Are the Skulls for sale? Helpful advice for NEHW members.
by Rob Watts
Author Rob Watts autographing his novel, Huldufólk, for a fan. Photo by Jason Harris.
For almost a year now, I’ve attended just about every, if not all NEHW signing events. In addition to my own scheduled appearances, I feel the various offered events that are hosted by the NEHW are a valuable resource for an independently published author and anyone who hasn’t taken advantage of them is sadly missing out. In addition to gaining exposure and promoting your work, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to spend time with the friends you make through the organization as well as creating new friendships along the way.
As a frequent guest of these events, I have learned a thing or two about people’s’ reactions to our presence at some events. Most people love us, and it has nothing to do with the fact that we are so frigging cool, but more-so due to the fact that we are a unique brand. In a sea of repetitiveness, we fully stand out amongst the jewelry booths, the handbags, the jam counters and the birdhouses. When people approach our booth, they are pleasantly surprised to discover that we are the authors of the work in front of them. They are even more thrilled when we offer to sign their books for them personally. There is something to be said for making someone’s day without so much as breaking a sweat.
If you are planning on attending a future event or even if you are relatively new to the scene, here are a handful of tips to keep in mind when spending the day at the NEHW booth/tent.
First of all, try to make every effort to be on time. If an event begins at 10:00 a.m., try to be there then or a little bit before. The reason for this is simple; it makes setting up our display easier. Space on the table is limited and the earlier that the display can be set-up, the better organized it will look. It can get a little crazy when visitors approach the booth and books are still being set up in front of them.
Keep the front of our booth clear. Nothing keeps visitors away more than cluttered table. Keep the conversation and socializing behind the booth or in a more open common area. You want a visitor and potential buyer to feel comfortable and invited to approach our booth. I know when I see too many people in front of a table I keep walking. I have seen if for myself at these
events as well.
No Book Blocking! What is book blocking? Book blocking is when a visitor may be showing signs of interest in one author’s book and a fellow author or guest of the author intervenes to talk up their own book. This is a huge no-no at events and is greatly frowned upon. I’m not saying it happens a lot, but I have seen it once or twice and it warrants illustrating. There is plenty of opportunity for authors to make sales throughout the day. There is no need to prevent a fellow author from making a sale, especially if it’s their only sale that day.
Keep food and drinks off the table space. We don’t want anyone’s books getting damaged by spilled sodas or pizza sauce.
Don’t complain that you didn’t do well at an event. Every event is different. Some are well-attended, some not so much. There isn’t a science to this, it just pans out that way. How well your book does is entirely up to the author. You might sell one book, you might sell five. You may even walk away with no sales that particular day, but there is no one to blame for that. It’s the chance you take when going out to promote your book. I’ll admit, the NEHW had a touch of a dry spell during the last couple of events, but this past weekend in Middletown, CT. we made up for that dry spell and then some. Every author sold multiple books and walked away feeling good about the day. But when it doesn’t go so well, it’s no one’s fault. You’re only making yourself look bad when you whine about not doing so well at an event. The events aren’t booked with the promise of stellar book sales. It’s just a venue and opportunity for you to promote your work. How well your book does is entirely up to you. Spending the entire time at the event increases your chances of sales as well, so it’s best to devote the day to promoting your book.
Learn about your fellow authors and their work. The one thing I’ve always admired about the authors I spend the day with is the fact that it’s a team effort. If a visitor asks for a book about zombies, then we will direct them to a certain author’s book. If they are looking for young adult, then we’ll direct them to another. It’s helpful to know who writes what so we can be supportive of our fellow authors. If they want my book, then of course I’m happy. But if they are looking for something completely different from what I have, then I’m more than happy to direct them to someone else’s work that they might enjoy.
Keep in mind that space is limited. Most times we are working in a 4×8 space at indoor events. That’s enough room for two chairs behind the table and the rest of us are standing behind or near the booth. Keep this in mind when attending events. We don’t want a cluttered appearance and we certainly don’t want to take room away from a potential book buyer. The outdoor events are bit more flexible on space because of the open area, but indoor venues are almost guaranteed to be small and cramped. A good rule of thumb is to check with the (NEHW) event coordinator ahead of time to see how much space is available before inviting friends or family to join you at the event.
Show appreciation for the coordinator(s) for that event. In addition to being thoughtful and considerate towards the actual venue (we want to be invited back), you should also take a moment to think about the hard work that goes into being a part of the day’s festivities. Whether it’s Jason or Stacey, Scott, Tracy, T.J., et cetera, a lot of their personal time and effort goes into setting these events up. They are not getting paid to wake up at the crack of ass, pack up their personal vehicles with supplies, materials, food and drinks and so on. They do it for the benefit of the NEHW and its members. So give them a show of appreciation by saying thank you. Perhaps even hang around after the event to help break down the area. I’ll tell you first hand that that EZ up and down tent isn’t all that easy and after a 6 to 8 hour day out in the sun, breaking down that thing is the last thing anyone wants to do. But it has to be done and the more hands available, the quicker and easier it will be and everyone can get on their way. In short, make yourself available as best you can. It goes a long way with the people that busted their hump to set the day up.
Author and NEHW Co-chair Stacey Longo signing a copy of Pookie and the Lost and Found Friend for a fan. Photo by Rob Watts.
Lastly, there are five questions that have and will be asked at every single event. To help you feel welcome and part of the team, memorize the five questions and answers and you’ll be a pro before the end of your first event. Good luck!
- Are the skulls for sale? No, they are only there for decoration, but if you’d like to buy one, you might want to try the fish tank aisle at Walmart. That’s where this skull was purchased.
- Do you have any children’s books? Yes, as a matter of fact we do. We currently have Pookie and the Lost and Found Friend by Stacey Longo, and Good Night Fright by Kimberly Dalton.
- Are you a publishing company? No, we are an organization of New England area authors, illustrators, screenwriters, publishers, et cetera. We attend these various events to help get our name out, and it’s a good opportunity for us to meet other writers and spend the day together.
- My son/daughter is a writer and he/she would absolutely love your group. Can he/she contact you? Yes, you can take one of our NEHW cards or flyers and have them contact us via the website. We also have a Facebook page that they can join which is a great way to communicate with other members.
- Are you crazy because you write horror? Yes, we are all clinically insane and you should purchase our books to avoid any certifiable behavior that may come on as a result of you walking away from our booth empty handed.
Got all that?