The Pros and Cons of Author Vending

I enjoy networking with readers, other authors and business people present at conferences and festivals. One of the many ways I have access to these opportunities is through vending. Today, I would like to share a few of the pros and cons of author vending.

What is author vending?

To put it simply, author vending is when authors partner with an organization to reserve a space where they can sell their books/services/products, usually at a book festival or conference. Vending is not new and is something other businesses do all the time. The benefits of vending are numerous but there can also be some challenges for Independent Authors. As usual, I base this on my own experience which may very well differ from other authors.

Con: Financial Risk

“Consider the benefits and risks to your business when deciding to exhibit your product or service. These will be different for each event. Choosing the wrong trade show to exhibit your business’s products or services can result in displaying to the wrong audience. Poor promotion can mean the costs of attending the trade show outweigh any revenue you gain.” – Business Queensland

When you are a vendor, it means you have paid to reserve a table at an event where you will sell your books/products/services. Sometimes these costs can be very expensive. The authors must be careful not to “overpay to play.” I’ve seen tables costs as much as $600. This money could easily go toward good editing instead or the publishing of another book entirely. Authors should consider that not only will they reserve a table, but they will also  buy books and author swag for the table and travel to the event. Before saying yes to vending, consider the financial benefits and potential challenges. Ask:

  • Do I have enough funds to cover books, attendance, display and other associated costs

 

  • Have I worked out how many prospects and readers I will need to obtain to generate a return on my investment

 

  • Have I researched/visited/asked questions about the event at which I am contemplating exhibiting and am I confident that a suitable number of people will attend

 

  • Have I worked out a way to capture people’s attention (*This is important. I see a lot of authors at expos  looking down at their phones or just looking bored. They sit at the table for the entire time and rarely communicate with the people walking by. Then, at the conclusion, these same authors are upset because they sold no books. The people are not just going to come to you. Chances are you are not famous and no one owes you a thing. Stop being lazy, get up, and represent yourself.

Any author who wishes to be a vendor must be sure to research the event, understand what is included in the package, and know what they are looking to gain from the experience. If the goal is only to sell books, the author(s) should consider hosting something at their local library where the table is free or collaborating with other authors to cover the price of the table.

The primary purpose of vending (as I have found it) is the chance to network and get your name out there. It is a discoverability strategy. While an author can sell books, how many books are sold depends on the strength of that author’s network. More on that on the next con point.

Pro: Networking Opportunity

“Face-to-face communication builds the most memorable brand awareness. Last year our expos had hundreds of people walk through the door. Expos centralize a local audience that will be most receptive and ready to learn. This might be a rare occurrence for your industry depending on where you are geographically. You’ll have an opportunity to connect with new people and reconnect with those already invested in your brand.” – Peter O’Donnell, 4 Key Benefits of Becoming a Vendor

One of the major benefits of being an author vendor is the chance to network with individuals you probably would not have met or had the chance to speak with before. It is a chance to get your name out there in the public and expose your brand to people face-to-face. Last year, I spoke with the owner of Acapella Books in Atlanta when I was shopping my books around bookstores. First, he denied stocking my book, but he told me why and while it hurt my ego, I had to listen to sound advice:

“Your book will only get lost among the hundreds of celebrity authors’ books in the store. The best thing you can do right now is to get your name out there. Are you attending the Decatur Book Festival?”

I told him I was. I wasn’t a vendor, but I would be in attendance. He said good and to start there. He told me to “focus on building your platform and getting your name out there.”

Conferences and Book Festivals attract an array of media depending on the host of the event. You have the potential to meet editors, agents, publishers, celebrity authors and corporate influencers.

I don’t care what the experts say, online will never be as good as face-to-face contact and connection. Giving your readers a chance to meet you in person adds a special kind of value. “People see the truth in you through your actions, personality, and in how genuine you are with them.” (Greg Dabbs, Business Development Manager) They get to hear your voice, see your face outside of photos, ask questions, give advice, laugh and get to know you more personally.

The chances of pitching are significantly higher when you position yourself to be present at these events. You get to practice your sales pitch, research competition and increase the chances of collaboration opportunities. It is not all about money. At a decent rate vending can be the boost you need to jump-start your business. Financial investment in yourself is something you will need to consider in your career at some point anyway. Whether that is vending at a notable event or paying for professional author photos, it is something you will need to do at some point.

It is about showing up and being an author vendor is one of the easiest ways to show up, to get out and connect with people.

Con: Difficult for New/Unknown Indie Authors

Author vending is the opportunity for you to connect with your readers. It gives them the chance to meet with you face-to-face, to take pictures with you, to buy paperback copies of your books, or to have books signed they already bought. But it could be even more challenging for new/unknown Indie Authors.

“No one will come to your book reading/signing unless you are already famous. The packed author readings on the news are only packed because the author is already very well known. Book readings at bookstores are among the worst uses of time for a new author.” – Writing Well

While I don’t believe you have to be famous to do a book signing/reading for people to support you (I do well at signings and I am certainly no one famous), there is some truth in this quote. While the chances of people buying are higher in person because physical presence increases trust, authors who have multiple books out and who have already built a strong platform and audience before vending will do much better. People will already know who they are, and readers will come out to support them.

