I’m packing today to head to Las Vegas for Vegas Valley Book Festival and it got me thinking about something most authors don’t really think of until the last minute.
I’m talking about table displays. Whether you are hosting a book signing at an indie store or have purchased a vendor table at a book con type of event, you will need to know how to put together an eye catching table.
Firstly, I’m going to talk about the basics of what you need to have at/on your table.
1) Books. Duh. And how many? Ah, the eternal struggle. That depends on the size of the event and your individual popularity. If it’s your first release and you don’t have much of a fan base yet (hey, that’s cool, we all start somewhere!) then you don’t need as many as a seasoned, well-known author. My friend and book guru Jo Michaels suggests between 0.5 and 1% of the total number of people expected to attend. She explains the math on her post here, and I think that’s a very good rule of thumb. Unless you are in a city where you know you have a ton of friends/family/fans coming, go with 1%. (also keep in mind that the turn out for your first book in your home town will almost always be high, so plan accordingly)
2) A cash drawer and a credit card slider for your smart phone. People need to pay for the books they buy. Be sure you have change (I suggest charging a nice round number for books rather than having to fumble with nickles and dimes) and a Square or other CC reader. People expect to be able to pay with cards.
3) Business cards. Sometimes the people you meet at events aren’t just book lovers. Agents, producers, and other industry professionals also browse them, so be ready.
4) A sign up sheet for your newsletter. This is a HUGE deal. You can offer a raffle prize to people who sign up, or special swag items. But get people to sign up. This is going to be extremely beneficial in the long run. If you prefer, you can also use a tablet and have people sign up online right at your booth.
5) SWAG. Not everyone buys paper books anymore. Swag serves dual purposes. It gives them a reminder later of a book they may have wanted to buy and where to get it, and it acts as a walking billboard to other potential book buyers. I have a whole post on SWAG here.
6) Author brand/display items.
Ok, that’s not terrible, right? Now, depending on the venue you may also need chairs, table cloth, heck, sometimes you even have to bring your own table. I suggest asking beforehand so you know what to expect.
So what makes a booth/table great?
You should be eye catching. Now, if say you write steampunk, then you can decorate your whole table with steampunk goodies, trunks, goggles, etc. For romance, go with red satin and flowers. You get the idea. I will say that bright, colorful, eye catching booths do better than dark, bland ones. So think of the theme of your books and see if anything strikes you. For those of you like me who write in multiple genres, our job is a bit trickier.
My friend Elizabeth Sharp does an AMAZING table display. Here’s her table from her last event:
Her table has many things going for it. It’s bright, it’s trendy, its NEAT, organized, and visually inviting. Her name and author logo are prominent, as is her newsletter sign up sheet. Also notice how her books are stacked below the display stands? This creates lift, raising the books like this gives the table height and dimension–much more attractive than a flat, one story display.
Also very useful are vinyl banners with your author name/logo.book covers. It can be horizontal and attached to the front of the table like a skirt or it can be vertical and sitting beside or behind your table. This is a pic from UtopYA last year. The attending authors always do an amazing job with their displays:
Here’s my banner. I just got a new one, so this will be my first event using it:
Or you can go with a combination of table banners like author Casey Bond. Notice she uses shelves to elevate her books:
Do you only have one book? That’s no problem! Put two or three on stands (I use plate holder stands from Hobby Lobby) in varying heights and scatter them on the table. To add more height you can use balloons, flowers, and tall decor. Another thing I’ve seen used is battery operated strings of mini lights strewn about a table. They look really cool.
So think about your theme, your genre, and your personality. Your table display doesn’t have to ‘match’ your cover, but it should be in line with your overall author brand. The idea is to make your table look fun and welcoming, to invite people over to have a look and stay for a while. The best way to do that is to make it a place where YOU feel comfortable and look professional.
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Good luck and happy signing!