Working the Crowd–How to Survive and Thrive Staffing a Booth


Way back in my past life as a corporate marketer, I usually was responsible for the trade shows. That meant everything from buying the booth itself to determining the graphics and the hand-out materials/swag to briefing the sales people on how to do a booth, or being the person at the booth.

Fast forward, and I find that booths are back in my life–this time, selling books. With DragonCon right around the corner, booths are very much on my mind since I’ll be one of 17 authors in the Tairen’s Lair/Author’s Lair booth in the vendor room.

FB Tairens LareThere really are some tried-and-true bits of wisdom to make your booth time more successful. Here are some tips:

  1. Wear comfortable shoes. Vendor rooms have concrete floors, and they’re hell on your knees and back.
  2. Stand as much as you can. You’ll attract more people, find it easier to chat, and convey more energy.
  3. Try not to eat in your booth, and if you have no choice except to grab a quick bite at your table, keep the food out of sight. You don’t want to either spill something on the merchandise or have people not approach the table because they don’t want to disturb your lunch. And it doesn’t look as good to have half-eaten food sitting around, just saying.
  4. Make the booth attractive. Use banners and signs with your cover art. Lay out your books in neat piles, or use racks. Have your free swag, bookmarks, candy, buttons, etc. sitting out and visible. If you’re doing a drawing, make it prominent. Make your merchandise inviting to touch.
  5. Smile–a lot. At everyone. Catch the eye of passers-by. Invite people in. Don’t leave their approach to chance.
  6. Read the attendee’s nametag. Use the person’s name. Ask questions about what they like to read, how they’re enjoying the con, what they think of the weather, etc. Get them engaging with you.
  7. Hand them the merchandise. Studies show people are much more likely to buy something when they have handled it.
  8. Know when to shut up. If the person is clearly reading the back of your book, give them a moment in silence to do it. Don’t babble. But it’s perfectly ok to follow up by asking if they have any questions.
  9. Offer a freebie like a bookmark. Giving first creates goodwill.
  10. Have a way to get them to sign up for your newsletter. Drawings for anything except a copy of your book is a good incentive. Or have a perma-free short story/book that every new sign-up gets as a thank-you.
  11. Be at the booth as much as you can. Books don’t sell themselves. People want to meet the author, have a personal experience with you, have you sign the book.
  12. Have a one- or two-line snappy recap for each book. Keep it short, and make it exciting.
  13. Dress for the event. Show that you are part of the fandom, even if it’s your choice of jewelry, the style of clothing, the t-shirt saying, etc. Make it clear this is your tribe.
  14. Engage. Make eye contact. Be as charming as you’ve got it in you to be. Put your best foot forward. Be your best self. For the moment you’re interacting with that person, make them feel like the only person in the world.
  15. Be conversational, even when you’re giving your book pitches. Try not to sound memorized. Make each person feel like he/she is the first person you’ve talked with all day.
  16. Ask for the sale. ‘Would you like me to ring that up for you?’ ‘Will that be cash, check, credit card or PayPal?’
  17. Upsell. ‘If you buy the whole series, you save $10.’ ‘Would you like to get book 2 while you’re here? It’ll save you an extra trip!’
  18. If they don’t buy right then, make sure they take a card. If you are limited on stock, let them know. People can’t buy everything they want when they want it. I’ve had a lot of people buy later because they had a card/bookmark. Be nice, let them go gracefully.
  19. Back up your booth neighbors when they need a break.
  20. Approach working the booth as a game. If you’re having fun, you automatically attract people.

Modern Magic Front Cover 2If you’re going to DragonCon, come see me!  I’m on a dozen panels including a Broad Universe reading, and I’ll be in the booth when I’m not paneling. I’ll also have signings at Larry Smith Books and The Missing Volume. Watch my Facebook page for the full schedule.Bloodlines

ALSO! Modern Magic, 12 full books by 13 bestselling dark urban fantasy authors in an ebook boxed set for $1.99 is only available until 9/30! So grab it now! It’s the only place to find my Trifles and Folly collection of 10 Deadly Curiosities Adventures short stories.

AND–Hath No Fury, an anthology of epic fantasy featuring kick-ass female characters from Ragnarok Publishing, is on Kickstarter through 9/7. It will feature an origin story about Kestel Falke, the courtesan/assassin/spy from the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga.Hath_No_Fury-1024x576_KSgraphic

FUTHERMORE–Bloodlines is the newest Deadly Curiosities Adventure–a perfect read for the last bit of summer!

See you in Atlanta!



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