazing amount of work! Here’s to a successful book event.

    Reply
  • 1 September, 2021 at 5:53 pm
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    You totally inspired me to try to set up some, or at least one, stall at a craft fair. Unfortunately, when I started researching them I realized that I’m not going to be home this fall. Hardly at all. So it’s hard to attend fairs! Wishing you the best of luck with yours, though, and when I do get my act together, I’ll know more about how to go about it.

    Reply
  • 2 September, 2021 at 12:36 am
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    This is such a huge thing – being a vendor at a conference or a fair. Best of luck and lots of sales! I love your posters.

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  • 2 September, 2021 at 11:26 am
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    Hi,
    I think the fact that you’re going with a commercial fair organiser is an advantage. You’re stepping out into the deep, but I don’t feel you will regret it. Good luck and all the best. Please tell us how it came out because I would like to set out one next year or the year after.

    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

    Reply
  • 3 September, 2021 at 1:00 am
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    Way to go, Jemima! I hope you sell lots of books at your book stall. I don’t have a book to sell yet, but I did enjoy helping my sister with live events like workshops and author’s presentations. My success comes from my pleasure in writing. Take care!

    Reply
  • 6 September, 2021 at 2:11 am
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    Oh wow! Good luck with the book stall! I hope you get to meet more people in your area soon.

    I like the comment about achievable goals. Thanks!

    Reply
  • Pingback:Another paperback is born! - Jemima Pett

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