Chapter 7: How Much Money Should You Spend on your Book Signings?
Again, this is entirely up to you but my suggestion is, as little as possible. This is where you the author—and this is probably the most important lesson in this book, need to wear your business person hat before committing to costly author events. As previously outlined, there are a variety of venues to hold your book signings but each one is going to vary significantly in cost. You need to give serious consideration on the matter of;
· Amount of books you’ll need to sell to cover the cost of your table.
· Distance from your home to the venue.
· Cost of Lodging if overnight stays are necessary.
· Cost of fuel, food and marketing material for the event.
Let’s assume that you’re attending an author expo held at a public library and the event is free for authors to participate. This is great because so far you’re not on the hook—you don’t have to pay the library for use of their table. Let’s also assume that the library is located in your hometown and you don’t have to drive more than five miles to get there. This is also something that works in your favor. What also might work in your favor is the fact that since you’re a local author in that community, you’re more than likely to sell a decent amount of books at that particular event. Let’s assume you’ve sold five copies of your book for $15.00 a copy. That’s $75.00 in your pocket without breaking much of a sweat. Since you’re not spending money on gas and lodging, you’re ahead of the game with a decent profit.
Now, let’s discuss some events that charge a modest amount of money to rent a table. There are author events that may charge anywhere from $25.00 to $50.00. This is still relatively inexpensive and if you can manage to sell five copies of your book at these events, you’ll still turn a profit. However, let’s assume you paid $50.00 to participate in the event and you’ve sold $75.00 worth of your books. That’s a $25.00 profit, which is still very nice. Ask yourself this, though; how far away was the venue? How much did you spend in gasoline? How much did you spend on food? You may find that $75.00 disappearing very quickly and in the end, you’ve simply spent $50.00 to $75.00 on the privilege to appear at an author expo.
Okay, now let’s talk about events that charge a hefty fee to rent space to sell your books. Comic Cons, and the like, charge a significant amount of money to rent table space—primarily due to the fact that these events are typically two to three days long. On average, Comic Cons charge artists, anywhere from $150.00 to $400.00 per event. The lower priced events are more or less new Comic Cons starting out with the hopes of growing into a larger-scale event. The higher-priced events are Comic Cons that are located in a large city catering to a huge market which draws a large audience throughout the two to three day run. Let’s just assume that you’re planning to rent a table that costs $150.00 at an event which runs from Saturday to Sunday and both days have a 10:00am-6:00pm event time.
Let’s also assume for the sake of argument that you’ll order twenty copies of your book specifically for the event. If you publish your books via CreateSpace, you as the author are purchasing copies of your own book at a large discount, not available to the general public. If the price you pay per discounted book is $3.25 and you order twenty copies, you’ll pay CreateSpace $65.00. Of course, additional fees will be tacked on to that shipment of books. You’ll pay tax and shipping and handling costs. Depending on where in the United States your order will be shipped to, this price will vary slightly. Conservatively let’s just say that your total order costs $80.00 give or take a few dollars. Your $80.00 investment on a fresh stock of books plus the $150.00 table fee at the event has now set you back $230.00 and there are still a few more things to consider.
· How far away is the event from your home?
· How much fuel will your car consume driving to and from the event?
· Will you need to rent a hotel room for Saturday Night?
· How much will you need to spend on meals?
· Are you taking time off from your job to appear at the event?
· Will you feel comfortable inviting your fan base to see you at the event, knowing they will need to pay about $25.00 each for admission?
· How many copies of your book will you need to sell to at least break even?
· How many copies of your book will you need to sell to make a profit worth your time (8 hours each day plus travel) and energy?
· Are you confident that you can sell that many books?
Depending on the type of vehicle you drive, if the event is more than twenty five miles away, your fuel gauge will definitely reflect that. On the low side, let’s assume that you’re only using $10.00 worth of fuel for this event, it’s now costing you $240.00 and you still need to think about lodging if your event is too far of a distance to drive back and forth from the event to your home and back and forth again the next day. If so, the upside is that events such as comic cons offer a discount deal with neighboring hotels if you’re a vender at their event. Again, depending on where you’re located and how pricy hotels are in that area, you’ll need to think long and hard about whether or not it’s worth the added cost. Conservatively, let’s say that you’ll spend Saturday night into Sunday at a hotel near your event for $80.00 a night. You’re now paying $320.00. Another thing to keep in mind is that you’re going to get hungry, both during and after the event. You can pack all the snacks you want to get you through the day, but after eight hours behind your table, continuously standing up and sitting down, talking to interested buyers, and people watching all day long, you’re most definitely going to want to treat yourself to a sit-down meal after a long day. Whether that meal is eaten at McDonalds or The Capital Grille is entirely up to you, but let’s low-ball and assume that you’ll spend $20.00 on your meal (assuming that you’re dining alone.) You’re now spending $340.00 and you have only two days to make this amount back in book sales.
As discussed above, the twenty copies of your book that you’ve ordered for the event at a cost of $80.00 will need to be the star of the show. It will be up to you to turn those copies into pure profit, but at what cost? Well, at previous events such as the free library author expo, you sold your books at $15.00 each, so let’s assume you’ll do the same at a comic con. Let’s say that you’re an absolute bookselling pro and you’ve sold out of your twenty copies by the end of Sunday night. You’ll have earned yourself $300.00—quite impressive. But wait one second; you’ll still be $40.00 in the hole. I guess the best remedy for this is to try charging $20.00 per book. That will leave you with a gross of $400.00 and a profit of $60.00—for two long days of work on a weekend.
Oops, and I almost forgot to mention that you’ll more than likely need to pay taxes on your sales for that event. Depending on what state your event is held, you’re more than likely going to have a tax I.D in order to sell goods at that event. Rhode Island, for example, had implemented stringent tax laws and I.R.S. agents were visible throughout public events such as comic cons. On a positive note, Rhode Island has recently passed a bill which permits the sale of original and limited edition works of art exempt from state tax. Rhode Island was the first state to sign this bill into law and many other states will soon follow suit I’m sure. Be sure to check your local tax laws before selling your goods at events.
While I don’t want to come off as pessimistic, I feel it’s only fair for me to lay out every possible outcome, be it positive or negative. After all, book selling is a business whether or not the actual writing of your book was born entirely out of love and passion. In the end, you’ll want to get your book in people’s hands, but it shouldn’t be at the cost of your own wallet. Sadly, I know some authors who spend a great deal of their time and money on book promotion events, yet their personal lives and, unfortunately, their finances suffer as a result of their shortsightedness. The practice of book selling really does need to be approached as a business. It can’t be all fun and games.