In 2020, I do plan on attending some book signings and events at conventions to promote my books. You may have seen some of my posts on Instagram – I thought I would go into more details here on the blog.

What can you expect at events?

For a simple event most likely I will have just one table. For example, 6 or 8 foot tables, supplied by the host, seem most common at author book signings at bookstores or libraries.

For an indoor convention such as a SFF con, I would most likely have a booth set up. These are usually, but not always, a square size in layout. 8×8 feet or 10×10 feet are common.

I did see that one large and very popular convention offer authors a 2 hour stint at a table. This shows how varied your choices are going to be, which means you need to plan for small and large events.

Outdoor events will be the last option to pursue as it will take more preparation. This is beyond me at this point in terms of time and resources. Maybe in 2021 if I decide to go that direction.

Author table display: banners and book displays

The basics:

  • Books. If self-published you can buy these wholesale from your supplier (i.e. Amazon or Ingram Spark are the two biggies).
  • Table. Not all venues will provide one. At Big Box stores you can get a 2 x 4 or a 29″ x 6′ that folds in half.
  • Signage. At the minimum, place a sign about how much your book costs.
  • Money and a way to accept cards, receipt book.
  • A hand-out such as a card or bookmark that has your social media and website on it.
Booth sales price display using a traditional photo frame

Make your table stand out:

  • Dress your table with a tablecloth that reaches to the floor.
  • Use signage to entice questions and provide information.
  • Put interesting (but related) pieces on the table beside your book (i.e. your book is about horses, you have a horse statue next to your book)
  • Use a method to best display your books. Don’t just stack them in a pile! Not appealing to buyers.
  • Remember scarcity drives desire to buy. Don’t put all your books out, just a handful and replenish the stack as they sell.
  • Have giveaways (merch or swag). At the bare minimum a small bowl of candy (which you can replenish) seems to be what most people do. Other ideas include magnets, keychains, pens, pads, and bookmarks.
Author signing book display

Bookstand displays. I posted about how I made these in the blog. If you are not inclined to woodwork, stands that are similar (but not as nice as mine) can be found on Etsy and other websites offering crafts for sale. Some websites that provide store fixtures also have some options.

Author signing book and bookmark display

Bookmark display. I use bookmarks instead of business cards. I feel people will keep them longer. I actually have several different bookmarks to showcase individual books. I’m also developing a strategy about how I will use them to market my audio books (more on that later).

If you like my version, I give plans on how to make the bookmark display stand in the blog. I also have a blog that goes into more details on designing bookmarks. If you look on my Pinterest board there are some simpler ways to display your bookmarks.

booth display ideas

Display Stackers. Having everything at the same height on your table is boring. When you have items at different heights it causes the eye to travel and it helps you move the visitor visually through your booth.

We made these simple hollow wooden blocks that I could stack to give different heights.

display riser blocks

The size I decided to work with was determined by the banner stands so these ended up 6 x 9 inches (length and width), with 2 different heights: 2 inch and 4 inch.

display riser blocks

They are open on one end to make them easier to grab. To make them as light as possible, we used thin wood (quarter inch Birch plywood available at Lowes) and MDF scrap we had on hand. When I painted them black and put them on a black table they faded away!

craft fair table risers

Tables. Due to the size of my car, I’ve gone with 2 x 4 and the 29″ x 6′ folding tables to be used at events where tables are not provided. By putting them end to end, I can have an 8 foot long table.

If you want to raise your table height (which I like to do as it puts the display closer to my visitors), this is simple.

In bathrooms, the new standard of base cabinet height (formerly 32) is now being constructed at “comfort height” which is about 36″ in height (give or take a few inches). Why? Because people are taller. In the video above, Miles is 6′ 2″ and I’m 5′ 5″ – and this new height of 35″ is more comfortable for us both.

How to do this: Cut a piece of PVC pipe the length of leg up to the hinge support + the additional height you want your table to be at. The actual length of the PVC is 22 inches long but because the pipe stops at the hinge it acts as a longer leg. Adding this, raises the table 6 more inches from its original height of 29 to 35.

booth table risers

The diameter of this thin wall pipe is 1 3/8 inch but check your table legs to decide what will work for your situation. Heavier table? Use a thicker walled pipe.

Be aware of the rules! Some events will not let you raise your table as they want all tables to remain at the same height. Just be aware before you go.

Also, if your audience will be children or the disabled you might not want to raise the table. Or leave one table at normal height and raise another for interest.

Signage. The reason I’ve put so much emphasis on signage is because I know how these events work. It will be feast (lots of people at my table and not enough of me to go around) or famine.

Signage provides something for people to read, experience, and get information when I can’t verbally have contact with the visitor. They also provide talking points between you and the visitor.

Mini-Tabletop banners: I love these things! I love how compact they are but I also love how they can push my message. These I bought from Half Price Banners for about $68 each (that includes shipping). The artwork was done by my book cover designer and fits with the theme of my books.

Note: The fonts for my name, website, and text remain the same even though colors change. I also went with a woman on each sign. This gives continuity and emphasizes that my books are about women.

BTW these signs did not come with a light. However, I found a very lightweight, booklight at Target that worked perfectly! That bit of spotlight really helps bring attention to the sign’s title.

mini banner display lights
mini banner with lights

I’ve designed four of these. One is a general sign I would bring anywhere as it has my social media contact info on it. The other three are specific to a book. I will mix and match these depending on the event I’m attending.

For example, this sign promotes my book The Wicked Wolves of Windsor and specifically my Red Riding Hood retelling. The sign gives a brief description, review highlights, an arresting image, a QR code that takes them to my website, and the url of my website.

This sign promotes the standalone, handmade chapbook, The Queen’s Favorite. The Queen’s Favorite is one of the short stories that I will be promoting as a standalone to a specific audience, such as women groups.

BTW the art and design for these were put together by Natalie at Original Book Cover Designs. She’s great to work with!

Retractable Banner or a standing floor sign. This still in development so I will about this when I can show you the details. At about $200-$400, this is a bigger investment. It will be more about me as the author, not individual books, so it could be used for a long time at many different events.

Tablecloth drape banner sign. A lot of authors seem to prefer the table apron sign. For me, I prefer the standing sign. The simple reason is that if people are standing in front of your table, your pretty (and expensive) sign is hidden if it drapes across the front of your table.

I have a lot more to discuss about this so future posts are coming! For now, visit my Pinterest planning board for more ideas and articles about booth planning!

Byrd Nash, fantasy author using mythology, legends, folklore, and fairy tales.
blog posts review marketing software and services, and gives an insider view of my experiences of becoming a self-published author.

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