What It’s Like Selling Your YA Fantasy Book At A Local Holiday Market: Tips, Tricks, & Lessons

This past holiday season, I had the pleasure of being a vendor at a local holiday market where I had Fire & Flight, the first book in my YA fantasy series, and Heirs of Tenebris trilogy-inspired book swag, available for purchase. As an introvert, putting myself out there to sell my books and spread the word has been quite the challenge, as I imagine it is for many of my fellow authors, so I thought I’d share my experience and a few tips I learned from my first two author events.

My set-up at the second holiday market

Now I know a local holiday market isn’t the traditional route for authors to take when it comes to selling their books, but there’s two main reasons why I chose a market full of other local businesses and artisans over a bookstore event (though I’m very excited about my upcoming appearance at an indie bookshop!). The first reason is quite simple: I’m an introvert. Whenever I think about author events, I immediately feel panicked by the thought of being “the main event.” But then I remembered another local author I had met at—you guessed it!—a market!

Here I was, shopping around a flea market a few years ago, merely months before I’d decided to publish Fire & Flight after a year or so of researching publication options and poof! there was a local author selling and signing books at this flea market. Ever since then, I’ve had this idea in the back of my mind as an option to explore for author events, especially as an indie author.

With that said, the second reason why I chose a holiday market over a “traditional” book event at a bookstore, is because bookstores are hard to get into. In all honesty a lot of my reservations about bookstore author events really stem from my fears of being “the main event” and also the thought of “what if no one shows up?” Those are some pretty terrifying things, especially as there are times when people just don’t show up, no matter how much marketing you do, and I think that’s certainly impacted my approach to bookstores (though I won’t give up on getting more things lined up)!

Another reason why I chose a holiday market is actually a good piece of advice I’d like to share. I LOVE holiday and craft markets, and I’ve been to many over the years with some being better than others. I chose this particular market because I knew I wouldn’t be the only one advertising it, as it was a pretty established market and hosted in an economic mecca over a local school/church/place where people wouldn’t already be inclined to go unless they were associated with it in some way. If you want to explore the possibly of an author event at a holiday/craft market, choose one whose organizers have a good following and advertise the event as well as boost their vendors! I know, I know, if I’m so introverted, how am I okay with posting all over social media or writing up a press release?

Well, it was a struggle to get to this point, but it’s starting to become second nature to me. Granted, I’m still introverted, but I’m beginning to embrace the self-promotion part of being an indie author, especially as I genuinely love connecting with other writers and potential readers, so that’s certainly helped break me out of my shell!

Don’t be afraid to create that Facebook event or blast it over your Instagram, but know where your audience is. Because this was a local event, I stuck mostly to Facebook and Instagram to help promote these two events, as that’s where most of my local following is and I knew it would be easier to get local attention than it would be on my Twitter and Tumblr, where most of my followers are either overseas or whose location/actual non-Tumblr identity is completely unknown to me. Alongside my posts, I re-shared stories from the organizers and tagged them in most of my posts to help let people know I would be there. So not only was I posting about it, but the event organizers were and they were sharing other vendors who were also posting about the event! It was marketing heaven for me because the success of my book signing wasn’t wholly dependent on me!

Thirdly, SIGNAGE IS YOUR FRIEND! This is a lesson I learned after five-straight hours of chatting, explaining, and connecting with people at the first market I attended. Once I explained who I was and what I was selling (the first book in my YA fantasy series and accompanying book swag), people were really interested! But by the end of that first day, my throat was so raw from speaking, I’d wished I had some sort of sign to break the ice. I did, however, have a tabletop sign in an acrylic stand with Fire & Flight’s synopsis and a QR Code to download the e-book if people preferred, though I had nothing that explained who I was, that I was a local author, and that I had copies of my book to sell and sign. And that’s what led me to ordering an expandable banner stand from a trade printer*. On it, I included my social media links (via QR Codes), excerpts from Fire & Flight’s synopsis, a plea for people to sign up for my newsletter, and a big headline that announces who I am and that I’m a local author. This not only helped to explain who I was at the second market, it also drew people in as they caught sight of it, though the amazing book swag created by my graphic artist did a really good job of that too!

Overall, I do think my first two author events were a success, and I’m eagerly looking forward to my first bookstore event on February 18th, so stay tuned for all the details! I was able to get a feel for selling my book (and myself to some extent) without feeling like there was an abundance of pressure on me to draw people in or like all of the attention was on me. Doing these two markets was not only a fun way to break the ice, but it was amazing to be able to interact with people, to swap some behind-the-scenes stories about my writing and the inspiration for Fire & Flight, and to realize how supportive my local community is if only I just put myself out there a little more.

I hope that these few tips and the things I learned can help other authors like myself. As nerve-wracking as it was to prepare for these markets (looking at you, card reader/e-commerce set-up pitfalls), I’m definitely keeping my eyes open for more opportunities like this, especially as I look toward setting up more bookstore events and local market appearances (with the possibly of publishing Fire & Flight’s sequel) in the coming year.

*I have connections marketing and have a background in the profession myself, so this resource had proven to be invaluable to me as an indie author! If you’re US based, check out 4over.com for your printed materials, though I should warn you, their site is a little hokey!