Catriona Troth, novelist and member of the influential Triskele Books collective, explains how to reach more readers for your self-published books by setting up your own pop-up bookstore.
Some of the most energising times I have spent in the last few years have been at gatherings of indie authors. But so often, in those gatherings, these creative, enthusiastic and generous people are in ‘receive’ mode – brought together primarily to learn from others.
So what if those indie authors could come together to create a pop-up bookstore? A marketplace to display their wares to the reading public and demonstrate, en masse, that their books are creative, cutting edge, professionally produced? Where they could engage with readers, face to face, offer advice to others curious about indie publishing?
That is the dream behind the Indie Author Fair, co-hosted at the Chorleywood Lit Fest this month (16th November 2014) by Triskele Books and ALLi.
The Fair has excited interest from much further afield than we could have imagined. There are authors coming from as far as Spain, Switzerland and Scotland. We even had an enquiry from Canada. But it is still limited to just forty authors. So here’s the new dream:
What if we could seed the idea for a pop-up bookshop for indie authors around the world, so they become they become a regular part of the literary landscape?
With that in mind, we present our beginners’ guide to running a pop-up bookshop.
Instructions for Your Own Pop-up Bookshop
- Start a long way in advance. This is going to take a lot of organising. We started planning this back in March and we’ll just about be ready in November.
- Cultivate a relationship with a local indie bookstore or Lit Fest. They can share the load of booking and promotion – and it gives your event a certain recognition factor to the general public.
- Ask for a booking fee from authors, to encourage commitment, but keep it low, especially for a new, untried event.
- Don’t underestimate the response. This is something we definitely struggled with. Indie authors are starved of opportunities like this, and once you set out your stall, turns out they will flock to join in! So plan the space you are going to need and find the right venue.
- Expenses will creep up, so find sponsorship early on and budget carefully. We found that self-publishing service providers were eager to be involved – in return for a presence at the Fair.
- Think creatively about how best to promote the event to the public. We went for a print catalogue featuring all of the authors, which was an expensive option but which was a great way to engage with readers. (You can read it online here.) We’re also running a daily ‘meet the author’ feature for readers to find out about who is coming to the Fair. But you need to think about promotion on all channels – local media, libraries, book clubs, as well as online.
- Create a community among your authors, so they are keen to support and promote one another. We created a Facebook group that we could use to keep participants up to date with the latest news, and they could use to get to know one another.
- Put on a show. Readers love author events at bookstores. So include space for author readings and children’s story time.
- See what added extras you can offer, to give the event even more of an edge. Can you provide opportunities for studio photographs? Recorded interviews?
- Communicate clearly. Authors will have lots of questions, and you need to make sure that, even before the doors open to the public, everything behind the scenes runs as smoothly as possible.
The inaugural Indie Author Fair will happen on Sunday 16th November from 2pm to 5pm at the British Legion Hall at Chorleywood, Herts, WD3 5LN. Only then will we really know what worked and what didn’t. We will return and confess all in a follow-up post to this one.
In the meantime, though, we hope we might have inspired some of you to think about organising Indie Author Fair in your own parts of the world.
OVER TO YOU If you’ve set up a pop-up bookshop yourself, do you have any advice to add to Catriona’s checklist? If not, are you tempted to give it a try? Join the conversation via the comments box!