Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Selling Your Handmade Books: Craft Fair Tips

I just realized it was Tuesday and my post hasn't been written! I do have an awesome excuse though. We're preparing massive amounts of books for a booth at a local festival. This goes right along with last week's post and this week's post. I'll actually extend the craft fair posts for one more week and we'll show you some excellent to-dos and displays next week with a few guests. For this week, you get my top five "I-almost-forgot-about-that"tips.

#1- Make a checklist of things to take and stick to it! Don't say "I won't really need that ducktape" at the last moment. You'll end up needing it. For an extensive (almost overwhelming) fabulous list, check out this one written by Susan West. If you have a checklist, you probably won't have any "I-almost-forgot-about-that" moments.

#2- Figure out taxes before you show up at the craft fair. Some places require that you have a tax number and other's just require you to fill out a form while there and mail in the sales tax. This is not something to push aside until the last minute. You need to decide if you'll show the taxes on the price tags or if you'll need a sign stating how much tax is or a sign letting your customers know that taxes are already included in the prices. Here in Utah, I have to send in the sales tax within 10 days after the event. Don't forget to write out the check for it and send it in or you could be fined! The person in charge of the event will have tax information and a form for you to fill out.

#3- Everything you do at the craft fair will represent your business and your craft. Was your email list a last minute handwritten thought thrown out on notebook paper? What will this say about your books? You don't need to go overboard with a large 10" x 10" x 5" thick sign-in/email list book with a fancy feather pen on it's own separate table, but at least make things look nice and not just an afterthought. For my own booth, this has been my ideal which has room for a date, name, email address and comments: 

#4- Customer service might not be on your checklist, so don't forget it! Don't go to the show and just sit behind the table. Don't bring a book to read. Don't stare at the floor while customers walk by. The best things you can do for your business is to be actively involved in it. Hand out your business cards, talk with your neighbors and tell them about bookbinding and how you do it. As people walk by, they'll hear you talking and find interest in your products. Sew a book while you're there. People love to see the process of things and it will draw people in. Smile at people as they walk by, maybe even ask them a question "Have you found anything wonderful yet?" and you can even promote the products of the person next to you and you'll find that they'll probably promote your stuff as well. At one particular craft fair last Autumn, my best customers were the other vendors. Get to know them and they might not only become a fan of your books, but they could be a great source for future shows and advice as well as a potential customer. Don't let good customer service (which is really just being a sincerely friendly person) become an afterthought as well.

#5- Take a day off! Plan to do nothing on the day after the event. Nothing at all. You'll need that time to regain energy and creative motivation! You'll also need to set aside a day to organize all inventory and craft fair items for your next event. You'll probably spend days and days leading up to the event working on making books or creating displays or gathering everything on your checklist. It's a lot of work and you'll need that day afterward to just relax.

Share your craft fair tips in the comments!


Lizzie said...

Karleigh Jae, these posts are so helpful and interesting! I haven't quite got to the stage where I feel confident to sign up for a craft fair etc, but I'm working on it! It's good to have these posts here, giving me a nudge in the right direction and putting the right ideas into my head, from the start!
Thank you for your invaluable, helpful and very sensible advice.

Brochure Printing said...

I think hand made things add a very personal touch really. I think it looks even more fantastic than machine made. It really is more artistic that way.

Sarah Richardson said...

The first fair I signed up for was small, local & open to students. It certainly took a lot of stress off and gave me a place to observe other people's habits and make a few mistakes of my own. Now I go to all the local fairs both to scope them out as a potential venue as well as pick up good tactics in general. Seeing what others are doing in both product as well as display really helped me see that my stuff was ready. I'm sure you'll do fine when you're ready.

KarleighJae said...

Thanks Lizzie!

BP, I agree. Handmade things do add a very personal touch. I think you might be referring to my comment

"Was your email list a last minute handwritten thought thrown out on notebook paper?"

Just to clarify (even if that wasn't your intended reference), I think it could be done nicely by hand on a sheet of paper. But I've come across booths with ripped out pages from a lined notebook that still have all the fringe from the spiral part. And to do it with a blue ball point pen in bad handwriting doesn't seem to give me the idea that the person cares about the quality of their work.

That's why I use a sign in book that I bound to show off the quality of my work. :)

roobee said...

I love these posts and find myself referring to them again and again, they're so useful!

I've only done one craft fair and loved it, though was wracked with nerves at the start which I didn't expect! I'm UK based and thought I'd add my small experience from this side of the pond, hope that's alright - I believe over here you don't need to pay taxes immediately - the sales have to be declared at the end of the tax year as income and the tax paid then. What you do need over here is 'public liability' insurance incase anyone hurts themselves as a result of your stand and products. Sometimes the fairs will require proof that you have this. I think as a business you need this permanently, but as a hobbyest you can get it for a few days over the fair from an insurance company.

Hope that helps people in old Blighty!

Badon Hill said...

This series has been extremely helpful and enjoyable to read! KarleighJae, are you planning to continue it? I don't think I am he only one who would appreciate reading more. :)