Thursday, June 27, 2013


Debra Purdy Kong with her
gift-wrapped books in 2011
I'm proud to post another piece by award-winning mystery author, Debra Purdy Kong. Here she provides us with some excellent advice about selling books at local craft fairs. As a fiction author, who is both traditionally and self-published, she finds the effort worth while. HOWEVER, you must start preparing now. Debra writes ....

Three years ago, I accepted an invitation to sell my novels at a local gym’s mini Christmas craft fair. I wound up selling 21 copies. The experience was so positive that the following Christmas I expanded to high school fairs and sold 51 copies. This year, I sold over 80 books at more venues, all within five miles of home.

Needless to say, Christmas craft fairs can be a lucrative way to sell books. To do so successfully, it’s a good idea to first visit local craft fairs at high schools, community centres, and churches. Talk to vendors and show organizers a copy of your book. Ask about registration requirements and ask to be put on a mailing list. Begin with smaller venues that charge a minimal fee. Large community centre events draw larger crowds, but their fees can be $350 or more.

Most craft fairs have an adjudication process and prefer only handmade goods. For this reason, even self-published books can be a grey area for judges and organizers. Although I not only wrote, but typeset my first mystery series, the professionally designed cover disqualified me at some fairs, but not at others. A third of this year’s fairs accepted my traditionally published series as well. If you’re upfront with organizers, some of them will make an exception, especially if you’ve tried both publishing options with a single series.

Competition for table space at established venues can be fierce, so apply long before the deadline. If you’re accepted at several fairs, be mindful of the dates. Most fairs occur on weekends in November and early December, (fees and application forms might be required months earlier). You won’t want to double-book an event, as organizers require you to be there in person. A few days before the fair, you’ll receive rules and helpful information. High schools are especially great venues as students are on hand to help carry your stock and will watch over your table if you need a break.

Once you’ve set up your table (make it festive – see image above left) employ the same strategies you’d use at a book signing: stand as much as possible, smile and engage people, offer to sign copies, and bring water. You’ll also need a float, receipt book, food (events are five to seven hours long), and bags for customers. The great thing about Christmas craft fairs is that attendees are looking for gifts to buy and they bring cash. Visa/debit machines are a good idea for large venues, but not worth the bank’s fee at smaller fairs.

If you have more than one book (may be a series), you can sign and bundle your books, wrap them in clear cellophane with a bow and ribbon, and sell them as signed gift sets (see top image). But also offer them singly. Generally, tables are large enough to display promotional materials and an info sheet featuring review excerpts and availability elsewhere. Business cards are a must! I handed out cards to several book club members and teachers looking for guest speakers. Customers also wanted to know if my books were available on Kindle, and preferred a bizcard to a bookmark.

Christmas craft fairs are often unpredictable. Books will sell well at some venues but not at others. The following year, the reverse will be true. Keep records to analyze which fairs work best for you. If your books are set locally or have some other local slant, emphasis this, as people love to read about their own area. Above all, have fun when you get there.

But summer is the time to prepare and September is the latest month to book into your local craft fairs that run in November/December.

© Debra Purdy Kong 2013

Editor: I have found that my nonfiction titles (Canadian history) do not sell at markets or craft fairs. Novels make more attractive gifts for the holiday season.

All images: © Photos by Pharos (Julie H. Ferguson) 2011-12. 
                       All rights reserved
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