When the anthology, A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider first released in the spring of 2011, authors from across Canada participated in book signings and special launches in their local areas.
I especially enjoyed working with other authors to make the events successful, including a multi-author signing at Chapters in my hometown. But my favourite event wasn’t a book signing indoors…it was a book launch at the local farmer’s market — out of doors.
There are many things to consider when preparing for an outside event. For one thing, the weather plays a huge role. I’ve come up with 9 strategies to ensure your launch out-of-doors will be a success.
1. Set up an umbrella
Rain or shine, sleet or hail, an umbrella is a necessity. Not only does it draw attention to your display, but it works to protect yourself and your books from the elements. At our outdoor launch, we used a free-standing umbrella that was easy to position and re-position as necessary.
2. Team up with other vendors
Think co-operation, not competition. Find another vendor who would be interested in cross-promotion. For example, we displayed colourful peonies from a flower vendor and handed out his business cards when customers commented on the beauty of the fauna. The flower vendor, in turn, took a copy of our book and suggested to his customers what a wonderful gift a book and flowers would make.
3. Create an eye-catching display
With a book title like A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider it wasn’t hard to come up with a unique display. My launch partner filled a clear juice dispenser with apple juice but didn’t stop there. She added red, yellow and green apples along with cinnamon sticks to create a display that intrigued shoppers enough to make them stop to have a closer look. Once they stopped, we took the opportunity to invite them to have a cup of juice and told them about the book.
4. Offer a draw for a free gift
Everyone likes the chance to win something for nothing. Put together a pretty basket of goodies (the Dollar Store is a super resource) and create ballot tickets for a draw at the end of the day. Ensure that on the ballot there is room for their name and email address with the option to tick off a box if they’d like to be added to your mailing list.
Note: Do not put a copy of your book in the draw because some potential customers may not buy the book in the hopes of winning it instead.
5. Remember the Scout motto
Be prepared. Outdoor events have the element of surprise. Be prepared for whatever weather may pass by that day. Bring clips to attach the table cloth securely to the table. Bring paperweights to hold down any brochures, flyers, business cards or draw tickets. If offering goodies, always supply napkins and a garbage can for waste.
6. Apply the power of three
If you have the room, three tables are recommended — two small card tables and one larger table for the middle. Small table #1 can be used for the gift basket and draw box, as well as space for you to sit and sign books. The middle table can be used for your display of books. In honour of our book’s content, we also put up Canadian flags (that flapped in the wind), cinnamon sticks, business cards, and a bouquet of flowers. Small table #2 can be used to set up for food and drinks. We used the eye-catching display of apple juice and homemade apple cookies.
7. Have a seat
In addition to a chair for yourself to sign books (and rest when weary), chairs for your customers are a welcome addition. Customers can enjoy a refreshment while browsing through your book.
8. Offer sales and discounts
Like a free draw, customers love a bargain. Create a sign that states: Today Only! Buy one book get the second half price. Suggest ways they could use the book; a birthday gift, Christmas, graduation, Father’s Day etc.
9. Play soothing music
Although an outdoor venue can be loud, gentle instrumental music in the background can help set the mood. We were fortunate to have a man set up his display directly across from ours, with an open guitar case and he played all afternoon. At the end of the day, we rewarded him with a few coins in his case and a free book.
Now all you need to do is choose a venue, pick a date, and get out there to enjoy the great outdoors!