Today, we are continuing our conversation on author vending. If you are new here, check out part one here.
1. Cost of Vending and What’s Included
First, you want to determine how much the event host will charge you to be a vendor and what that fee entails. My requirement to vend at any event is that the fee includes a table and two chairs. Some businesses demand that you supply your own table and chairs. That feels like renting space with no space to me, but everyone’s different.
Whatever you decide, ensure the cost is reasonable and within your budget. So, if you have to bring a table (which you’ll probably have to buy), the vending fee should not cost an arm and a leg.
There is an exception to high ticket vending costs based on the influence of the event. See bullet point #3.
2. Travel / Lodging
This is a must if you decide to vend at a location outside the city/state where you live. This means the cost of vending takes on a more significant role because now you will have to consider: the cost of vending + travel + hotel.
This is where you should keep in mind that you are a business, not just an author, and that choosing to sell your goods at events is a business decision. Take into account the event’s quality if you must travel and do other things.
3. Consider the Influence of the Event Host / Audience
We talked about this last time, but I want to discuss it from a different angle.
Events that offer a chance for people to become vendors come in all shapes and sizes. Some events are hosted by first-time event hosts, and some by larger influencers and celebrities. Both are wonderful growth opportunities.
When deciding where to put your money, consider whether there will be a sizable enough crowd for you to conduct business outside of the vendors. The one con to vending at an event that can only produce a crowd within the vendors is that it will be difficult to conduct any commerce because we are all there for the same reason.
Vending is also about connecting with powerful influencers who could help propel you to the next level. In this case, the cost to vend might be pricey, but the event’s influence makes up for it because of the people and powerful connections you can make. (Think Essence Fest and Invest Fest)
While vending at Black Writer’s Weekend last year was a bit costly, here are some things that made me decide to give it a try:
- BWW and its founder Tamika Newhouse are pretty well-known in Atlanta. I knew the event would bring out a large enough crowd for me to engage people beyond the vendors, and it did. I made my vending fee back.
- Included my mandatory table and chairs.
- I did not need to travel far since I am in the Atlanta area, so no funds were needed for hotel or travel.
4. Engagement and ROI
If you are just going to sit behind your table looking mean, scrolling through your phone, and waiting for people to talk to you, vending might not be for you. If you intend to make a return on your investment, you will have to engage with people.
Here are some things that have been helpful for me.
- Stand up and stay off the phone during high-traffic moments.
- Bring a helper/assistant (hence the two chairs I always require when I vend) so you can leave your table now and again to talk to the other vendors and guests, take bathroom breaks, etc. My helper is my husband, who is fully trained (lol) on how to talk about my books in my absence. However, I am never too far away from my table.
- Try not to look bored and mad (even if you are). Smile and speak. I always give people an excited “Good Morning!” or “Good Afternoon!” You’d be surprised by the people who will stop at your table just from you being friendly and pleasant. I also take note of certain non-verbal clues that people might be interested. Staring at my station but not speaking, walking away but turning for another look, studying my banner (because, how do you pronounce this name?) are all signs I use to engage people further.
Last but certainly not least is your inventory!
- Do you have enough books to go?
- Business cards and bookmarks?
- Marketing materials?
Give yourself enough time to get all your tools together before the event and include that in the cost! Remember, as Indie Authors, we have to buy author copies.
Bonus: New Lessons
In part one, I joked that authors should vend at events focusing on books to avoid competing with the lady selling shea butter.
Well, I did meet a lady selling Shea Butter!
And her table was right next to mine, she also has locs, and wears glasses.
I learned a new lesson:
Of everyone at the pop-up, I was the only one with books. This set me apart and made people feel like I was the bookstore part of the event. And I did pretty well!
Even if it’s not an event focusing on books, you can do well as the only person with books or one of a few.
The Shea Butter woman’s name is Jenesis, and she runs an alternative and holistic health service business called Root’d Spa with various wellness products.
She bought a copy of my book, and I bought a bracelet from her! We are now following each other on social media.
- Consider not just the fee but also: vending fee + travel + lodging + inventory
- Be ready to work
- Bring a helper/assistant
- Speak up and be kind
- Consider the event influence for high-ticket vending opportunities
- Always be on the lookout for new lessons and perspectives. You might just find your next business partner!