It’s that time of year again! By that I mean – CHRISTMAS!
HOW IS IT ALREADY NOVEMBER AHHH! And oh dear, it’s almost the end of the decade too. Where are the years going??
This is my third time doing the Festival of Crafts. Last year, I did an extraordinary amount of show prep that made this year easier. I already knew what my space would look like. I completed my fireproofing, much harder this year when you have two kitties who want to know what you’re doing in the bathroom with tasty chemicals. I made my meals for four days and did a grocery shop for snacks.
I felt fairly blasé about rolling in and setting up. The first year, I was so nervous. The second year, I was proud and excited about my improvements. This year, I was overly optimistic about my potential sales and dreading the beginning of the aggressive Christmas schedule I’ve created for myself.
Thank you to Dave who endures and accommodates the many boxies and helps out with my set up and take down.
This is essentially the same display as last year, except more filled out because of my two new titles. I also rolled out my Sparkstone Saga banner, finally! I bought an extra box set from Michaels for more shelf impact, and a light up whiteboard as a fun prop. The booth looked very well appointed, if I do say so myself – if not TOO busy! There really is a lot going on.
I also had a display board printed advertising my podcast – it turned out quite well! Though it was quite large. I like the idea of doing this for some of my more permanent informational displays, as they seem somewhat more durable than my plastic stands.
I rolled my fabrics after fireproofing and drying as an exhibitor last year recommended, but I still have wrinkles! I think maybe ironing them with a towel might be the answer? Do I even own an iron…? I’m tellin’ ya, this fabric maintenance is my least favourite part of selling at craft shows, sigh.
One piece of my display that still needs improvement is lighting! I got lucky this time – I was under a light. I know, I should really just pull the trigger on some clamp lights I’ve been eying. Especially since I have three more big Christmas shows to go!
I’ve been quietly working on my newsletter strategy and for the first time I’m using my laptop-tablet to capture email addresses. In the past, I’d put out a paper sheet, but at the end of the show, the list was so daunting and often illegible that I often never ended up inserting the interested parties into my system. Yikes!
For this, I just created an excel spreadsheet for people to enter their names and emails. Then, after the show, I exported the list and inserted it into the system. Easy!
I even created an opt-in – an eBook version of book one of Wingtorn, my fantasy serial podcast. But I don’t think I even needed this. People who put themselves on my list at a show are already warm to me from having a conversation.
But if you would like this eBook, you are more than welcome. ” />
I did well – this show is great, the shoppers are great, and my readers are incredibly loyal and amazing. But I didn’t reach my sales goals, and I was actually down slightly from last year—despite having TWO new titles.
Here’s why I think that is:
- Remembrance Day Weekend. This year, November 11 fell on a Monday. International readers may not realize that Remembrance Day is a somber holiday that recognizes the sacrifices of veterans in past wars as well as people currently in service. It’s oddly placed in the Canadian mental calendar in that we’re just getting over Halloween, and suddenly Christmas music is blaring and decorations are for sale, but going all out on Christmas before Remembrance Day is generally considered disrespectful and tactless, from a retail point of view. In fact, many shoppers weren’t even thinking about their Christmas shopping when I spoke with them – they were browsing booths for themselves. Considering that this is technically a holiday show, and we as vendors are expecting/hoping customers are thinking about buying gifts, this impacts sales greatly.
- Competition with other markets. Calgary has a bajillion holiday markets! Again, people have lots of time before Christmas (so we all think!) to shop around. I had more than one person ask me if I had any other local markets on my schedule.
- Sunday snow. Saturday evening and Sunday morning, we had a dump of snow. Not as much as they were forecasting (10-20 cm) but enough that it deterred morning shoppers. Although, as one of my booth neighbours pointed out, people may be at church on Sunday morning. It did pick up after noon, so perhaps both factors contributed! Doing shows during the winter is always a risk – but one worth taking.
- Expectations. I had wildly high expectations for this show, and set aggressive goals accordingly. So when I don’t meet them, I feel disappointed.
Many customers paid via credit or debit, not cash – that’s usually a sign that they aren’t necessarily on a budget, so that was not a contributing factor in my mind.
This is just further proof that more books do not equal more sales—at least not in a one-to-one correlation. This is only my third year doing the show, and I’m still getting new customers who have never seen my booth before.
Title-wise, Stars In Her Eyes made a strong showing at this show! Gear and Sea did well too, since it’s an easy sell and impulse buy, but Stars In Her Eyes really took the cake here. According to my past data, book one of whatever series I launch a new book in has a spike in sales for the year—so naturally, as Darkness In Her Reach is FINALLY OUT, Stars In Her Eyes is currently seeing that bump. I sold a fair number of The Violet Fox bundles and my two for thirty deal continues to be the driving force behind my sales.
This show, so far, is my highest grossing of the year. I did well! It just didn’t meet my (very high) expectations. It’ll be interesting to see how I do at Turner’s in two weeks, as last year, these two shows were neck-in-neck for me.
I had many funny and strange interactions at this show.
On the first day, an older man entered my booth and we were chatting about books, and he said, “My granddaughter is into writing, but there’s no money in it.”
