Festival of Crafts 2018 Post Mortem

Phew – most important show of the year, done and dusted. Christmas already? Yeah, I know. It’s not even Remembrance Day yet. At least they didn’t play Christmas music all weekend – that would have been intolerable.

I’m happy to say that following last year’s trend, this was my best show of the year!

To follow my sales journey and to see how I did at past conventions, click here for the full list of articles.
I talk conventions with my BFF on my new podcast, BUSINESS BFFs. Listen here.

General Impressions

My application for this show was successful, and I’m so happy that they allowed me to come back. Signatures has a variety of shows across the West – Spring and Fall – and I’m determined to do more of them.

My lead up to the show was pretty busy as I did a lot of prep for the show itself, as well as squaring away all the client work I’d be missing out on during the four days. Fortunately all of my reprints arrived in time (phew!). Won’t need to do any of those for a while (I mean…unless I do extremely well next year!).

Part of the show prep was making meals. I took a page from Brianne’s book and made myself lunches for each of the four days. Rice, chickpeas, avocado, and tofu, mixed with some oil and cumin. Nom!

Display

After last year’s performance, and remembering the tough time I had in a 10×10 at Calgary Expo 2017, I went back to the drawing table with my display. Craft shows aren’t comic cons. You can’t just put stuff on a table. That’s the case regardless. But you really can’t throw product on a table and expect the customers to be interested at a show with Festival of Crafts’ calibre. The typical customer at a craft show is a grandparent or parent looking for a gift – not a nerd/geek searching for something different to read or their favourite merch. That unique, crafty touch is expected. I had to bring my A-game.

About two months before the show, I sketched the ideal layout. My space was 10×10 – the typical space you can get. There are smaller spots available (5×5) but boy, are they tiny.

Here’s my sketch:

Then I made a list of items I need to fill out the space. In their rules, Festival of Crafts says you have to have a floor if you have a walk-in space. Now, this rule didn’t seem to be enforced at the show, but it is a nice touch. Last year, my experienced craft-show veteran neighbour recommended I drape some fabric over the provided drape. At the time, I thought that would be “too much” – but upon sketching it out, I realized it might be worth a try.

Pro tip: take advice from the pros.

I challenged myself to spend $100 on display improvements for the show. So here’s what I ended up buying.

Curtain drapes – Got these on Amazon – ~$28. Two panels. I specifically wanted curtains with large rings that could be S-hooked to the top of existing pipe and drape. I had a lot of fun shopping for the “right” curtain. Something not too patterned and not too bold. The drape should enhance the existing product and not distract the customer.

Cheap rug – IKEA – ~$18. Dave and I had already been shopping for house things for the past few months, and I remembered that IKEA had a low-pile, grey, small-ish, cheap rug that would do the trick.

Carpet tape – Amazon – ~$18. So, at trade shows, you can’t just put down a floor. It has to adhere to the existing floor. You don’t want people tripping inside your booth. So I bought the highest rated non-stick tape.

Fold up stool chair – IKEA – ~$49. This craft show doesn’t provide tables or chairs. You have to bring your own. But besides that, getting my own TALL chair has been on my list for a while. My displays have been getting taller and taller and I need to give my poor feet a break from constantly standing. The Franklin chair was the perfect choice.

Extra fold-up table – Canadian tire – $48 (on sale – normally ~$68). This 5ft table happened to be on sale when I was looking, so I scooped it up. I already have one just like it. Now I have two. Yay me.

Yes, the above totals more than $100. But all of those items I can use for future shows (especially the chair!!) as I grow from a six to eight foot artist alley space to something bigger.

I even practiced the set up in our basement to ensure that everything fit in the prescribed space before taking it to the BMO.

The result?

BAM!

Yes, the curtains are wrinkly. After I fireproofed the curtains and hung them out to dry, I thought, this is great. Then I folded them up and put them in my boxies for transport. Annnnd when we hung them up….they were wrinkly. So, so wrinkly. They were fine, but now I know next time to ROLL the curtains, don’t fold them, and that will help.

The carpet tape worked great. It went down easily and it came up easily – exactly as promised. The carpet fit perfectly in the space and the colours went well.

