Selling Books in Odd Places… Farmers Markets

farmers market books and eggsAdmittedly, I’ve sold books at some odd places: a military retirement, a winery (oh, that was a blast!), a flea market, work (to the surprise of friends who never knew I was an author), and the oddest yet: a farmers market.

Yup, you read that right, a farmers market. Because in my “real” job, I’m a farmer. After 20 years in the military, it was time for a change, so we ended up in the Middle of Nowhere, Kentucky on 100 acres. We have the standard farm animals: chickens, ducks, turkeys, horses, goats, a pig, and a pack of dogs. And there are times of the year our 70 laying hens are going gang-busters producing eggs. More eggs than we can handle. So what do you do with all of them? We try to sell as much as possible to local customers who stop by, but that’s not many. And there are only so many eggs you can donate to the local summer camp. So a friend invited me to come to her county to the farmers market.

This friend knew I was an author, and encouraged me to bring my books to the market. I’d done this before at a different market in a college town, and had sold some, but this county is not one where folks have a lot of disposable income to spend on luxury items like books. It was hit hard when coal mines were closed and many lost their jobs.

I was wrong, and happily wrong. The first day I set up, I sold four books, and a dozen eggs. That may not sound like much, but it shocked the daylights out of me. Being an outsider to that county, folks are always wary of “new” people. So I put on the smile, talked to folks, and wasn’t afraid to let them know I was an outsider. I think they appreciated that.

The next weekend, I still wasn’t expecting much. Wrong again! I sold four more books, and seven dozen eggs. There were folks who showed up to buy books who were told by others who had bought books the previous week. Yeah, word gets around fast in a fairly small city (Manchester, KY).

The most enjoyable part of the day was getting to interact with people. I love finding out who they are and what brought them to that city (if they’re transplants) or what makes them stay in the city. And having them pick up a book, read the back, and then I get to tell them the story of my motivation to write it. One lady purchased the first book in my military thriller series, and came back the next weekend and bought the second one. I was delighted. It was great hearing how much she liked the characters (especially the character of Jake) and she was hoping to finish the first book in a few days and dive into the second one.

As another weekend approaches, I’m looking forward to loading up the car with books and eggs and heading back to Manchester. I’m fairly confident the heat and humidity will be oppressive, and I’m glad I have my little tent and cool drinks. But if I sell more books (and of course eggs), it makes it all worth it. And the fun of talking to folks and hearing their stories is the icing on the cake.

So if you’re looking for another outlet to sell books, don’t overlook local farmers markets. Many have Facebook pages where you can contact the organizers and see if they would be happy to have you. Most are thrilled to host local authors and artisans along with those selling produce and baked goods. And you’ll get the opportunity to meet new people, maybe make new friends, and hopefully sell some books!

Author: Kathy Rowe (K. Rowe)

K. Rowe is an experienced and prolific multi-genre author. She draws from over twenty years of active Air Force service. Kathy lives in eastern Kentucky with her husband and a zoo of farm animals. Among her many duties she finds time to offer services as a publishing consultant for new authors. Learn more about Kathy from Facebook, and her Amazon author page.

18 thoughts on “Selling Books in Odd Places… Farmers Markets”

  1. Good idea Kathy. I have had a table a couple of times at smaller local events – with mixed success. I’ve been thinking about a table at the local Christmas Craft show this coming season.

    1. Go for it! As long as the booth fee isn’t so high that even if you sell a few books, you lose money.

  2. Fascinating. I’m sure that every indie author has similar stories. My two oddest places to sell books were: 1) at a speech I gave to a World Affairs Council in Pennsylvania, when I sold 20 copies at the end, and neither book related to my speech, and 2) during a speaking engagement in Chautauqua, NY, when one of my table mates at breakfast one morning, bought one of my e-books via her smart phone while we were eating. Later that day, I learned that several of her friends, after she told them about the book, also bought copies online.

  3. Interesting, Kathy. I am thinking of my local market, and seeing what happens. I went to a talk once by an author who sold many of his books in shops, but non bookshops – craft shops and that sort of thing. The big advantage is no competition from other authors.

