Thursday, June 06, 2019

How to Prep for Outdoor Book and Author Events

By Chrys Fey, @ChrysFey

Part of The Writer’s Life Series 

JH: Book events are a lot of fun, and outdoor events are a great excuse to get a little fresh air and sunshine. But go in unprepared, and you might not have the best day. Chrys Fey is back this month with tips on how to prepare for an outdoor book event.

Chrys Fey is the author of Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publication. Catch the sparks you need to write, edit, publish, and market your book! From writing your novel to prepping for publication and beyond, you’ll find sparks on every page, including 100 bonus marketing tips. Fey is an editor for Dancing Lemur Press and runs the Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s Goodreads book club. She is also the author of the Disaster Crimes series. Visit her blog, Write with Fey, for more tips.

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Take it away Chrys…

Chrys Fey
Attending book events as a featured, signing author is a dream for many of us. Usually, you imagine a signing at an indoor, well-lit, air-conditioned venue with heavy traffic, but all book events are different. Some are even held outside. Yup, outside with the wind, sun, and possibly rain. 

Preparing for an outdoor book (or craft) fair isn’t the same as making sure you’re ready for the conditions Mother Nature may throw at you while you are trying to meet readers and other authors. Luckily, I’m giving you a nice checklist here.

Don’t forget to pack these items for your next outdoor book event:

1. Sunblock

Whenever you’re outside for a long period of time, sunblock is important for skincare, and no one enjoys a sunburn. Save yourself some pain and put on sunblock before you head out to your book event, and stash the bottle in your things to bring along with you.

I once did an outdoor book event where all the authors were set up in a square with full-canopied trees around us. Everyone was in the shade thanks to those trees. Everyone, that is, except me. I happened to be in a spot beneath a small circle of sky where the leaves didn’t quite reach, and the sun was at just the right angle for its beams to stream right onto me and my table. When I got home, my forehead was pink with a fresh sunburn.

Sunblock, my friends. Sunblock.

2. Clamp-On Umbrella

If you don’t have a tent (which could cost $200+) or a large table umbrella, a clamp-on umbrella could provide you with some decent shade on a sunny day. These umbrellas clamp onto foldable, outdoor chairs and can rotate. I brought mine to the book event I mentioned before, but I was unlucky enough to be facing the sun. With my low chair, the umbrella couldn’t block the sunlight, so I couldn’t use it, but I’ve used it while fishing with the sun behind me, and it worked great.

(Here's more on 6 Gadgets to Take to Your Next Book Event )

3. Fan

I live in Florida where it can be hot even when it’s well into the winter season, so any outdoor event I attend I know will most likely be warm, even sweaty. That’s why I save my outdoor events for the end of the year, but, as I said, that’s not even a guarantee that it’ll be comfortable or even cold outside. A small, battery-operated fan keeps me feeling half-way decent. I’m one of those pale people (yup, in Florida) who don’t do well in the heat or sun, so a fan blowing a bit of air at me at all times can prevent me from feeling sick. If you’re at all like me, a fan is at the top of the must-have list.

4. Tablecloth Clamps

Outdoor events usually mean you may be dealing with wind—wind that can knock down your books and merchandise or flip your tablecloth onto your table. To fix the latter, you can buy clamps to fit onto the corners of your table to keep your tablecloth down. I once found some at Dollar Tree. You could even find plastic clamps in the same color as your tablecloth. Win, win.

(Here's more on How to Prep for Author Events)

5. Ziploc Bags

Florida’s weather can be extremely unpredictable. A 30% chance of rain could hit one part of your town and not another. That’s why it’s smart to be ready for any type of weather.

But what do Ziploc bags have to do with anything? Get bags the size of your books and bring them along to your outdoor event. At the first sign of rain, slip all of your display books into a baggie. Now, if it sprinkles, you won’t have to worry your books getting wet. This technique works even when you have a tent/umbrella and wind decides to send some rain beneath it.

Not only will you not have to take down your table in a rush, but you could leave it up and continue to sell after the rain goes away. Some buyers may have an umbrella (as I would) and could continue to mosey on while it sprinkles, undeterred. And when someone buys your book, you can give them the Ziploc bags, too, to keep the book protected until they get home.

6. A Tarp or Plastic Tablecloth

Sometimes, when it rains, it pours. Even if you have a tent/large umbrella, a tarp or plastic tablecloth (I got mine from…you guessed it…Dollar Tree), can save the day when it rains so much that people have to run for cover and you worry about the contents on your table being destroyed. Just throw the tarp or plastic tablecloth over everything and hold it down with tablecloth clamps. Voila!

7. A Watercooler

Being outdoors, you should have plenty to drink to stay hydrated. And if you sign up for a book event that lasts as long (or longer) than a work day, you’ll also need to pack a lunch, which is a money-saver and a time-saver; you don’t have to leave your table or get someone else to keep an eye on it while you’re hunting down some food. I like to bring a pre-made salad from the store for my lunch at long events. At shorter events, you may find yourself wanting to snack on something. Protein or granola bars are perfect for those moments.

Try: Bamboo Lane Crunchy Rice Rollers, which are rice cake sticks. There are different flavors, and they come in packs of twos. I had the mixed berry, and it was yummy.

TIP: Pack anti-bacterial wipes and/or hand sanitizer to clean your hands before you eat.

8. Dog Treats

At outdoor events, especially dog-friendly venues, dogs are everywhere. Show the dogs some love by having a tin of dog treats at your table. Not only will the dogs love it, but the dog owners will appreciate it, too. And as the doggy gobbles up the treat and the owner is standing there, maybe gazing at your table, you can introduce yourself, mention your books, or just talk about dogs. A conversation about dogs could lead to more and be the opener for a soft sell. Even if you’re a cat person, as I am, get in touch with your doggy side. Woof!

Now you’re ready for (almost) anything that Mother Nature could dish out during your outdoor book event. Enjoy your time outside meeting readers and authors. Good luck!

Do you have any must-haves for outdoor events?

About Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publication

Do you want to know how to write a book step by step?

Are you wondering what to do once you have written a book?

Catch the sparks you need to write, edit, publish, and market your book!

Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publication offers an abundance of data in one handy book. From writing your novel to prepping for publication and beyond, you'll find sparks on every page, including 100 bonus marketing tips. You'll also discover how to write specific scenes and characters, adding depth to your work.
  • Spark One: Being a Writer
  • Spark Two: Story Essentials
  • Spark Three: A Book's Stepping Stones
  • Spark Four: How To
  • Spark Five: Character ER
  • Spark Six: Editing
  • Spark Seven: Publishing
  • Spark Eight: Marketing
  • Spark Nine: Writing About
  • Spark Ten: Final Inspiration
With so much information, you'll take notes, highlight, and flag pages to come back to again and again on your writing journey.

You will learn how to:
  • Write action, romance, suspense, mystery, and comedy
  • Create believable characters
  • Edit your writing
  • Build your author platform
  • Craft your author brand
  • Use social media marketing
  • Start a blog
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*Festival photo by TimothyJ, Creative Commons.


  1. Thank you so much for having me again as one of your contributors. I appreciate it and love being a guest here. :)

    1. Thanks for hanging out with us and sharing your experience at events :)