I was worried that one stand-up banner wouldn’t be enough, but it worked out fine, especially with the curtains.

So you see, all of the above items I listed and bought on their own seem banal, but when paired, they work in harmony to enhance the space.

Improvements for next time – lighting. I was right under a ceiling light this year, which was fine. But the BMO lighting is very cold. Nearly everyone had clamp lights and/or little bead lights integrated into their display, creating a very warm, cozy effect.

Sales

This show broke all previous sales records – both for per day sales and total show sales. I can attribute this to these factors:

Improved display. As stated above, I put a lot of thought into how I was going to show up this year, made a plan, and followed through.
Raised Prices. I devised a new pricing strategy for my later shows this year. Not a huge increase – a couple of my bundles are now $5 more. So far this has not deterred any customers. In fact, people keep telling me my books are cheap!
Second Year. Many people either remembered me from last year and returned to buy sequels, or had repeated interaction with the brand previously and bought on this go-round.
More Books. Last year, I took Within off the table because I felt it didn’t jive with the rest of my stuff. I put it back this year because people kept asking for it. So, I went from five books last year to seven, increasing selection.
Bundle buying. People bought individual books, yes. But most people bought a series bundle, or went for my 2 for 30 deal.
Ahead of the pack. This show is usually the first week of December. This year it was the first week in November, ahead of all the other Christmas shows and Black Friday. People still haven’t done their shopping and they have a little more disposable income.

This is a four-day show, so it’s a marathon. Thursday’s hours were extremely long (10am-9pm) and there were a lot of dead periods, but I performed about as expected. Friday, though – it was an outlier for me. I had my best sales day EVER. I sold many, many bundles that day. It was still a long (10am-9pm). Saturday was good (10am-6pm) and Sunday was fine (10am-5pm).

As for what sold: The Violet Fox bundle sold slightly more than the Sparkstone Saga bundle – though people kept asking me what was more popular, so of course I’d tell them The Violet Fox, so that’s what they’d buy. So…yeah. I also had a lot of people returning for The Emerald Cloth – yay! Within quietly sold a handful of copies, as expected, but it filled out the table and caught the eye of many a passerby. I sold slightly more individual copies of The Violet Fox than Stars In Her Eyes, but people mostly bought bundles or I upsold them to a two for $30 deal.

Most people paid with credit or debit. I had some trouble with my Moneris. I got a new, better phone, but it kept unpairing with the machine. I’m even more worried that the Moneris machine itself is getting old. If it stops working, they’ll send me a new one since I pay monthly for the service, but my biggest fear was it failing during THIS crucial show.

Ultimately, I met and passed my ideal sales goal, but fell short of my ambitious, pie-in-the-sky sales goal….which is fine, obviously! There’s always next year for that.

FIREPROOFING

My friend Sam makes fun of me for obsessing over this, but my biggest fear is a fire marshal coming to my display, torch in hand, and lighting all of my items on fire—books included.

Only your display needs to be fireproofed. Not the actual product. Yes, I know. My product is a bonfire waiting to happen. If there is a fire, I can rest easy knowing that the LEAST VALUABLE items in the booth have been protected.

Yes, yes, and that I did my part in preventing the fire from spreading.

I had fireproofing spray from my last fireproofing spree, but now that I had new drapes, and my new table runner, and new wooden boxies, I knew I didn’t have enough spray to cover it all. And have you ever tried buying fireproofing spray in this city? It’s basically impossible. You have to really look for it. And then go on an adventure to buy it.

In the packet, they provided a recipe for homemade fireproofing solution, which sounds like a chemical meltdown waiting to happen. It’s easier, however, to make the solution and soak everything in it rather than me standing over the tablecloths inhaling toxic fumes.

The primary ingredients in the recipe were borax and boric acid. The borax was easy enough. You can get that at any grocery store. The boric acid though? No, no. No. That is apparently dangerous enough that it must be special-ordered into the pharmacy. I felt awkward asking for it, worrying they’d think I’m Walter White. But it was fine, it came the next day, and I picked it up.

