I love working festivals, and this will be our fourth year at the job. Someday, I suppose, we won’t really need to anymore–if God blesses my work–but I think I’d still do it. It’s just too much fun.
MSB and I started The Canopy Bookstore in 2012, the first year after Give the Lady a Ride was published. Aside from my own solitary novel, we brought along books by author friends and sold them like a regular bookstore would–let people browse and find what they wanted. Helped that I had read most of them and could talk them up. These days, I may invite other authors to join us, but mostly the books on the table are my own.
For this weekend’s Blueberry Festival, I published an ad in the local paper the day before.
I used a simple background for this–something that would indicate texture, but would translate well to black and white for our local newspaper. The ads here are cost quite a bit more than those in MSB’s hometown of Bremond, which has a small, weekly paper (with a great mail-out circulation!). So, in Bremond, we have a color ad, but here in Nacogdoches, I settled for black and white. I used the black font for the same reason–I wanted the ad to be legible whether in color or in black and white.
With picmonkey.com, you can choose the quality you want for your ad as you save it. The lowest (which they call “Roger”) is fine for thumbnail pics, the mid-sized (Pierce) is fine for online pics, but for anything you intend to use in print, go with the best (Sean). It’s a larger file size, but it’s best for print ads, posters, virtually anything else you want to use it for, and the internet. And the ad looked great in both papers.
This year, I also had some tote bags with an ad on it (which I put it on both sides, but one side would’ve been less expensive) to giveaway to those who bought more than one book or for repeat customers:
For this one, I wanted colors that would compliment the covers and would be appealing to those carrying them. I included a quick quip about what I write (faith-based stories of love) and where my books are available (primarily on Amazon for now).
VistaPrint makes totes–and virtually anything else you want. They’re affordable and produce great quality products, so I’ve done almost everything through them. I chose tote bags because folks who come to festivals don’t always remember to bring something to put their purchases in, but I saw a lot of handheld cardboard fans too, which were a great idea, considering the Texas heat. Other ideas include replacing the labels on bottled water with a label of your own, or putting your own label on the back of purse-sized hand sanitizers. I’ve used the hand sanitizers before, but it never dawned on me to put my label on the back. Still, they’re great. Bath and Body Works has them in different colors that catch the sun and draw young girls over, who then draw their mothers over and . . . well, you get the idea.
I have a poster on an easel:
This is a combination of a picture I found on bigstockphoto and an overlay of my cover. I added the text, and here ya go. I downloaded it from “Sean,” then sent it to VistaPrint. It’s eye-catching, but this is the only year I’ll get to use it. Note the “New from Linda W. Yezak.” Next year, that particular book won’t be new. But it’s okay. Did I mention that VistaPrint is affordable? (And, by the way, if you don’t have a budget for this aspect of your business, you should.)
After I ordered enough books to do me for the festivals and speaking events, I was all set.
Most festivals prefer 10′-x-10′ set-ups, so in 2012, we got a 10 x 10 canopy and what (I think) is an 8-foot table. My cloth for the table has a tooled leather design, which I dearly love even though it doesn’t match the theme in all my books. It’s understated, durable, and classy.
When we fill out the vendor application forms, we always request electricity. Texas summers can be killer, even for those of us who were born and raised here, but especially for me. I have an extremely low tolerance for heat, so MSB carries a window-unit air conditioner to the festivals for me. We found a free-standing AC at Sam’s once, but that was long after we bought the new window unit. Anyway, electricity privileges cost a bit extra, but it’s worth it (make sure you have a 100′ heavy duty cord). If you don’t need an AC or at least a fan, you may still need a good way to recharge your phone battery. I have a couple of portable chargers, which is great, but even they will need recharging if my phone battery has a short life span (and it does). We use my phone to take pictures–something I forgot to do this time–and to work the Square.
Oh–Square is something else to look into. There are other credit card services, of course–I believe even PayPal has one now–but I started with Square, and I’m used to it. With that tiny thing attached to my phone, I can take credit cards and make receipts. That definitely helps my sales when I can accept more than one method of payment.
Back to the festival: Comfortable shoes and chairs are must-haves, of course, as is something you can use as a trash can. And–most important–something you can ditch your books into quickly if it starts to rain. We have what we call our “Black Box.” It’s huge and made of plastic so rain doesn’t bother it and neither does the run-off from the gutters.
Another must-have is change. I figure out what I want to charge for my books based on how much they cost me (including shipping) plus whatever profit I think I can get at festival prices, then determine what kind of change to take along with me. I don’t mess with charging my customers tax–I figure it into the book cost, then pay it myself (Texas requires a vendor’s license/tax ID, but not all states have sales-based taxes). If I can round up to where I don’t have to charge “cents,” then counting out change is easier. So, for the festivals this year, I charge $12.00 per book. We figured there would be plenty of twenties passing hands or maybe tens and fives, and we brought enough ones and fives to make the right change in return.
Next on the checklist: sunscreen, lip balm, water, paper towels, battery charger, water, first aid kit, and snacks and ice and water. Or Gatorade. Some way to remain hydrated without blowing your income on the surrounding food vendors (which is something else–if you’re selling books and are aware that books absorb odors, make a request of your event manager to put you away from food vendors).
So, here we are: ads, promo items, posters, inventory, creature comforts–cool air, food, water–and the means to take payment and make change. What’s next?
Get up at 4:00, fix a quick, but hearty breakfast, get to the site by 5:30, set up, settle in, and wait for the masses come.
Then have a blast!