Take enough stock.
But, if it’s your first time, how do you know what’s enough?
My rule of thumb for most conventions is to take 20-30 copies for the first book in a series, and 10-15 of each subsequent book in the series. If I have anthologies, I don’t take more than 5 copies each; they aren’t huge sellers, but I’m surprised sometimes at how they do sell.
But your mileage on this may vary.
This is generally more than enough. Even at my best selling events, I haven’t sold out completely taking these numbers. I also have t-shirts and mugs that I sell with my book information/covers on them. Don’t invest into these until you’re versed in how your book inventory will do at different events.
While there’s a part of me that says it’s better to take too much than not to have enough, remember that books are heavy, and there’s only so much room in a vehicle. You also must leave room for yourself, any luggage, and any other bags you are bringing.
Don’t forget as well to leave room for a table buddy to join you. Life is a whole lot easier if you have a buddy going with you to help watch the table so you can get a pee break. If you’re taking a buddy, you must also leave room for the buddy’s luggage. You SHOULD provide transportation, badge, and lodging for your buddy for helping you…but it’s okay to share the hotel room you’re already paying for anyway. (Part of why my husband is my favorite table buddy. He works in retail/sales anyway, so he’s got an eye for this kind of stuff for set up and marketing, and well, I get to go on weekends out of town with my best friend and other half, while deducting the expenses on my taxes. Win/win, that’s for me.)
And it is not worth renting a uhaul or trailer for books unless you’re Patrick Rothfuss or someone with a big online store that has more than just book merchandise. Seriously. His store is wicked awesome. It’s here. But Pat’s not setting up in Artist Alley…he’s setting up a full blown vendor booth. It makes a difference.
It’s hard to find a happy medium.
BUT if you’re new to this scene, and you’ve taken more than two large plastic totes full of books, you’ve probably taken too much. (FYI…that’s just books, there’s also a big tote full of other supplies plus signage, plus my t-shirts and other materials). I drive a Ford Focus. I can pack all of my display materials, books, and miscellaneous supplies as well as my suitcase and a small cooler in my car. It’s tight, but I can and have done it. It’s a whole lot easier in my husband’s crossover vehicle, so we take his car when we are both going.
FUN TIP…Invest in some decent plastic totes or bins. Outdoor events can get soggy, which aren’t good for books. And cardboard boxes fall apart with heavy books sometimes.
FUN TIP 2…make sure you have signage of some kind, with your name at the very least.