“I beg to differ,” I replied, gesturing to the space I paid several hundred dollars for, knowing that I can (fairly confidently, at the very least, baring terrible weather or outside influence) triple my investment.
While I tried to explain, as much as I can in my limited time with any one customer, my perspective, he continued to believe that while his granddaughter could write, perhaps it was not the best choice of career.
Yes, this is a difficult business with thin margins (especially traditional publishing)—but saying there’s no money in it is not only wrong, it creates a mindset that makes it acceptable to make no money. Which makes it easier for others to take advantage of you, or for you to undervalue yourself.
A book is a product like any other. If you price it right, build your audience, and sell smart – you can make money. And like anything else, it takes hard work and time to grow it into a sustainable business, should you choose to do so.
I had far more people ask me this year if I self-publish, or if I publish other people. Some are trying to test my knowledge or sneakily inquire about my sales or evaluate my worth by listening to how I got into publishing. Others are just impressed that I’m “so young” to have nine books! One woman thought I was in my late teens! For the record, at the time of writing, I am thirty-one.
A woman approached my booth, and without preamble, asked, “How are your sales going?”
“Oh, good,” I replied, a little blindsided—as other shoppers tend to be far more tactful in their wording of this question.
She proceeded, “Are you renowned?”
Now I was even more stunned. How often to you hear that word spoken aloud? I had to repeat the question to ensure I’d heard correctly. I rattled off a very noncommittal answer about how building an audience is a process but my progression has been favourable.
Then, the final nail in the coffin: “Are you a witch?”
Oh, I thought, okay, this is our destination. It’s not the first time the name or look of the brand has given the mistaken impression that I have New Age products on offer. I gave a polite answer and explained that I sell teen fantasy and science fiction novels. This successfully curtailed further questions.
A young girl approached my booth and excitedly interacted with all my books. She immediately wanted Stars In Her Eyes, and informed her mother. She gave the typical winking response (“Well, Christmas is coming…”). When her mother told her it was time to go, the girl said, very seriously, “This is heaven. I don’t want to leave.”
It took some convincing! But let’s just say, the mother ended up returning, and that girl is going to have a happy surprise on Christmas morning. ” />
I was beside Like Grampa, a company that sells beard oil and other shaving balms, and across from Hot Dame, a clothing line run by two sisters. It was great to be among other entrepreneurs who are around my age, who are pursuing their passions. Chatting with them, it’s like I can see my path. All I have to do is X, then Y, then Z, and then, I will be even more successful. It’s like I’m staring at a formula on a chalkboard, and it all magically makes sense. This feeling doesn’t last long outside the show—keeping that inspiration to move forward after marinating, that’s the tricky part.
On a non-business note, we went out with some friends for ramen over the weekend for Dave’s birthday celebration, and ended up playing the TIME Stories board game (my favourite!) and sipping Chinese whiskey. It was delightful to spend time after work (ah!) doing something normal with friends.
Thank you to all my friends who stopped by to say hi at the booth!!
Hal-Con Mini Post-Mortem
A couple of weekends ago, my sister did Hal-Con in Halifax for me! This is what, the seventh year Faery Ink Press has done the show? (LOOK AT THOSE WINGS!)
Unfortunately, it was a record bad year for sales. Why? They placed the authors outside the main vendor hall, along with the artist guests. Traffic was apparently extremely low in that area, compared to the main hall. Maybe people didn’t know there were artists outside the hall?
I love Hal-Con, and they are one of the best-run shows in the country – but that’s why I’m giving them tough love here.
There are a lot of cons for putting all of the authors together in one row—I’m personally not a fan. It’s tough to get people to browse an all-book aisle (unless they LOVE books – but then it’s immediately a competition for the reader’s dollar). The artist guests, as talented and great as they are, will not drive traffic to the area either. I’ve seen Hal-Con use this logic before with similar results. Remember, guests can come and go as they please, and often, they don’t have impactful displays. They are not necessarily there to sell (though it depends on the guest), and if they’re not there making an impact, the attendee is probably not going to meander down that row, unless they know that artist’s work. For this reason, being across from the artist guests can be a blessing or a curse.
Remember the year I was an artist guest, and they put us in the weirdest spot, and my readers had to go all over the building just to find me? Remember the year when they put all the artist guests and half the artists in a separate room on a different floor?
I feel like they have less of an excuse now for strange placement choices, with the new, hopefully less confusing building? (I have not actually been inside yet).
Will Faery Ink Press return to Hal-Con? I don’t know. It’s clear to me that I require a large booth, and shoving nine titles into a 6 or 8ft table is no longer feasible. So if I do return, I will spring for the vendor booth to ensure visibility – and maybe it’s time I yet again make a personal appearance.
Will I Go Back?
If they’ll have me, I’ll be back at the Festival of Crafts! Since I live here, I can maximize the show easily.
As I hinted at the beginning, I have an aggressive Christmas/holiday show schedule. I’ll be at Turner’s in Moncton from Nov 22-24, then the Butterdome (ee!) in Edmonton from Nov 28-December 1, and finally the Signatures Show in Winnipeg from December 5-8.
I’m literally cross-crossing the country. THIS IS FINE. See you there!