Author Ryan Jo Summers Shares Her Tips for Organization at Writing Events

It’s my pleasure to welcome author of romance Ryan Jo Summers to my blog today. She’s graciously provided me with fantastic advice for attending a book festival, and with the RWA conference approaching in July, I’m sure many of these tips apply. 

Ryan is also sharing some more about her Christian time travel love story, SHIMMERS OF STARDUST – available on Amazon.

Thanks Ryan!

By the time this has been transformed from article to blog entry, I will have just attended my second book festival at our local college. My first year (2014) was overwhelming in that I had no clue what to expect and I happened to be battling the after-effects of a bad cold as well. This year I both make fresh plans built on last year’s knowledge and I also hope things will go smoother.

So here are a few planning tips I’ve stopped to consider:

BOOKS—it’s a book festival so there should be books, right? The guidelines stated self-published authors needed to bring their own supply to be split with the coordinating bookstore. Authors with traditional publishers will have their books already ordered and supplied by said bookstore, with the same split ratio as self-published.

Now, my books are with a traditional publisher, but I am also suspicious by nature. Just to humor myself, I packed a dozen of my books. Upon arriving and checking In, I could not find my books anywhere. Seems the coordinating bookstore had not ordered any. I never did learn the reasons why, nor do they really matter. All I can say is it was mighty convenient I had my own handy supply. We split what sold (I made no profits that day) and brought the unsold ones back with me. This year, I will still have a supply in the car, just in case.

SIGNAGE—In the past, with just one book, I simply took the framed cover off the wall, dusted it off, and placed it on an easel on the tabletop, along with a few copies for display. That won’t work now because my framed copy now requires a ten foot ladder to reach (I’ll probably never dust it again) and I have three books to showcase. So I had to re-think my approach.

This year I am taking all three covers to the local framer and have them mounted on foam board in either 10 X 12 inch or 10 X 14 inch sizes. The first one can still sit on the table, flanked by the paperbacks and props. The other two, still only available in e-book for another few months will rest on an adjustable music stand beside the table. I found a bit of luck when I stumbled upon the stand on EBay, with case, brand new, for under $14 and no shipping cost. The fact that this whole new display concept has cost me less than twenty dollars appeals to my frugal side.

SWAG AND PROPS—because my first book dealt with racehorses, I had a small horse statue on the table, to invite interest. Not a toy, this is an antique equine, standing about six inches tall. I have unsuccessfully racked my brain for props to tie into my other two, but if something catches my eye before the date, I’ll include it somehow.

Don’t forget swag like bookmarks, items themed to your book, lots of business cards, or any items tied in to give away. If I had a book dealing with cars, I’d maybe have inexpensive keychains with the cover and my name to hand out. If my book dealt with kitchens or cooking, I’d think to have refrigerator magnets. Sports? A small sport appropriate ball emblazed with cover and name. This exercise can really get the creative wheels grinding.

PEOPLE—if you have family or friends living near your book festival site, have them come visit you. This would be great if they could time it during a slow spell. It sounds underhanded but have them cluster around your table, showing interest. Others will want to know what’s so great at your table and wander over. F & F can then wander off, looking at other author’s tables and you have a new crowd to share your books with.  It taps into the natural curiosity we have when we see crowds of people anywhere and want to go see what’s up.

THE EXTRAS– This is a lengthy but important list of things we don’t necessarily think of until we’ve done some festivals or signings without them. Apart from the above mentioned items, don’t forget to always pack a pretty table cloth. I bought a long one from the local party supply store for $2. The extra length lets me cover a regular sized banquet table or fold down to cover whatever size table I have been assigned. If the table is older or a bit worse for wear, the pretty tablecloth will hide that as well as just having more ‘street appeal’.  Don’t forget the adhesive tape for securing said tablecloth and other bits of signage you have. It is also handy to loan out and make friends at nearby tables.  Pens are a no brainer but worth mentioning. I keep a rainbow of pens spread out, ask book buyers their favorite color and sign using their choice. They seem to like it and I think it adds a personal touch.


Newsletter sign-up sheet. I use a lovely lined page journal I was given, opening to a new blank line and leave a pretty note asking people to sign up. I can add the date and location later, reminding me where these readers were found.