I paid about $15 for a couple hundred grams. It’s a white powder, just like the borax. I brought it back to the house, followed the recipe, and voila, homemade fireproofing. I soaked the fabrics and the carpet and hung them out to dry. Then I sprayed my wood boxies with the can. I even documented the process as proof.

I dunno. To my understanding, this has to be done YEARLY, or at the very least, before this show in particular. It’s not something you can really lie easily about either – one quick burn test settles that. It’s so much work, either to track down the spray or track down the ingredients to make the solution. Is there an easier way? I spent a WHOLE DAY on this, when I could have been making stuff or selling my time to the highest bidder.

People Interactions

As stated, this isn’t a comic convention, so I’m running into the general public shopping for their relative who is into science fiction and fantasy.

“Is this for girls or boys?” This came up so. Many. Times. Mostly it was the concerned grandparent, worried they’d “accidentally” buy a “girl book” for their thirteen-year-old grandson. Oh no, what a shame it would be to expose a boy to strong female characters, castle intrigue and hijinks, and superheroes fighting aliens. Yes, that would be no good at all.

In any case, one cannot answer the customer sarcastically – this is a legit question for them. So I would say that the protagonists are female, but I have had people of all ages and genders buy my work and enjoy it. They would promptly say, “No, better not chance it” and thank me for my time.

Yes, those are the words they used. Better not chance it.

Eventually, later on, when a woman I judged to be a good candidate for the conversation came along, I laid it on her honestly. I said, I don’t know if a boy would like this, because rarely if at all does a parent or a grandparent buy the book as a gift and report back to me. And even if they did report back that their boy didn’t like it, I can’t say for certain whether or not your boy would like my work. But I don’t see why they wouldn’t want to read it, assuming the book itself appealed to them.

Also, as a young girl, I read books with boy protagonists all the time. Why wouldn’t you allow your boy to do the same with girl protagonists?

My sister, who did two shows for me back to back in Halifax in the last few weeks, reported she saw an older man with (presumably) his grandson at Hal-Con. The grandson saw the Faery Ink Press table, and was immediately interested. He started walking towards it. The grandfather noticed, and pulled his grandson away. Jessie couldn’t really hear the exchange, but it seemed to her that he was pulling him away from a sparkly, purple table because he believed that wouldn’t suit him.

Oh, but best interaction happened the last day. An elderly man walked past the booth, taking in all of my display. I said hello. He said hello. Then he looked at my banner, and back to me, and declared, “I’ve never read fiction, and I never will.”

Ummm…okay, whatever you say! But like…

…never?

Thank you to all my friends who came by and said hello!!!! 🙂

Hal-Con and Christmas at the Forum

My sister did TWO SHOWS for me this year out east in Halifax, and I am very grateful to have her! THANK YOU JESSIE!!

Jessie reported record sales for Hal-Con (now six years in a row doing that show). Once again, Hal-Con separated artists and exhibitors, putting them on different floors – a practice I dislike. Despite this, people sought out the brand and Jessie drummed up a lot of business because she is good at selling!

Christmas at the Forum was a bit of a risk, and a first time show for Faery Ink Press. While there was foot traffic and lots of interest, we didn’t quite perform as highly as I had expected. The hours were really long, I think the venue is really big (four buildings!), and it’s difficult to find parking, so we’ll have to think about a strategy for this show in the future. Jessie noticed that the Maritime books were doing well, so if I had a more Maritime-oriented series/book (I have a few cooking), it would be a better fit. Perhaps I’ll have to go myself to this show to properly judge it if I’m out this way during the first weekend of November.

Will I Go Back Next Year?

With a successful application, yes! I’d love to do more of their events.

Also, I’ve been experimenting with makeup and went on a little shopping spree. HERE IS THE RESULT?! I am a doll now.

Just one more show in 2018 – I’m returning to Turner’s Christmas at the Coliseum — and then I’m DONE until next year! I plan on doing a separate wrap-up post about the year and the past couple of years in general, so watch for that!

To follow my sales journey and to see how I did at past conventions, click here for the full list of articles.
I talk conventions with my BFF on my new podcast, BUSINESS BFFs. Listen here.