Thursday, March 10, 2022

How to nail your book stall display at conferences and events

Last month, my friend Heather Kindt and I sold our books at Albuquerque Comic Con, our fifth event where we shared table space, learned and relayed each other’s pitches, and vied for the attention of new readers.

This being our fifth time selling together, in addition to each of us attending writing- and book-related conferences individually, we’ve honed what we both believe is key to a successful event: our display.

Event #3: FanExpo Denver, October, 2021

Looks pretty good, right? I’ve boiled down the most important elements to three, all starting with S for easy remembering purposes. You’ll see by the end which one was missing in that FanExpo pic up there.

First S: Signage

Anyone displaying wares knows signage is important. What’s less obvious is which size, type, and placement is ideal. Let’s take a trip into the past, to our first two events.

Event #1

Event #2

Oktoberfest (Event 1) was outdoors, so it didn’t occur to me that my too-small poster (which was fine for signings) was actually too small for large indoor events as well. You can only see about half of it in Event 2, which is certainly less eye-catching than Heather’s floor banner.

Poor small, sad poster.

By Event 3 I’d figured out that I needed an equally large floor banner. I designed mine to feature all of my covers, but Heather’s single-cover version gets lots of compliments because it’s gorgeous.

Looking beyond our amazing Stranger Things cosplay, you can see laminated genre posters, a QR code for those who enjoy ebooks, and, on the table, framed, smaller posters to highlight individual titles.

Second S: Shelving

This one took me until Event 3 to figure out, because Heather, who used shelving for the first time, totally kicked my butt in sales. Now, her books are gorgeous and her pitches concise and intriguing, so obviously shelving wasn’t her only asset. I became a true believer in shelving when in Event 4, my first with my own display shelves, we both did so well that we sold out of multiple titles.

Shelves add depth and, more importantly, get your wares closer to eye level. I put my best-selling title on the top tier very intentionally.

Third S: Swag

Confession: I love swag. I love handing it out more than picking it up.

You might not think swag is technically part of a display but consider its purpose: swag is meant to spark interest. Anything that catches the eye, especially if it’s something that can be taken and enjoyed, keeps folks at the table longer. If your swag is especially fun, it can cause excitement, and that offers an emotional tie to the person and you/your product. I find this is the case with my keys and dragon swag.

Both are little charms and each “goes with” one of my books: the keys with The Fourth Descendant, and the dragons with Drake and the Fliers. I order large supplies of each and almost always run out. They’re inexpensive, folks love them, and often they open the door for someone new to hear a book pitch. I’ve used postcards, magnets, and bookmarks, which are also popular, but not as much as the keys and dragons.

Now, go forth with the three S’s!

But, first, if you’ve sold things at similar events and have your own display tips, share in the comments!

Allison Maruska is a YA and mystery / suspense author, blogger, teacher, mom, wife, coffee and wine consumer, and owl enthusiast. Her blog includes humor posts, short stories, and posts on writing strategy, parenting, and teaching. Find her at


  1. Thanks for sharing with us, Allison. My source of affordable printed matter is VistaPrint. I have had great luck with them, not just for myself, but for clients.

  2. This is a very cool--and very informative--post. Thanks for sharing it, Dani. :-)

  3. This is terrific, and timely, advice as we move back to in person events.


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