Since my own experience was a learning curve on what not to do when selling books at events, here are five helpful tips from the wisdom of my rearview mirror:
- First, determine the distance and cost for driving to and from the event. If you take a ferry, factor in that cost too, before deciding whether or not to participate. Knowing this cost can help you determine how much to ask for your books. (I always want to give people a deal, and if you're in this boat, beware of costs you might miss.)
- Second calculate your gross sales for all the books you take. Deduct 15% or 30% from this number (or the percentage the event sponsers take from your sales); add the cost of your inventory, plus mileage costs and then decide if you still want to participate.
- Third (and this is the most important) write down the number of books for sale on a receipt. Take two copies of the receipt to the event; get them both signed. Keep one copy and clearly mark every book for for sale in a unique way. If possible, count the books carefully in front of the person who will sell them, and be sure to ask when you'll be paid for the books sold. Leave your name (clearly printed) and address for the check. Specify that you want the number of books that were sold, listed. It's interesting how long it can take to get a check for books sold. And it's not fun when a smaller check arrives without a number of book totals for sales. It's much better to hash out these business details before selling books.
- Fourth--inquire when you can expect payment. Also, ask what to do if your sales number doesn't match the event managers' accounting. (No one wants to go count receipts after an event is over.) It's up to the author to remember that book selling is a business; the state and Feds want to know how many books you sell.
- Fifth--pick up your books at the time specified; make sure you have all of your inventory, and get a signature on the number of books you pick up. Make sure this is the only inventory left and other books will be accounted for in sales.
Promising events can go south when you don't plan adequately. Checks received may be less than expected, no book totals are listed, or missing inventory turns up in other peoples' hands, and suddenly it's inconvenient for a recount. Line up all your ducks beforehand and you'll have less surprises.
The bottom line is this: If you don't treat your book like a business, no one else will either.