5 Tips for Selling Your Books at Events—on a Budget

Today’s guest post is by Chrys Fey (@ChrysFey), author of Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publication.

Being one of many authors at a book festival or signing event can be pricey when you add together the cost of the table, books, swag, travel, meals, and anything else the event requires of you. Sometimes it’s challenging to make back the cost of your books and the price of the table. So, finding cheap but cool things to use at book events is essential.

1. Create business cards for free ebooks

Do you have an ebook that’s permanently available for free at Amazon or another retailer? Create a business card with the cover on one side and the book’s tagline and a QR code on the other side. If you can fit it in, include a short review—just a few quoted words works great. Then hand out the cards to anyone and everyone who stops at your table or passes by. Let them know your ebook is free and that the QR code will take them right to the page to download.

With VistaPrint, you can get 500 standard business cards with color on the front and back for about $30—and they always offer promo codes for 20% off.

If you want to charge for your ebook

BookFunnel allows you to create unique codes so readers can download ebooks for free. Each code works for one reader. You can then use these codes as a way to allow readers to purchase your ebook at in-person events (they redeem the code any time after purchase, one-time use), or you can use codes as a free bonus for people who buy the print edition. Note: You have to be on BookFunnel’s MidList or higher pricing plans to generate codes. If you already use BookFunnel, then this isn’t an extra expense for you. Score! Go here for more information on BookFunnel’s Print Codes.

2. MailChimp Subscribe

If you have a newsletter, you can get verified subscribers by using a tablet and MailChimp Subscribe (for iOS and Android) that allows you to get email sign-ups when you’re offline. Then when you get Internet access, those subscriptions will be added automatically to your list. No more paper forms. No more worrying about being GDPR compliant, because you will be! This app takes care of all the hassle. In your newsletter’s subscriber’s list, you’ll be able to see the new sign-ups from your events, and the source will be listed as “MailChimp Subscribe.”

3. Square

An easy way to accept credit and debit card transactions at events is to use Square. It’s a device that plugs into your phone’s jack. The best part: you can these for free! All you have to do is sign up and they’ll send you one in the mail. Once you get it and plug it into your phone, you’ll have to sign in to get your account. And just like that you’re ready to go! FYI: There’s a small fee per credit card swipe, similar to PayPal fees.

4. Dollar Tree

My favorite store is Dollar Tree, where everything is a dollar, my favorite price tag. Surprisingly, they have great products. Their glassware and kitchen utensils are quality items, and I often get makeup, nail polish, and bath supplies there, too. And I get decorations for my book event table.

Part of my author logo involves sparks, a theme that carried over from my blog, and when Fourth of July came around, I found some cute star decorations at Dollar Tree that went perfectly with my theme. Once, I bought baggies of plain shells from Dollar Tree and painted them bright colors with black heart outlines and gave them away as swag. And my mom found felt Halloween stickers to complement her Halloween picture book. I always find neat items and use them for giveaways—coffee mugs, votive candle holders, and ceramic figurines.

Dollar Tree Book Event Table Décor Ideas

  • Flameless candles
  • Picture frames
  • Chalkboards/white boards (for prices)
  • Balloons
  • Artificial flowers and vases
  • Battery-operated string lights
  • Holiday and seasonal décor
  • Candy and candy dish
  • Kids’ toys (plastic handcuffs are perfect for crime writers)
  • Birthday party favors and décor

You never know what you’ll find at Dollar Tree until you go looking. If you don’t have one nearby, use their website where you can order in bulk.

5. Do-It-Yourself Swag

Swag can get expensive, especially if you order paper swag like bookmarks and postcards, as well as little gifts for your readers. Popular swag items include pens, magnets, keychains, and small notepads or Post-it notes. You can save a lot of money by making swag items yourself. Many of the materials needed for DIY projects can be bought in bulk, which is ideal when you need 50 to 100+ pieces of the same thing.

Coasters are a neat swag item that I’ve received from other authors and love to use. These are usually some type of thick cardstock, but Patricia Lynne shares how to make coasters out of tiles. On Patricia’s blog, she also explains how you can make your own magnets.

Other DIY Swag Ideas

  • Ornaments made out of old paperback book pages (books too beaten to donate).
  • Salt dough ornaments cut out with cookie cutters in the shape of something related to your book. There are cookie cutters in just about every shape, including mermaids, unicorns, crowns, and much more.
  • Write With FeyHand-painted rocks. Many cities have their own fun project that encourages residents to paint rocks and hide them in public for others to find, like Brevard Rocks. Why not use the inspiration for that to create hand-painted rocks for readers to take home and set in their garden? These stones can be palm-sized or small.
  • Buy pin backs to make your own pins/buttons.