Paying money to reserve a table at an author event when you are a new author no one knows, when you have done no work to promote the event to your audience or where you have not built an audience will be like posting your Amazon buy link on social media hoping people will take a chance on an unknown author. While some people will (I usually do but I’m nice like that 🙂 ) this kind of “Hope Marketing,” rarely works. Vending is usually not free, and the money is usually nonrefundable.

Before you spend money on reserving a table, focus on publishing more books and developing a relationship with your readers so that when you do an event people will come out to support you. Now do not misunderstand me, a first-time author can certainly do well at signings and events but only because that author already have people who are willing to support him/her from previous works.

Pro: Invitations for More Work

Photo Copyright ©2019. The Velvet Note | Velvet Voices. Yecheilyah Ysrayl.
I read somewhere that “the reward for a job well done is the opportunity to do more,” (Dr.Jonas Salk). The biggest benefit to author vending is that eventually, you will not have to look for opportunities. Opportunities will find you. It was at the Atlanta African American Book Festival that I was asked to participate in Velvet Voices, The Velvet Note Jazz club’s new and first Author/Word event. People will remember you and reach out to you for other projects. They may even ask you to be a vendor at another event. This is significant because once people reach out to you, the ball is in your court. You get to decide the terms of your acceptance. Can your table be free of cost/discounted? Can they pay you to speak? Can they purchase your ticket if the place is not in your home city/state? What is it you require for your presence? The idea here is to one day graduate from vending alone to being requested and paid to speak as well.

This is the beginnings of earning the passive income you want to help to leverage the income from your book royalties. These days, you need the additional income that comes from other streams of income related to your writing.

You may not think people are paying attention, but they are. Author vending is a great way to give a very good first-person impression that can lead to an even bigger opportunity and business partnership.

Pro/Con – Organizer / Host

It is important to ask, who is the organizer/host? The person(s) behind the event is a big deal. You want to make sure the organization or cause is something you can get behind. Vending is a big deal these days and it shouldn’t escape authors that it is also a way for businesses and organizations to make money. Choosing to be a vendor is not just about meeting new people and exposing your business, it is also about investment. Vending is an investment in yourself and an investment in the company or organization hosting the event.

The people behind the event can make this a Pro if the organization is well organized, grounded, relatively known and actively promoting the event and its participants.

The people behind the event can make this a Con if the event host is unorganized, the event is poorly promoted (bad for you if you paid for a table and are looking to turn a profit) and does little to nothing to promote the event and its participants.

It is not about jumping on every so-called opportunity available to authors. It is about being strategic and intentional with every decision you make regarding your book business.

When you are asked, invited or when you take part in a vending opportunity, be sure you connect with an organization that is relatable to the goals and the purpose you have set for yourself, that the vision of the organization is something you can support and rally behind and that they will work just as hard for you as you intend to work for them. Vending is a partnership and partnerships are not one-way streets. Or at least they shouldn’t be.

Major Cons

  • Can be costly
  • Not a wise investment for new authors with no audience
  • Can be hectic and stressful (requires a lot of work)
  • Can be overwhelming
  • Can sometimes go downhill

Every marketing platform has advantages and disadvantages. Don’t let the disadvantages of author vending discourage you from participating in exhibitions and reaping the benefits of it. Just do your research first.

Major Pros.

  • Exposure to a wider set of audience
  • Creates brand awareness
  • Increases credibility
  • Promotes brand loyalty
  • Helps in Networking

I am vending at this year’s 4th Annual MogulCon event on October 26, 2019, from 9:00a – 3:00p at the Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center. I would love to meet you there. The purpose of the MogulCon women’s business conference is to educate and assist diverse businesses on how to connect and position themselves in the marketplace. The goal is to create economic opportunities and position them with corporations and large companies to help them grow and scale. Come out and meet successful entrepreneurs and corporate influencers when you register for the 3-day event taking place October 24-26th. (I’ll see you on the 26th!)

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MAY I Have Your Attention Please? #MayChallengeDay4

Now what? No, seriously. Now that I have your attention, I don’t know what to do with it. It’s just that, well, I really wanted to use MAY in my title.

But, while we’re here, I MAY as well say something.

I’m really excited about the results of my Spring Giveaway. The purpose of the contest covered a number of areas so what I’d like to do is list some benefits I found of hosting a Giveaway in the way that I’ve done and some things I wished I’d done better. I don’t feel like being long winded today so I just have four points.

  1. Extending My Hand

I believe, as an artist, that giving back is a very important part of the work. Just look around your Blog neighborhood. The top blogs, the ones with lots of support, are the blogs that give lots of support! I truly believe that what you give comes back to you. Not that you should just do something for that reason, but you get the point here. Giving is just really important on so many levels, business, and personally. It is also a part of me. I have to be able to give back. Giving is such a gratifying experience and just fills me up. There is really no better accomplishment than the opportunity to bask in someone else’s happiness.  It’s like this quote here by Denzel Washington:

quotes-giving-back-denzel-washington-480x480

Thank you Denzel for summing that up for us because I didn’t feel like explaining.

