Most often at ATW, we discuss marketing through writing only. But what happens AFTER you write that book or promote your services? There has to be a connection between what we do in writing and what we do in person. This week on our Write by the Rails (#WbtR) blog tour, we feature Morgan Hazlewood who is a rising writer and creative. Her eclectic background and experience merge with her writing talent to bring you this advice on selling products in real-time.
Selling Your Stuff in Person
by Morgan Hazlewood
I’ve never published a book. I’ve never created an object and tried to sell it. The closest I’ve ever come to selling something I made was working at as a barista in a book store.
But. I’ve worked with web comic artists and writers and crafters. And I’ve watched their tables from time to time. From watching and helping people vend, I’ve picked up a few tips that I’ve filed away for when my day comes.
- Know your audience
If the event is focused on what you’re selling, you’re going to have a bigger audience. But, you’re also going to have more competition for their attention. Books at a book festival, comics at a comic con, home-good crafts at a craft show. Change up your approach to better suit your current audience.
Is your audience looking for themselves or for gifts? Some seasonal events, you might want to pitch your book or item as something a particular demographic would want.
- Consider the Venue
Make sure the benefits match (or beat) the investment. Do you need to pay for table-space? A hotel room? Take leave from a day-job?
Is it worth it? Only you can answer. The balance can be written in sales, in networking, in (I know it’s a dirty word, but still, it’s used for a reason) exposure. Or simply because you enjoy the event.
- Be Prepared
Bring merchandise — but make sure to stock it right.
You want it to look like you’ve sold stuff, but you likely don’t want to sell out — or you’ll miss out on more sales.
That said, you don’t want to haul more merchandise than you need to. Load in and load out can be exhausting.
If you’re selling more than one product, see if you can have items at different price points – from $1 pins, to $5 postcards, to $20 tshirts/prints, to $50 collections, to $100s of dollars custom craft-items.
Offer something that is unique for the show — signed and personalized, or something made custom just for the show.
Bring supplies — The usual: food, drink, cash (and change) in a lock-box, chargers (and a batter pack if you don’t have power access), credit card machines. But, you might want to consider:
A mat to stand on as often tables are on concrete, which is killer on feet.
Hydrating with actual water if you’re outside or in a convention center — their HVAC can draw all the moisture out of you before you know it.
Business cards! Of course you’ve already thought of this, but I learned the hard way that people like to write on business cards (assuming they don’t just trash them as soon as they’re out of sight). They like to remind themselves why they took your card — so make something with some blank space. If your card is black and glossy… that kinda stops them from doing that and makes your card less useful.
Bring a friend – If possible, a buddy can watch your table when you need a bio-break, keep you company when it’s slow, and help when you’re (hopefully) swamped with customers.
- Stand Out
Often, if you have a table at an event, you’re going to be in rows and rows of other people vending their wares. People’s eyes are going to gaze over and they’re going to try and avoid eye contact. Draw them in!
If you can – bring a sheet or tablecloth to differentiate your table from the sea of matching tables.
Often, you can’t attach things to walls or there are no walls to attach to. Tall banners that stand up can help people find you, and can add a level of credibility to your business.
Stackable crates can help you take advantage of the vertical space above your table.
Be aware of how you’re dressing — can you stand out from the audience? You can do this in many ways — a costume, dressy outfits, bright clothing, make-up, a fun hat. Whatever floats your boat.
A gentle warning: Remember you’ll be seated and people will be looking down, and if your table cloth isn’t floor length, people can see behind it. Dress as your modesty dictates and keep your cash box and extra merchandise secure.
- Manage Your Table
Set it up so the flow of traffic doesn’t block your merchandise. If you block your merchandise while making one sale, you may lose out on two more. Pay attention so you can draw people in to browse, while finalizing another sale. (The trickiest of maneuvers, but well worth it if you can manage it.)
If you have friends swing by to visit, or a browser who wants to tell you a story that goes on-and-on, encourage them to come to the side of the table (as long as you’re comfortable with them coming that close) so that the table itself is not blocked from view. People hate to interrupt and will often think they’ll come back later… and later never comes.
Consider kids. If it’s a kid-friendly show, make sure the things near the front are okay for people to touch.
Consider weather. If you’re outside, be aware of weather. Not all tents protect from UV rays, make sure they’re properly staked. Please remember your rain flies. And if you have fragile goods, make sure they’re secure in case of sudden storm-winds.
Unwanted Visitors: What if a person won’t leave your table alone and they make you very uncomfortable? If you have table-buddy or you’ve made friends with the nearby vendors, it can be easier to redirect. But sometimes you need to escalate to the event staff.
- Be Engaging
People who are staring at their phones, zoning out, or napping aren’t as likely to make sales.
People who oversleep and leave their table empty for hours aren’t making sales.
People who give encouraging looks, have a short tagline that people respond positively to, and seem to be enjoying themselves are more appealing.
Notice that part where I said “short” ? That part matters. When someone’s walking past your booth, if your line takes more than 10 seconds, you’re going to lose them. Feel free to vary it. You can be welcoming, have an unexpected turn of phrase, or just “do you like poetry”? But make sure you get straight to the point.
Talk to the other vendors around you. Make friends and network. If you’re in the same industry, they might have contacts or tips you can use. If not? You’re not competing and you’ve got to spend time together until the event ends, so what does it hurt to have friendly neighbors? Plus, they might know some people who know some people… one never knows where a good contact will come from. Same with the people working staff… and the customers themselves.
Free candy doesn’t hurt.
Best of luck and sell well!
Morgan Hazelwood, Writer In Progress
Morgan Hazelwood is a fantasy novelist who blogs about writing tips and writerly musings at morganhazelwood.com. She likes taking pictures of the sky, reading a good book, and ambiverting from her living room. She’s also a voice for the fairy-tale audio drama “Anansi Storytime” and its sister podcast “Legendsmith.” She’s been known to procrati-clean her whole house and alphabetize other people’s bookshelves.