Like many, I use a candy dish, with individual hard wrapped candies. No sticky fingers at my table please.  Yes, I have had an issue once or twice of unsupervised kids just trying to get the goods while mom or dad was shopping elsewhere. There are polite but firm ways of dealing with that.  In that vein, a small bottle of hand sanitizer is usually a blessing, even if you don’t have it on display, but just readily available.

Other items I know to always pack are gum or mints, for my breath. Water bottles. Cough drops or lozenges. Small package of tissues. Can’t you tell I had a cold the last time? I also pack a sweater or cardigan, just in case the venue is chilly inside. I like something I can easily pull on and off as needed, if needed.  For wardrobe malfunctions, a few safety pins are great. Blisters from new or seldom used shoes can benefit from band aid adhesives. And cosmetic touch ups for all that smiling you are bound to be doing. For me, this is simply a tube of lip gloss. Lastly, a small lint roller. I have pets, which means no matter how hard I try, there will be pet hair lurking somewhere on my outfit. Normal to me, scandalously unsightful to some others. I am there to impress others.

This may seem like a lot of stuff to pack and cart, but really, most of it is pretty small. I can carry it in two bags. I leave the heavy books out in the car, unless I find I need them due to some ordering oversight.  I have a shoulder bag in which the signage, swag, table cloth, cards and small extras fit into. My personal pocketbook, or purse, holds my wallet and other small items like tissues and lip gloss. Because the new music stand hasn’t been carried yet, though it is in its own case, I think it will still fit in the over the shoulder bag. If not, my pocketbook will, so I will still arrive with everything I need for a two day book festival in only two bags.
A couple years ago I went to Goodwill and bought a decent sized suitcase on rollers and with a pull up handle. It cost me $8 and was a worthy cause. I keep my books stored in there anyway. When I pack for events in which I am required to bring my own books, I like this case. I have two handy side pockets for small items, cargo space for larger items and a netting over the top for flat, delicate items. It’s a bit bigger but I can wheel that sweet thing into any venue or up and down streets with ease.


Civil War hero turned renegade, Logan Riley, is hanged by the law in 1869. His story should have ended there. Except Anthropologist Dr. McKenzie Lynne is hired by a team of physicists, protected by the military, to find a valuable missing link to their time travel theories. She finds Logan, in the back on a cave, buried in glittering gold dust and very much alive. Taking him to the base camp, she learns what they really want him for. Horrified, she reacts, bolting and talking their living treasure with her.
Now pursued by the military and the obsessed physicists who will stop at nothing to get their quantum link back, Kenzie and Logan must fight to stay alive and stay hidden. Covering distances in the deserts and mountains of New Mexico and Arizona, each moment is a challenge to stay alive and one step ahead of the hunters. Staying free means a lifetime on the run, but getting captured means a terrible consequence for both of them.

Meanwhile. Kenzie’s strong Christian faith works on Logan’s bad-boy heart, convicting him of his lawless past, better than the hangman’s noose had. With Kenzie’s help, he tries to allow the grace of God into his life while fighting to preserve both of theirs. Undeniable affections bloom between them as tense moments turn into longer periods of growing love. Can their newly formed love survive the coming showdown between the armed military closing in, determined physicists, Kenzie’s Christian morals and Logan’s nineteenth century cowboy code of outlaw justice?

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7 Responses to “Author Ryan Jo Summers Shares Her Tips for Organization at Writing Events

  • Hi Ryan, Excellent tips! I'm bookmarking this post for future reference. Joanne 🙂

  • Thanks for these timely tips! I never remember to have them sign up for my email list! Thanks for that reminder!

  • Thanks for stopping by today folks! Same goes for me – going to refer to this too 🙂

  • Great tips. I leave most of my stuff packed in my suitcase and a large bag so I don't have to constantly remember what to take. I do the colored pens thing, too. 🙂

  • Thank you, Rebecca, for having me. I am glad everyone is enjoying the tips. Through experience, I like to think of myself as almost prepared for anything. A lot has been gleaned just by touring other people's tables at events or things I didn't do and wish I had, so now I know.

  • Great blog, Ryan Jo. I took notes!

  • Great checklist. Thanks!

Thanks for reading! Love to hear your thoughts.

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