We did it again!
We set up the bookstall and had a ball. Buoyed by the success of our bookstall at the Resident Welfare Diwali Fair in 2022, a group of indie and small press authors got together again this year.
We followed our tested path with a few embellishments. You can read about our process in this update from 2022. My purpose in writing these posts is to share my experience organizing such stalls. Indie and small-press authors have limited opportunities to display their works. If we pool our resources (books and a bit of money), we can build this low-cost marketing strategy to find new readers.
In this post, I will be talking about what we did differently and some hard numbers, followed by a brief insight into my thoughts on what the Indian readers in my nook of the world are looking for.
Let us start with some fun stuff. I wanted to jazz up the book displays without increasing the budget and thus the cost per author of setting up the stall. Pinterest came to the rescue here. I found several Do it yourself (DIY) ideas on book stands. After some trials, I gave the one shown in the pic a final go. Once the design and mechanics were decided, making the stands was an assembly line production of measuring and cutting cardboard.
We are in an Insta-crazy world, so I needed something to attract and leave readers/visitors to our stall happy. Back to the drawing board, and viola, we have our selfie board with help from Canva graphics. This was also made from cardboard and gift-wrapping paper. Everyone wanted a click whether they bought a book or not.
Anyone who reads knows the myriad emotions conveyed with the tapestry of words the authors weave in their works. I wanted to create something to depict this aspect. What better way than to use smilies? We created a banner using uncommon emoticons. What do you think of this effort?
These simple hacks were a bit tough to create but pumped enough ‘joy’ hormones into us to carry over to the exhibition days. Our efforts were rewarded when we won the ‘Best Stall Award’ out of thirty-six stalls at the fair.
Now, to the nitty-gritty of the numbers. Twenty-seven authors joined hands to offer forty-three different books at the stall. Maximum contributions were for poetry and romance. However, the sales present a different picture, as you can see from the second chart. Overall, we were able to sell fifty-five per cent of our stock. I have no comparison to such metrics from other places. If you know such numbers, please share in the comments to this post.
While it is heartening to see young readers still picking books in this age of digital distraction, what these numbers don’t show is the lack of reading when children grow up into adults. Almost all visitors to our stall in the 30-50 years age group were not reading at present or had not read a book in a long time. Those few who read wanted thriller or Sci-fi works.
Amongst children (8-16 years), many requests were there for fantasy and books with magic. (Harry Potter still rules 🙄). Though we did not have these genres of children’s books, we were still sold out by the middle of the second day of the fair. (90%)
The young adult (16-18- 20 years) had a wide taste ranging from fantasy to sci-fi and thrillers. Some even checked out the self-help books. We sold four non-fiction books to this group. YA romance authors note that this age group still has romantic hearts in their eyes. 😍
The older visitors (>50 years of age) to our stall were looking for historical fiction, philosophical, and spiritual books.
Before I go on and share my insights based on reader interactions, I want to remind you all these are thoughts. Not opinions or judgments.
We did have decent numbers in the self-help category, but the readers selected the book based on their connection with the author. This could be the profession or age of the author. The blurbs should reflect why you are the right person to write about the topic and why you wrote the non-fiction/ self-help book. Blurbs without a straightforward way to identify the audience were a hard sell.
Coming to the largest genre of books worldwide, i.e. 'romance.' As noted before, the most demand for these books was from the 16-20 years crowd. The stories picked up by the visiting readers were in the romantic-comedy subgenre.
Similar to our experience last year, people are not reading poetry nowadays. However, there is hope. One young visitor exclusively asked for poetry books because they write poems. Another bought a book to find quotes for their Insta posts. 😲
This made me ponder on how to sell the poetry works. I recall one instance last year where a poet had shared beautiful hand-painted merch with their books. Visitors picked these copies as gift items. Another idea from a discussion with a visitor was having themed poetry books. The one I read this year was based on war poems. Perhaps having a central theme like love or grief or a topic can help. This will help set a mood for the book with which a reader can easily identify. I would love to hear about your experiences with poetry books.
Setting up a books stall is a challenging task, but the returns are worth the hassle. A smile on a reader, talking to visitors and sharing a mutual love of books, even if anecdotal, is the fuel that keeps me going. I hope to do this again next year. First, though, I need to find my fantasy, children's and YA books.
I leave you with a glimpse of the books on offer at our stall this year. Check out these wonderful reads. I hope to see more indie and small-press authors come forward next year around this time.
Let us get our books to where they belong- in the hands of the readers.