       2. Social Engagement

From a Social Media perspective, I really wanted to increase the social engagement of my followers. You know sometimes, with the way social media is now, its easy to accumulate thousands of subscribers or “friends” (gotta use this F word loosely) and never have anything else to do with them. So easy to have large readerships or support and not do anything with them. So I’ve really been on this personal, get-to-know-you-better type kick lately with seeking to understand how to build better relationships with the people who support me and really dig into this networking thing.

    3. Networking

Speaking of networking, I also wanted to increase my social media presence online by offering people who may not be familiar with my work an opportunity to connect with me. Its another reason I wanted to sort of “go all out” by hosting a Giveaway on this level so I can really peer into my circle of supporters and really get to monitor what things are actually looking like around here. If there’s one thing I don’t want to be is in the dark. To have this perception of my work that doesn’t reflect the truth. So one major benefit to this Giveaway I found is the increase in social media. Over the course of this contest I’ve done the following:

  • 17 New Email Newsletter Subscribers (Only 1 person unsubscribed after the contest. Remember when we spoke about the risks of this kind of a giveaway? That people may unfollow you after the contest ends. I am happy to have only gotten one unsubscribe).
  • New Blog Followers. I think there’s a handful of you who found me, welcome, welcome.
  • 21 New Facebook Likes to my Business Page
  • 10 New Twitter Followers

I cannot leave without thanking @Opinionated Man, @Annette Rochelle Aben, @LisaTetting, and @Don Massenzio for their support and others who helped to re-blog the post about the giveaway. I do know that it really helped to contribute to getting the word out to the blogosphere and is most definitely appreciated. This Giveaway has also helped to spread the word about the books themselves and helped me to gauge just how interested people are in the series. If only 3 people are selected to win but there are lots of entries, or not so many entries, I would be able to see where I stood in relation to demand. Now that its all over, I understand where I am on that level.

If there is one negative about the giveaway, there is one thing I wish I’d done better.

   4. Ask For Contestant Names

I know, it seems obvious, but because of the popularity of social media, it was easier to just ask for an email address because that gave me access to the person in which to communicate without doing a whole lot of shout outs. The negative thing about this however that I didn’t think about, was putting my winners at risk of Spam and Junk mail by publishing their emails across my social networks. It occurred to me this week as I was announcing the winners that I probably should have just asked for everyone’s first and last names! LOL. But, on a positive note, I think that by just asking for an email address, it increased participation because people didn’t have to do much. Not that entering your name is much but a lot of people have nick names or maybe they just robbed a bank and don’t want to give their name, who knows. But an email address. Well, you can enter an email address with one click and from anywhere. I definitely did not want a whole bunch of questions or mandatory info that would make that process any less smooth.

In any event I’d say my first Giveaway was a success! I didn’t have hundreds of entries but I had far more than I thought I would have and the experience was really uplifting and brought me closer to understanding how to network and build those interpersonal relationships that are so vital to online promotion / marketing.

Blogging and Writing: The Benefits

edit-your-blog-postsI do believe blogging has had an impact on my writing life and that it can do the same for you. While not every blogger is a writer, as a writer I do not separate the two. For me, blogging and writing has a unique relationship. There is something about instant feedback that I believe helps bloggers to improve their writing. Yes, like a critique group of sorts and for bloggers who also happen to be writers, this can only be a good thing. At its core, writing is communication. It is about recording thoughts and while not all bloggers are writers blogging is still a platform that presents people with a unique medium from which to express themselves in writing. To that end, writing  improves with practice. Blogging will not make  you a better writer, but it can highlight those areas where improvement is necessary. It also helps to highlight those areas of strength. For me, blogging is not the key to authored success or anything like that and it is not something influenced by money. What it does instead is help to increase my interaction with readers which has a natural ability to sharpen my writing skills. When you know people are watching you have no choice but to produce your best, and becoming a better writer holds important benefits for the rest of your life—whether you are writing a book, a presentation, a resume, or a love letter to your spouse.

Because the process of writing includes recording thoughts on paper, the blogging process forces you to think about what you’re going to say before you say it, and encourages you to stop and think deeper. You will delve deeper into the matters of your life and the worldview that shapes them and how to communicate this over to people in a way they can understand it. With immediate feedback by way of Likes and Follows, you’ll get to see how others view your form of writing and gain access to instant critique. Blogging can help you to write more, and in so doing stay focused on your writing goals. Blogging can not only improve and change your writing life; it also changes the life of the reader. As you write, the reader gains and because blogs are free for the audience and open to the public, on many levels, it is an act of giving. It is a selfless act of service to invest your time, energy, and worldview into a piece of writing and then offer it free to anybody who wants to read it. You will find your voice, and others will find inspiration.