Thursday, December 6, 2018

Books and Festivals

by Fran McNabb

From Labor Day through the Christmas holidays, festivals of all sorts dot the landscape of small towns and large cities as well. They range from art walks, fall festivals, auto events, Christmas events, and any other occasion that can draw a crowd. I have found that no matter what the reason for the event, there is always an audience of readers. They may not be at the event to search out authors and to buy books, but when they realize an author is among the booths, some will stop and talk. Some will buy a book, and some will take a card and promise to look the author up on the internet.

With the e-book rage starting ten or so years ago, I am always amazed and thankful to find readers who still want to have hand-held print copies. I love talking to these readers who will pick up your books, read the blurb, flip through the pages, and sometimes simply rub their hands across the cover or even take a sniff of the pages. These are people who love books, and as an author I can relate.

I have small pieces of acrylic art to go along with my nine novels. My painted pieces sometimes are the reason festival goers stop and look over my merchandise, and selling my art always helps the bottom line at the end of the day. But, selling books is my first love.

I usually do five or six festivals throughout the season. My favorites are the two-day or three-day indoor events because I can set up and forget about doing the physical work of putting up and taking down of my tent and carrying heavy tables. I can simply “nest” for several days and play, and I don't have to worry about the weather.

Are these festivals profitable for authors? I think they are, but there are a few things an author needs to think about before forking out big bucks for an event. The list below pulls together some of the things I have tried at events.

1. Choose events wisely. Most events will have readers attending, but some cater to them more than others. Art festivals draw crowds that seem to have quite a few readers, but I made a nice profit at an auto event this year. The author simply has to work harder to interact with crowd at non-arts events.

2. Is the event indoor or outdoor?  As I said earlier, I like indoor events for obvious reasons. Weather plays a big role in drawing event goers, but plays an even bigger role for the vendor when the merchandise such as books can be harmed by dampness or blown away by the wind.

3. Display is important. I have found that the less cluttered a display, the better. Event goers spend a
matter of seconds scanning booth displays. They must be able to distinguish what you are selling. Make the display attractive yet visible.

4. Make sure your tables are covered in solid colored cloths. You want your merchandise to stand out and not have to fight with patterned table covers and if possible stick to a theme. The picture on the side is my book display at a recent 3-day Christmas event.

5. Height is good. If you only have folding tables to use, add height by lining crates at the back of the table and covering them with a fabric that blends with your table cover.

6. Make buying easy. Make sure you carry enough small bills and change, but also offer a way to use credit cards. I have used the Square for years and have never had a problem. There are many companies on the market, but I love my Square.

7. Interaction is important. If possible, find a spot on the edge of your booth where you can talk to those who pass. I always ask people who catch my eye if they like to read. You’ll be surprised how many readers will stop after they are asked, but might not stop on their own.

I love doing festivals. If one is in your future, look on sites such as Pinterest to see how booths are set up and how merchandise is displayed. Most of all, have fun. I love talking about writing and books, and doing a festival gives me a great way to meet readers.

Note: Victoria Johnson should be ready to join the blog again on the first Thursday of January. Thank you, Victoria, for asking me to take your place. 

FRAN MCNABB lives along the Gulf Coast where there always seems to be a festival. She loves talking with anyone about her books which include nine clean-read romances. Her latest book is A SOLDIER’S HONOR. She'd love for you to drop by her website to check out her other books or contact her at


  1. Nice post, Fran, filled with good advice. I love the display table you used as an example. It was nice of you to fill in for Victoria. I've enjoyed all of your posts.

    1. Thanks, Sandy. I've loved filling in for Victoria, and do appreciate her asking me. Hope to see you here again soon.

  2. Hi Fran--
    What a brilliant way to meet readers and sell your books. I love your display with the lighted "Read" sign and tablecloth. Very eye-catching. Thank you for sharing your tips and for filling in to post.