Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Selling Your Handmade Books: A Craft Fair Detour

Well, it's Tuesday again. Hooray! Right?

So, I've slacked off and haven't prepared anything but I'll make up for it next week. So here goes....

I have been thinking about craft fairs, as that season seems to be upon us and I know that some of you have never ventured into the craft fair world and some of you are experts at this point. BEST members have had some great discussion going on about craft fairs and I thought I'd add a bit to it. So...this is the first in a two part series on craft fairs before we get back to selling in our Etsy shops.

I know several people who make their living from summertime craft fairs. It seems so ideal to me: Spend 9 months at home making things to sell and then spend 3 months traveling from craft fair to craft fair selling your wares. Do what you love, travel, meet new people, see new places and get paid for it!

Well, I quickly found out that the craft fair world is quite different than selling anywhere else. It takes a lot of preparation and research. So...today, I'm giving you tips and resources for selling your handmade goods in the craft fair market and next week I'll be back with more tidbits on craft fairs.

From my own craft fair experience, I would suggest one thing to a beginner and I'm sure all the festival veterans will agree: Do not base your opinion of craft festivals on one simple craft fair. In order to really get a taste of it and how you might do, it's probably best to do several and see what works for you and your products.

Having a calendar full of craft fairs can really boost your business. I know that I would not have been prepared for my awesome Etsy shop sells in December if I had not prepared with inventory for craft fairs in the Autumn.

So how do you even find a craft fair to go to?

Here are 5 Ways to find craft fairs:

1- Online Event Lists

http://festivalnet.com - United States Craft Fairs by location. It costs money, BUT if you come across a site like this that has the title/location of the event, you can google it to find the actual site of the event and learn more about it. It takes more time on your part to do a google search but it's FREE!
Click here to see an Etsy Forum Post with a ton of craft fair list options written by CrookedSister.
Clockworkfantastica of Etsy also started a craft fair list for Canada. Make sure to read through the post for more and add your own if you know of one!

2- Craigslist.org has events for your part of the world. Check them out for local craft and art fairs.

Another thing to look for is events that aren't really marketed as arts and craft festivals but maybe some other big event. In my little corner of the world we have rodeos, a city festival and a cowboy poetry weekend. All these events offer booth space (and what better place to sell a rustic leather journal than a cowboy poetry festival?)

3- Check your local newspaper, radio and television websites. They often have calendars of events in your area.

4- You can also check with your city/county/state travel and business bureaus. They have a super long list!

5- And the best way to find great craft fairs? Talk to other artists. Ask around and find someone who has done a few and can let you in on the ones that would be great for your products, and the craft fairs you should avoid.

I've found the festivals I want to show my books at. Now what?

Now find out if you can make enough inventory for that particular show. So, how many books do you really need to create to sell at the event? A lot. I've talked with a few people who run festivals and I've gotten feedback on at least $5,000 - $10,000 in products. If your book prices are around $25 then you'd need at least 200 books. Remember that this is not a must do but rather a recommendation for selling your best.

Have you ever seen one of those stores that has only 3 dresses in it and the whole store space is completely empty besides those three dresses? I've seen jewelry stores like this too with only one small case. I never-ever go into them or if I did, I probably wouldn't buy anything. To really draw people in, you want a variety of items for the customer to choose from. People like to browse, explore and make great finds. Allowing someone to find that perfect journal from your large inventory of books will ensure a happy customer that will walk away with a great purchase that they "found".

I use baskets on my tables, they're great for traveling as I can have them set up in the baskets and just place the basket on the table for people to sort through. We'll talk more about displays next week but for now, try and understand that if you don't have enough inventory to fill your booth space, you probably should not sign up for the craft fair. Instead, keep working on inventory so a future craft fair will go better for you.

Does 200 books seem a little daunting? You might want to start out with a small local craft fair and work on your inventory. Maybe only one large craft fair a year or every other year would suit you.

Even if you do smaller craft fairs though, try and remember to stalk your space as much as you possibly can. Don't expect to walk away with $2000 dollars in profits when your table only has $200 of inventory.

These are $20 Journals and I can fit about 36 in this basket which is $720 worth. 

When you sign up for a craft show, you might want to ask the event coordinator how much inventory you should bring. A good rule of thumb is to bring more than you have display space for, even just an extra little basket of books that sits under the table is great. This can be used to fill the spaces in when books sell.

In part two, next week we'll talk about Craft fair to-do and do-nots with a few special guests!


Antico Valore said...

oh thank you! This is a wonderful post!
What about Italy? Someone can help me?


Lizzie said...

This is a very helpful post! Thanks for taking the time to put it together. I have thought about doing a small, local event or two, but have been unsure about the amount of stock I would need, etc etc. I see that I was right to worry, but your advice about building up an inventory of stock for later shows, is very encouraging.
I love your basket display idea.
Does everyone leave their stock un-wrapped for display? I would worry it would get spoiled.

DangAndBlast! said...

Where on Craigslist would one find out about such things? (Not too familiar with it.) I only do the book fair at the Museum of Printing History in town (Houston), but doing more (if I ever find time to make more) is intriguing.

Sarah Richardson said...

Great post! Can't even tell it was off the cuff. :)

I've really only done one kind of small print fair in my town (although I do it every year) and I've been thinking of expanding to more. More information like this would be really helpful as I'm deciding.

Parkside Harmony said...

Great post Karleigh Jae! I'm still a few years away from having enough stock to do a show.

One small thing that I am doing to help build stock- I glue extra boards every time I glue. I'm slowly building up an inventory of wrapped covered boards that can be made into books once I'm ready. It helps me feel like I'm moving toward my goal.

Looking forward to next weeks post!! :D

Ruth said...

this is great - I've read lots of craft fair advice online, but I love that this is tailored to us booksellers.

One thing I do to keep things manageable is I use the plastic bins (about 4x the size of a shoebox) that I bring my all of my stock in as risers on the table underneath the tablecloth - I got the bins (5 of them) at staples and they stack nicely on my little Magna-Cart moving trolley.

PrairiePeasant said...

Although I haven't done any craft fairs yet (don't have that stock built up!), I've been learning all I can to prepare. In my local area, there is are Yahoo group of local crafters and Facebook groups, and they post tons about upcoming sales. I'm sure if my local area has this, most of the other readers could also find some similar groups. Also joining an etsy team based on your geography will help get you connected and find out information.

I have the same question as Lizzie about potential damage to books from less than careful handling. How do you avoid this?