No matter what you do at an event, or what you are offering as swag, or how you decorate your table, be proud of it and your books. That is key.

Your turn: What are your cheap and cool book event tips?

For more information like this check out Chry’s Fey’s Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publication.

Posted in Guest Post, Marketing & Promotion.

Chrys Fey is the author of Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publication. Catch the sparks you need to write, edit, publish, and market your book! From writing your novel to prepping for publication and beyond, you’ll find sparks on every page, including 100 bonus marketing tips. Fey is an editor for Dancing Lemur Press and runs the Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s Goodreads book club. She is also the author of the Disaster Crimes series. Visit her blog, Write with Fey, for more tips.

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Lakota Grace

What great practical and fun ideas!

Chrys Fey

Thank you, Lakota!

Frances Caballo

You have some wonderful ideas here, Chrys. I like the theme of this post … that pitching your books needn’t be expensive.

Chrys Fey

Thank you, Frances! I’m glad you liked the theme of the post. 🙂

Chrys Fey

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Jane! I am honored to be here and happy to share these tips. 🙂


Hi Jane – and Chrys … great to see you here imparting your ‘Sparks’ brightness. You have wonderful ideas … and I’m sure everyone will benefit from these tips – cheers Hilary

Chrys Fey

Thank you so much, Hilary! And thanks for stopping by and commenting. 🙂

Bette Stevens

Awesome tips! 🙂 Thanks for sharing…

Maureen Bonatch

Great ideas! Thank you!

Thonie Hevron

I love the Dollar Store ideas. I just found them after a short (very short) visit to Michael’s. I found a seasonal tablecloth to fit over my standard gray one, candy trays, candy (of course), fall leaves and plaques to decorate with. I really believe creating an attractive display is half the battle–to get the reader to the table. Great swag tips, too.

Chrys Fey

I love to experiment with my tables with decorations. It’s so much fun, and it looks neater than just have your books on the table…more eye-catching. I’m glad you liked the swag tips. 🙂

Sandra Wendel

PayPal offers a similar reader as Square, called PayPal Here. Links directly with your PayPal account. Their chip and swipe reader costs a few bucks but is worth it. (No, I don’t work for PayPal.) You can also lower your ebook price and gift books via Amazon to buyers of your paperback or as a promo when you’re speaking (sign up here with your email address). Lower your price when you gift and then raise the price back. Loved this topic, thanks.

Chrys Fey

I forgot that PayPal also offered a reader.

Thanks for the info, Sandra!

Nancy J Cohen

I like Dollar Tree to buy items as giveaways at my online launch parties. For example, I bought Halloween-themed items for a giveaway related to my latest Sept. 25 release and offered this prize along with two signed print books. The highest cost is postage to mail to the winner.

Chrys Fey

Hi, Nancy! Yes, mailing the prizes out is the thing that would cost more, but after getting the prizes from Dollar Tree, hopefully that means we have a few extra bucks to go toward shipping costs. 🙂

I love your tips! Thanks for sharing!

Chrys Fey

Thank you, Nancy!

[…] Jane Friedman asks: how much time should you spend building your author platform?, Chrys Fey shares how to do book events on a budget, Jane returns with a look at how preorder campaigns can help hone your book descriptions, and Amy […]

Jeffrey Pillow

I would second, third, and fourth the bookmark idea. A suggestion I’ve given authors I know are to order bookmarks that sum up your book, and include your website url, email address, and where your book can be purchased online (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s, etc.). Then, start with your local library in your town or city and hit up all the branches and see if they will display your bookmarks (to grab for free) when local residents come to check-out library books. While this approach can start locally, it can easily expand to reach a much larger audience by… Read more »

Izzy Quinn

thanks so much for this. But where do you find out about the events? Have been scouring online but only finding ones announced to attendees, far too late to participate in as seller.

Chrys Fey

Hi Izzy! You can find out about book events through writer friends online or locally. Where I live, there are groups I joined that hosts events every year. I found out about those groups through a writer I knew locally. You can also try Googling for events in your area. And check out the Insecure Writer’s Support Group website page for conference page: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/publications.html

Good luck!