Not knowing how to pitch your book
This seems obvious, but I can’t count how many times I have asked an author to tell me about there book, and received, “Um, I don’t know, it’s a sci-fi love story blah blah”. If you are speaking about your book, the words um, I don’t know, typical, and standard do not exist in your vocabulary.
Using your phone instead of your finesse
Okay that was a play on words, but really- if you are at an event, BE at the event, not on Facebook the whole time. More often than not, you are paying for events you attend, so you better make it worth it. Make a rule: you are only allowed to use your phone for necessary communication and/or promoting the event of social apps. That means phones are used maybe 10-20% of the time, and the rest of the time you should be talking to customers and readers whenever possible. Being shy isn’t really an option in this sort of situation, so fake it until you make it!
Not preparing beforehand
If you go to an event without having done any promoting or preparation, it’s basically like going to the prom without telling any of your friends and hiding in a corner by the bleachers. You should have extra books, plenty of swag, flyer handouts with your social info on them, already planned. You need to know where you’re located so you know where to send people. You need to contact local media, friends, family, co-workers, etc and tell them you will be there. You need to make sure you understand the criteria for having electricity at your booth, if you can hang banners and what materials you may need, how much table space you have, how many chairs are included and if you need to bring your own. You need to create a FB event, share photos on instagram and twitter of the location, your poster, and the festival advertisement ahead of time. There is a LOT that goes into an event, and if you’re not prepared to do it all, you are wasting your time and your money.
You forgot about curb appeal
When you sell books at an event, your table or booth is essentially a mini-storefront for your brand. If you have a pile of books on the table and a tiny poster as your entire display, prepare yourself to not make a lot of sales. You need to make sure you have displays (the plastic book stands can be bought at Michael’s or JoAnn’s for about $1), you need to have banners or stands with attractive posters. Have some friends hang out around your area (not gabbing to you the whole time) to demonstrate that you are interesting and then send them to walk the event with your swag and flyers to hand out. Look as professional and put together as possible, and if you have swag, make sure it’s creatively designed and front and center on your table.
Showing up to the wrong event
Most of the time, authors look for the biggest baddest event in their area to get the most bang for their buck. While this makes perfect sense in theory, those events usually end up being a Comic Con or the like. If you have an anime/comic/superhero inspired novel, this might just work for you, but if you have a single YA historical romance novel, chances are you are out of your breadth and out of your target audience. There are SO many famous actors, comic artists, and screenwriters there that your one novel, despite how great it is, probably won’t be making a splash, or even a ripple. If you team up with your publisher or a whole gang of similar artists, your powers combined might be able to pull through some sales, but otherwise I would hold off. Find events specific to the genre or content of your book and build your fanbase in an area there. Until you have made your name in at least the local area, you are 99% of the time, better off not going to a Comic Con.