DISCLAIMER: I am talking from my own experience and from feedback received from other authors. Events are a tricky one and a hit or miss. I don't exclude them completely but there are things I wish people told me.
Less is More
I ordered so many books for my launch, for book signings, for book fairs, for medieval fairs, and for Comic-Con and the first thing I learned was not to over-order books because now I have a lot of boxes of books at my house that I have to hang onto. Since then I've had some of the covers redone and some of them have been re-edited so this old stock is really a pain in my a$$. I wish I had ordered fewer books and sold out, I think I was rather exuberant when I printed my books.
Having swag is a given because people LOVE free stuff and if you want to attract people to your table then that's what you're going to be doing with some free goodies to give away to potential readers and long-standing fans. Get creative and you'll attract the biggest crowd.
Do Events Work
I would have to divide this into sections and by countries. Some events do work in some countries while in others it's a lost cause in my opinion. Let's start with where I live.
I'm from South Africa and in my experience, it's barely okay to do Comic-Con, that's about the only place you're apt to make any money IF you are a good salesperson and have been marketing and hyping people up. Still a lot of authors try and have these book fairs out and around and after doing a few of those I just find that more authors show up than readers and that's such a waste of my time. If I sell ONE book it's a lot. For all the effort that goes into it, it's not worth my time.
There are other fairs or fayres if you will. I've sold at a few and at a few markets and although I sold a couple of books there, it doesn't cover what I spent on the market to be there. Plus the hours lost standing in the sun thinking about how much I want to write.
For me, there isn't enough of a readers market in Africa. Everyone wants to be a writer but few people want to be readers and it's mostly because of a poor education system, especially in my country. Reading isn't encouraged like it once was and children who don't read grow up into adults who don't read. Most of my market is international with America being the biggest one. UK follows that closely. My sales in Africa couldn't touch how many books I've sold overseas.
That being said, are events better in other countries? This would be based on what I've heard.
America, UK, and other Big Market Countries
I've heard a lot about the events that are hosted, especially in America and the UK. Authors generally report back that the American book fairs are quite popular and widely attended which gives me hope. A few of my South African author friends have attended events in America and in the UK and said that it was absolutely amazing and completely different from what you would experience in Africa.
I don't presume that ALL events in these countries are a knockout success but it seems that readers actually travel, and are willing to travel, to get to these events to meet their favourite authors and get signed books from them. It just feels more accessible.
What I Wish Someone Would Have told Me
Having only one book on sale sucks. Rather start doing events when you've got a backlist. This is, of course, my personal opinion but from my experience, I did a lot better and was seen as a more established order when I had a variety of books on my table as opposed to the first time I did a market with just Ensnared on my table. Also make sure you're putting out a quality eye-catching product that will draw readers to your table so that you can engage with them.
And on that note, you will need to engage with readers. Sitting quietly all hermit-like behind a table and just staring at people will do little for sales. You need to bring out that personality, let your freak flag fly and engage with people. This is why they're there after all. They want insider info, they want to say they met you and they talked to you about things. Give them nuggets, discuss the stories and books, or life in general. Be yourself.
Also could someone not have told me about genre, genre, genre. Go where your genre will sell well. As a horror author, I stand out and do quite well at comic-con. Not so much at small markets where the aunties and uncles are looking for gifts for the gran-babies. Yes, seems obvious doesn't it? But let me tell you when you hit publish on the first book you want to give it your all and will go anywhere to punt your book. Have standards! Market your book where it's marketable.
I'm sure there's a lot more I could say aboute events but that's pretty much the key thing I wanted to touch on.
If you have questions or comments don't forget to comment on the post and let me know. Always happy to hear your side of the story.
Always lock your doors