    Derek

    1. Yup, the more people see just YOUR books, the better chances you have of making sales.

  4. I’m finally getting some print books happening so this suggestion was very welcome. One question though, don’t you have to pay to sell at these farmer’s markets? Is it expensive?

    1. Our market costs $5 to set up until you’ve reached $25 (I think) and then it’s free after that. I know one market which is year-round that wants $250. Definitely out of my budget and can’t always spare time from making cheese to go set up. Ask your local markets and see what they can do for you.

  5. That’s incredible, Kathy! Writers have to go where the crowds are – at least the friendly crowds. Since shopping malls are dying out and unemployment lines don’t sound festive, farmers markets and wineries are perfect book-selling venues. It certainly doesn’t hurt that you managed to sell some of your other products (eggs) while you were at it! Good show and best of luck in the future!

    1. Thanks, and yes, definitely needing to sell more eggs! LOL! Right now we’re getting 3-6 dozen a day.

  6. Kathy, you are absolutely awesome! Authors need local encouragement and notariaty.
    I have thought of checking out some locations for the fun of it. We have local farmer’s markets and flea markets here in Maryland, too. Last year, the church I attend had a flea market day, I bought a booth for $20 had a blast and even sold enough books to breakeven 🙂 I think I’ll talk to my barber, who has been after me to have a signing for years. And will ask the local librarian, and local market, don’t forget coffee shops and even Starbucks, too.
    In Gaithersburg we have an annual May book fair and in August county fair. So indies stop being bashful and do some good will marketing, even share a booth.
    Here is an odd marketing fact we all forget, at least 250 people know you whether you realize it or not, so, when you sell a book, 250 people hear about it from the buyer and they all mention it at least once. Talk about great grassroots marketing..

    1. Libraries are good places- ours usually host a local author/artisan evening and we’re all invited to come set up (free), talk to folks, and hopefully sell some books. I also make sure my library has all my books-I donate copies to them. Once in a while I get someone who recognizes me and says: “Hey, you wrote that hot romance book with the farmers!”

      Sadly, most of our book fairs are pretty far away. There’s a big one in Frankfort, but you have to submit a book prior so they can review it and decide if they want to invite you. Too much politics for me on that one. The Lexington Comic and Toy Convention has been a wonderful place the last 3 years. My artist and I made enough to buy our booth for next year (of course the price went up $100!).

      Love your grassroots marketing metric. Yes, you never know who you might talk to that’ll become a die-hard reader and fan. And then they tell their friends, and so on. When folks are on the fence about trying one of my books, I hand them one and tell them to read a page or two and see what they think. Many times they have gone away with a book.

  7. I once sold books in a restaurant bathroom during a family reunion. That was pretty comical.

  8. Thanks for your creative ideas, and congrats on your sales. I’m getting ready to publish my second memoir and am dealing with tax issues for re-selling books, those I buy from my publisher, for events such as farmers’ markets. Not fun! But it has to be done. Each state has its own rules and paperwork. Any advice?

    1. Normally I order from Create Space. The last time I ordered books, they were printed in KY, and they charged me sales tax (logical) so when I sell that book, with the cover price more than my wholesale price, I don’t give the state any tax on it because I already paid it. I still make a handy royalty and the state has gotten their tax money.

  9. I find Christmas craft fairs – the small ones; I can’t afford the big ones – a good source of sales and a great place to talk to readers. My local farmers’ market is unfortunately one of the most popular ones in the Lower Mainland of BC, and it costs $140 for a table. There are several thousand people go through, but I doubt if I’d sell enough books to break even.

    1. Yes, you definitely have to weigh the costs vs possible profits. I splurge on Comic Con not only because it’s fun, but when you get 26,000 people going through over a couple of days, it makes it worth it. Although the first year we didn’t break even, but so far the last 2 years we’ve broke even or came out slightly ahead. I think the key is repeat visibility- if you’re there each time, folks will realize maybe you’re serious and stop by your booth. This last weekend at the market I sold 3 books and 0 eggs!

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