Monday, August 23, 2021

How to Prepare for a Conference, Festival, or Convention as a Vendor

One of the most rewarding things an author can do is get out and meet fans. Going to live events, talking to readers, and selling books—it’s a lot of fun. But it’s also a lot of work before-during-after. Here is a checklist to help you get the most out of an event without a ton of stress.

Selecting your venues:

  • First item to consider is cost. Beware high-cost as well as no-cost gigs. (They are no cost for a reason – often no buyers, either.) Make sure it fits your budget.
  • Factor out your time (which is valuable) and ask about the projected attendance.
  • Estimate the time frame and travel time. Is it far enough away you’ll need a hotel? Is it several days long which also might mean a hotel? Hotels are not cheap, especially those in a downtown area.
  • Who else is attending? Do they have some big names that will draw in the crowds?

What will you need to take? What might you need to purchase or order in advance? Here are some items for your list-
  • Money
  • Credit card reader
  • Books
  • Bookmarks
  • Business cards
  • Pens
  • List of books & prices and how many you are taking
  • Display items – tablecloth, book stands, posters, banners, props, etc. Your own table
Make a detailed checklist so when you pack the day before, you don’t forget anything. And remember to take water and food – keep your costs down. If you’re staying in a hotel, you’ll need all your personal traveling items, too. It’s also best if you have a friend along, both to relieve you for a moment and for moral support.


  • When you reach your table/booth/spot, mentally plan the best way to set up your area.
  • Make sure your books are easily visible and place bookmarks on the table.
  • Arrange posters and banners so they get the most visibility.
  • Make sure it’s easy for you to get to the reader side of the table.
  • Network with other vendors/authors before the event – it will lead to new friends and more opportunities.

Time to sell:
  • Number one – smile. (Even if you are stuck in a mask because the smile will reflect in your eyes.) Say hello to anyone who makes eye contact.
  • Engage people. Comment on what they are wearing. If you can get them talking, this breaks down a wall as you come off as friendly rather than someone just trying to sell something.
  • When you get a reader, don’t overwhelm them. Find out what that person reads and point them to 2-3 books. Tell them about them, and if one perks interest, hand them the back of the book so they can read the synopsis.
  • If there’s any interest, give that person a bookmark. He or she will never remember you or your book without it!
  • If they buy a book, offer to sign it and slip in a bookmark for another book. Ask to take their picture!
  • There will be lulls. Just keep smiling! Use those times to network with others at the event.

Once you’ve packed and arrived back home, you’ll probably count your money first. Then you can calculate the time spent at the event versus the money you made. If it was worth your while, you can do it again. If not, cross it off your list and chalk it up as a marketing event.

Not every event will be a winner. Nor is the goal just to sell a ton of books. If you’ve handed out bookmarks and networked with others, you’ve planted seeds for the future. You’ve done your marketing and it will lead to more sales. Now, go get 'em!


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Diane - excellent summaries and ideas to achieve the best for your bucks. I'd add - keep a blank list always handy, so the next time it's there and ready for checking off ... so there's no thinking. This has to help so many ... cheers Hilary

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great tips from someone who knows!

nashvillecats2 said...

Lots of tipe and ideas doe writers which I'm sure many will appreciate.
Thanks Diane for sharing.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Thank you, everyone.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Taking notes!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for sharing this. I really appreciate how you break it all down into simple steps. said...

Smile, smile, smile - even when masked. Great advice for the number one spot.

You looked super cute (in the photo on your page).

Sandra Cox said...

Great advice, Di. It's obvious you are a pro at this:)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Thank you, Robyn! Masked made it a challenge, but a smile always comes through.

Steven Arellano Rose Jr. said...

I haven't had a table at a convention in a long time. But these are some really good tips. Thanks!

J Lenni Dorner said...

Good tips.

Costumes... depending on if it's full-body... You're going to need ice packs. You need to practice functioning in that thing before you're out in public. Can you get in and out without help? If not, you want to know the bathroom situation beforehand. If you're wearing a costume of a children's character, some child better not come in the restroom and see you with your head off using a urinal. You DO NOT want to see how that goes. OMG.

But you will need to plan regular breaks from full-body costumes. You need cool air, hydration, and some protein. And you need to sit. You think you're fine, but that's because seeing all the happy kids makes you forget your own biological needs.

(I'm in the entertainment industry as my actual money-making day job. I am an authority on this subject of full-body costumes. My contract prohibits me from going into detail about my job. But I'm "very good friends" with some characters you've probably heard of. And, by the way, if you're paying someone to be in costume for you, then you will want to look up the contracts. Disney and WB have some strongly worded ones. Especially if you're a children's author. Do you know who plays the Mouse at Disney? No. No, you do not. But M.i."C you real soon" k.e.y. has some "very good friends.")

L. Diane Wolfe said...

J, that's really neat. We've never dressed up as mobility and image are essential. Unless I dressed as a lemur or something. LOL

Fundy Blue said...

I've seen many exhibitors over the years, so I have a good understanding of how challenging the job is. Thanks for your comprehensive article on what it takes, Diane.

Jemima Pett said...

Ah. I'm saying much the same thing for my IWSG post in September!

Anstice Brown said...

This is super helpful as I'll be doing my first book fair in a few weeks. Great tips.