At some point or another we, writers, will need to travel for work. Whether it’s a book tour, convention, or speaking engagement. It’s just par for the course when you’re writing professionally. Now that I see writers traveling again for work, I thought it was time to share my tips and advice for those that are traveling for work.
How far are you traveling? Learn about the city/cities along your tour. This is beneficial when you look at hotels within a reasonable range to the location the event will be held. This will also help you pack appropriately. If you’re not leaving your city or not traveling very far from home, a lot of these tips may not work for you. You may not have to pack clothing for a few days, may not need to pack toiletries.
If you are going to a city family or friends are in, you may not even need many things like money for a hotel room if they’re willing to take you on for a day or however long you need to be in the area.
If you’re traveling abroad, make sure you know if you have vaccines to enter the country. Also, know if you need electrical adapters. For example, Europe has different electrical outlets than the United States.
Packing Appropriately –
This seems self-explanatory, but sometimes we forget while in the prepping stage for a trip. What is appropriate for traveling as a writer? Laptop, cellphone, or anything relating to the event. Are you going to sign your books? You will need a pen. Are you going to also record the event? You will need a recording device. This could be your cellphone, a camera, or even the gear of a podcaster if you’re also doing that.
Bring an extension cord, extra-long power cord/surge protector. You may be provided space at a convention, but you will not always be provided cords and extensions for your devices.
Though you are packing for work, don’t forget to pack for yourself. Clothing and a few extras as a ‘just in case’ preparation. When you’re there finally, many things can still happen. A fan could accidentally spill something on you, you will need a backup outfit. Don’t forget your toiletries. I also recommend bringing your favorite coffee (thank me later).
You will also need a table and all that you want to decorate it with. For example, books, book racks, displays, tablecloths, author posters, book posters, serving platters for the merch you may bring, etc. I recommend creating a to-do list and marking off everything as you pack it in bags and pack it into your car. Don’t forget your padlocks! If you need padlocks, make a special keyring with these specific keys on it.
If you’ve done your research well, you will also know what else you will need to pack, like adapters, or where you can get your petty cash converted into local currency.
When I started out, I did not know how many books or products to pack. The best advice I ever got and continue to listen to is the number of books. If you’re expecting a large crowd at your booth, which can happen with advertising of your location at an event, bring more. It is better to have more than too little. If you’re worried about running out or do, make sure you have a way for readers to pay through a device like Stripe.
The laptop that you bring can also be used if you’re willing to allow people to pay, say, via Amazon. Make sure you clear and log out all information after every guest uses your device to protect their privacy. They’re trusting you and you should respect that.
If you have a series of books, always bring double or triple the amount of the first novel of the series and a smaller amount of the rest. For example, Book one pack fifty. Book two – four pack twenty to thirty. You will always sell the first of a series, but not everyone wants the rest until after they’ve read that first book.
With the above tip about book series, take that also into account for one-off novels. Bring the amount you would for the first book of a series.
Think of every book as its own business. With that mindset, you will bring all the goodies for each book or each series. This is where all the merch comes into play and those insta-pleasers freebies (like candy with your brand on it also a big-time pleaser is totes and bags. People at conventions always need more ways to carry their haul. If it has your brand or book all over, it as they move around the convention, they’re also passively advertising for you.).
Above I mentioned padlocks. Always have bins or luggage you can lock. Though conventions and big events can be fun, there is always the looming risk of theft. Some places will allow you to put your totes under your table to hide them, but it’s usually best to pack and unpack if your goods are in a small batch. This means if you aren’t erecting large racks for clothing or shelving for products, pack, haul with you, and unpack.
This can be extra to some, but it is better than investing x-amount of money into your goods, merch, products, and having them swiped on you. Sadly, it happens. Desperate people will do desperate things when wanting to make a quick buck.
Bring helpers if you can. Sometimes you just must do things for yourself, it can be hard, but all of us have done the lonesome walk of working without help. I recommend bringing someone or more to help. I have a bad back that has flare-ups from time to time, so I always bring someone with me just in case I cannot lift something on my own (totes of books are super heavy).
This is also helpful in that more eyes can see more things going on. If you’re occupied at one end of your table, you may not see someone waiting at the edge. More people can help with customer service.
Helpers can also bring the risk of theft lower. Someone will be less likely to steal from you if there are too many people in their way or could see them doing things.
Table Kits –
I do not know if any other author does ‘table kits’, but I do. A table kit is basically everything I’m going to use on my table at an event. From the labels to the standing displays advertising my being there. I research one tote as a ‘table kit’, bag, or tote devoted to electrical and extras I may need, and however many I need for books. I also will have luggage for clothing, hotel must-haves, like my favorite coffee or toiletries.
Whether you’re using sticky labels or displays with prices, I recommend labeling all. It will help them, the guest, look if you’re busy. Small displays explaining things like a book genre are very helpful to a customer that may want a quick glance. Have thrillers? A guest may like comedy and seeing a thriller label will help them tell if you’re a writer that they may want to invest in. Also, good also to have something dedicated to your social media if it is not on bigger staples like standing author banners.
Petty Cash –
For those paying in cash, it’s best to have a safe place to put your income and for any change to exchange. I suggest a minimum of twenty or thirty. Your lockbox should always remain on you or a helper.
If you want more advice, or have questions, just comment. I don’t know how to help you if you don’t ask!