Writing the Ride

Candace Carrabus Books


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Vendor Fair Report … Lessons Learned

The Event

PBW Girl’s Night Out is an annual shopping night/fundraiser for a local chapter of the Professional Business Women’s Association. Get more info about PBW. Money raised goes toward PBW’s scholarships and adopt-a-family programs.


GNOImagePBW provided food, wine, beer, 50 vendors, raffle baskets, door prizes, music, and lots of fun. I heard there were margaritas too, but I never saw them. 🙂


Like many vendor fairs, it was loud, hot, crowded and … smelly! Not in a bad way, but there were “scent” related vendors, and if you’re one of those people who is sensitive about this sort of thing, you would have struggled.


It was not necessarily a place you’d go to find books. But I thought I’d give it a shot because it was close to home and people I know would be there (moral support!).


The Preparation

I went armed with a box of my two novels —Raver and On The Buckle–as well as copies of three collections I have stories in (Sacred Fire, Horse Crazy, A Cup of Comfort for Courage) and used these to sell my books–buy a novel, get a collection for free. My goal is only to get my books in people’s hands, so I offered deeply discounted prices starting at almost 50% off.



Also on my table were bookmarks, a price list, book descriptions,  first chapters, the all-important bowl of dark chocolates, and these cute magnets my daughter and I made. These were popular. Free is always popular.


Each vendor provided an attendance prize. I brought four certificates for the audio version of The Man, The Dog, His Owner & Her Lover and had slips of paper and a basket for people to enter a drawing for these.


My beautiful daughter came as my second chair, and I bought tickets for four friends so they would come and help. They were thinking of coming anyway, but were hesitating at the $10 ticket price. They either stuck around my table looking interested in my books (honestly, people are weird about approaching a table if no one else is there–surely you’ve experienced this yourself?) or walked around the room carrying one of my books.


To help with the issue of people wanting to skip a table, the organizers did a very smart thing. They gave everyone a list of  vendors and each vendor a stack of little round stickers. Attendees collected a sticker from each vendor and handed it in to win something. I don’t even know what. However, people still tried to swing by and get their sticker without making eye contact or engaging the person on the other side of the table in conversation.


Did I allow that? Of course not. Once I had their paper, I held them captive.


The Lessons Learned


As they scanned my tabletop, I asked, “Do you like to read?”

This was the wrong question. Never ask a question that can be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No.” You’d be shocked (I was!) at how often the answer to this question was NO. Over 50%.


Ask the right question. I quickly changed to, “What do you like to read?” I still got a lot of “I don’t” answers. My followup to this was, “Autographed books make great gifts!” only to be told they didn’t know anyone who reads, either. A couple of women said they were in school and had time to read only for class. I understand. I also had a couple of women confess, rather hesitantly, that what they like is along the lines of 50 Shades of Grey. Okay. I don’t have anything for you, but I appreciate your honesty.



I should have had a name tag or t-shirt that said, “I’m the author!” Even after getting someone’s attention–someone who admitted they like to read, someone who might be interested in one of my books–they were surprised when I said, “I’ll be happy to sign it for you.” They’d look up and say, “Oh, you’re the author?!”

errmmm…. Yes. Yes I am.


Here’s most of my table with my lovely assistant, my fantastic daughter, Rianna. Look closely at that handmade copper wire horse necklace she’s wearing. Coulda sold a ton of them.


As it was, I sold about 10 books. Anyone who’s ever done a book signing knows this is pretty decent. And gave away quite a few first chapters. These might turn into sales later. People are moving quickly; they want to get a sticker from the next vendor! Some said they’d come back later. Some did! So, I’d just pick up one or two of those first chapters and hand them over saying, “Here’s the beginning of the book. Take a look and see if it’s something you’re interested in.” They were always happy to take them.


Minimize distractions. I had too many different things on my table and they weren’t clearly labeled. I had all these ideas but didn’t really consider how it would look when it was all out. I brought a statue of a horse. People expected that to be for sale. I’ll leave it home next time.


Other vendors had a “Mastercard/Visa” sign out. I was ready to take credit cards with a little attachment to my iPhone, but my signal strength was so poor that I had to take my phone all the way outside to get a card to run. This was time away from my table. Not good. Must research a better way to do that.


firstChapsPicI had too many different price points. Should have just stuck with a “Buy one get one free” approach or something like that to keep it simple. Fewer items on the table, more labels.


Here are my first chapters along with a little list I stuck inside each book. This was titled “On the Care and Feeding of Your Local Author. 10 easy steps you can take that make a difference.”


In the future, I will have bundles made up ahead of time to hand out containing the first chapters, the care and feeding list, book descriptions, a bookmark, a magnet.


Every single piece of paper should have my website on it. Most did, some didn’t.



My Conclusion


I would do it again! I had fun and several of my books are in the hands of new readers. A couple of them were really excited about discovering a new author and  meeting the author in person!


That makes it all worthwhile.


Was this helpful to you?

Have you participated in a vendor fair or book signing?

What have you learned?

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3 Responses to Vendor Fair Report … Lessons Learned

  1. Margo Dill says:

    Thank you for all this information. I signed up for that Vendor Fair group on FB. I’m wondering if you had to pay for the table, too. 10 BOOKS IS AWESOME!!!! I have a friend who sells paintings. I wonder if we should team up. 🙂 LOL Always thinking!

  2. I like your first chapter idea, I wonder how many will read and buy the rest. Good idea to have bundles ready to hand out. I’d say 10 copies is a good number for this type of venue, well done! Thanks for sharing your lessons learned!

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