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Write From Home
Kim Wilson
P.O. Box 4145
Hamilton, NJ 08610

E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com

The Yin and Yang of Craft Fairs
by John M. Prophet


As a marketing ploy for selling your books, arts and crafts shows/fairs have their good side and their bad side, the Yin and Yang of marketing, as it were.

The Yang:

1. They take a good deal of preparation. Here is my checklist:

  • folding table

  • tent (purchased cheap at a discount store for $60 for a 10 ft. by 10 ft.)

  • table cloth

  • two table stands for propping up books (I use the plastic stands made for holding documents for computer typing.)

  • two folding chairs

  • twenty copies of my book(s)

  • three flare pens for signing handouts (business card, bookmarks, candy)

  • easel for display of larger items (newspaper reviews, photos)

  • money for making change

  • tax ID

  • name tag (people will still ask if you are the author)

  • centerpiece (flowers or framed photograph)

  • receipt for your payment

  • space assignment

2. You must arrive at the site at least one hour before opening to set up. Automobile traffic is heavy. Parking to unload (and take down) can be a real problem. If the fair is running more than one day, find out about security arrangements. Store all equipment as if rain is predicted. I have been at two-day fairs which required a complete breakdown, including my tent, at the end of the first day with reset the next.

3. Costs can be prohibitive. Most fairs offer a 10x10 space. Cost has to be weighed against location and expected foot traffic. Church fairs are very reasonable, $40-80 for one day, but crowds are moderate and unpredictable. Professional productions are quite expensive, $200-750 or more depending on location at the fair site, but foot traffic is usually heavy. Some fairs offer reduced cost for inside space. I prefer outside where traffic is usually heavier. I compute the number of books I have to sell to earn back my costs. My estimated sales for a church fair: 4-6 books per day. For a professional event: 20 per day. Consider sharing a spot with another author and split the cost.

4. Weather is always a problem, good or bad. I will work fairs from June to October on Cape Cod. Most fairs do not have rain dates and have a no-refund policy. Hot weather means more people at the beach, rainy weather means less people to browse. Cloudy, cool days are best. I have experienced backlashes of hurricanes with twenty-five to thirty mile per hour winds threatening to topple my tent, and I have experienced 80-90 degree temperatures which threatened to topple me.

Unlike other vendors who rely on customers to browse, book sellers must engage the people. After all, people can see and touch jewelry or stuffed animals, but they cannot tell what is between the covers of a book. They have to be sold. Remember that you are competing for dollars in that marketplace. If people stop at the tent, I ask them a question or offer a handout to draw them in, otherwise they move on. Humor is always effective, overly-aggressive behavior never.

The Yin:

I have met hundreds of nice people. In tourist areas, they come from miles away which is terrific for spreading the word about me and my books well beyond the local area. I have personally sold to people from all fifty states. People like the idea of talking to an author and getting a personal dedication. I am self published so I get to keep a larger share of the profit than from a bookstore or other vendor. A bust at one fair does not mean a bust an another, nor does a bust on one day man a bust on the next. I have sold as few as seven books in two days at one fair, and as many as fifty at another. Like any business, there is always another day of opportunity.

The Yin as I describe here seems shallow by comparison to the Yang. You must consider that it takes a lot of work to do it right, but you can minimize the risks and maximize the profits by paying attention to the Yin and Yang of craft fairs/shows.

Copyright 2006 John Prophet

John M. Prophet is the author of five Casey Miller mysteries. He chairs two writing groups at the Brooks Free Library in Harwich, MA; is an active member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators; and serves on the Harwich Cultural Council. John recently was awarded fourth place in the Writers Digest 74th Annual Writing Competition in the Genre Short Story category. He holds a Masters degree in Special Education from Boston University. He lives in Harwich on Cape Cod with his wife, Ellen. Visit his Web site at http://www.authorsden.com/johnprophet

A Jaded Affair

Now Available

A Jaded Affair, the fifth Casey Miller mystery
by John M. Prophet










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