marketing for the self-publisher using craft, art, and book fairs

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Small Publishers Association of North America

Issue 8/2006

Marketing Through Craft Fairs

It’s early September; my book is officially published; and I’m focused on marketing/distribution. I’ve been giving a lot of books away, and I’ve been selling some books. I’m visiting bookstores and coffee houses, and gift stores in person now—no more of that “telephone” stuff for me. I haven’t had much luck with e-mail either. The people on the receiving end are very nice, but they don’t respond back. I’m having to follow up with every one of them. Make sure you create some sort of tickler so you can do that efficiently. So far, I’ve put mine on index cards—I haven’t come up with a better method yet, so I’m sticking with what I’m doing.

But here’s something you should think about. I’ve always considered local gift shops as potential outlets for my books—particularly those that sell books. Shortly after I received my books by freight, a dear friend—who believes implicitly in my work—went to one of her favorite gift shops here on the Coast and broached the subject of carrying my book. As it turns out, the proprietress sells all Mississippi-made products and was hosting an “all-Mississippi” arts fair, three weeks from the time of my friend’s query. The store owner was interested in my selling my books at the show (It definitely fit the criteria as a home-grown product). She was also interested in carrying my books in her store.

I don’t know how many of my books have sold in her store—I need to check, but I sold thirty-two books at the craft fair and was extremely happy. I intend to participate in similar outlets for a while yet to come. Some fairs are very expensive—that’s when it’s good for several people to pitch in and purchase one booth. But there are other fairs—and flea markets—which are not expensive at all. Remember, (assuming you’re like me) your print runs are small compared to those of a large New York publisher. In my case, I’ve got 2077 books to move—not 30,000. Many of those 30,000 will probably end up returns and be destroyed. My books might be returned, but they won’t be destroyed, then forgotten). In other words, I’ve got a manageable inventory and no deadline to move them. Being self-published, I don’t have to worry about getting all potential buyers into the store in a 3-4 week period. Selling a handful of books at places such as book fairs/craft fairs is doable—and they can be fun.

If you go this route—make sure you a state sale’s tax license (sometimes officials walk around and check that you have one). Then get out there and sell your stuff.

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