Selling at markets: {almost} one year of experience

Have you ever tried selling your books at a local market? I did my first one in June of 2022, and yesterday was my fourth! I’ve learned a lot over the past year of doing it.

I was at the “Spring Is Coming” Square Lemon Market this weekend. This was my third Square Lemon market and it’s always a good experience–I’m not even just saying that; there’s always a good number of people, decent sales, and free coffee (!). I mean, that’s pretty great! They run once a month at the Glebe Community Centre.

Setting up at the Market

As I’ve done more of these I’ve gotten pretty quick about set up. With Nic and Theo there to help it’s always really quick, plus I’ve learned kind of “how” exactly everything should go on your standard table over the last year. Practice makes perfect.

With books you really need to add a couple of extras for visual engagement/appeal. I have some knicky-knacky stuff and a shelf to vary the height a little bit. You don’t want to overdo it, but I do notice my sales are better than some other displays I’ve seen where there’s little visual interest.

PS those boxes are fruit crates from the grocery store – I probably bought 25lbs of tomatoes in them at a time. They’re fantastic for carrying heavy books & market stuff around.

Selling the Books

The other thing about having done a few of these markets now is that’s I’ve got my pitch pretty much perfect 😅 The first time I did one of these I didn’t really know what to say, how to make a connection with people walking by, how to explain the book plot or give some interesting little details… I think I’m getting pretty good at it now!

Part of what I’ve learned is to be really, really active in reaching out to people. Say hi. Comment on their cute t-shirts. If they seem like the type, ask if they write too. This also helps me meet people in the Ottawa writing scene, which is a huge benefit. Sometimes I even get other people’s contact info!

Lessons Learned

It was a nicely successful market. In terms of my year-to-year experience:

MarketBook SalesNotes
June 20226*
Plus two knock-on
First market; figuring out what I was doing
August 20226Actual indie-and-small-press book market (not a craft market).
Better idea what I was doing, but it was SO SLOW. Like zero traffic!
Great sales-to-engagement ratio actually 😂
October 202223I mean, that number speaks for itself.
I have no idea why it was so high. Traffic? Close to Christmas? Was I particularly engaging that day?!
March 202311Pretty good! Trending in the right direction (if you ignore October 2022, which I might never repeat again lol).
Note that I did increase prices for 2023 ($20 each or 3 for $50) and it didn’t seem to noticeably impact sales.


If you’ve got a chance to sell at a local market – go for it. My sales are really good at these (I mean selling 11 books/day on Amazon? unless you’re one of the very highest selling indie authors, it’s really unlikely). People really like the local author appeal, and being able to describe the books, how and why you wrote them, parts you especially like, and inspiration drives a lot of sales.

You’ll definitely want a Square card reader ($60), something for visual interest (little shelves work well to break up the height monotony); something to catch appeal (cute signage); and business cards for people who are “maybes”.

Good luck!

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