Do you know how to work a book fair and get exposure for your book and your author profile?
As an author, how do you take advantage of book fairs and conventions? Do you walk the show, meeting industry contacts? Do you sign your book and greet fans? Should you look for media opportunities? Do you need to have your own booth, or should you partner with organizations who already have a footprint at the fest?
These questions and more were answered during the Book Publicists of Southern California Dinner, April 11, 2018, at the Sportsman’s Lodge in Studio City, California.
To Be a Vendor or Not to Be a Vendor at a Book Fair
For any book fair, ask yourself how you want to participate. There are three main ways, and there are pros and cons for each. Here is a basic breakdown to consider:
- Walk the show—good for a first-time experience, first-time authors and authors who don’t have their book yet launched.
- Gives you a lay of the land
- You can run around, not tied to a booth, and network
- Gives you ideas for when you do do a book fair
- Partner with an existing booth—good for authors with a book(s) out and who have something to promote.
- Sign at your publisher’s booth
- Sign at your publicist’s/marketing agency’s booth
- Sign at an organization’s booth, like the BPSC, GLAWS, HWA, or many other author/writer organizations that offer their members signing opportunities
- Sign with book stores, other companies, and organizations, too
- Take advantage of the marketing and promotion they are doing, means less grass roots for you
- Be a vendor—good for a big launch, big splash
- Be sure you alone have enough oomph to warrant a stand-alone booth
- Consider costs and remember you will need things like insurance, seller’s permit, ability to process credit cards (might need this if you sign with a partner)
- Plan—many book fairs book many months out and offer early bird specials
- Consider partnering with a fellow author or two to cut costs and share in the experience—have fun. Theme your booth and think of unique offers. If you write fantasy, share a booth with a couple other fantasy writers and theme it the Fairy’s Corner, for example!
- You take on the marketing, promotion and PR
Tips for Attending Book Fairs and Conventions
- Before the show, make sure you are connected digitally. Follow the show on social media, Twitter, Facebook, Insta, etc. Know the hashtags and use them prior, during and after the event. For example #bookfest #LATimesFoB are good hashtags to use for the LA Times Book Fest. If the fest or con has an app, download it.
- Look at the show schedule, either online, or in the case of the LA Times Book Fest, check out their big reveal Sunday when the LA Times lists the full schedule.
- Map out and outline your show experience. Who do you want to see? Who must you see? Plan panels, signings, booths you are going to visit in advance, so you maximize your time.
- You should spend more than just a few hours at the fest. Invest your time. LA Times Book Fest draws over 150k people and is the biggest in the US.
Be Professional and Have a Strategy for Your Pitch
Looking to engage with someone specific? Respect their time and see if you can make an appointment at their booth. Consider who they are and why they are there. Be respectful and don’t monopolize time as everyone is busy.
These are the types of professionals you can expect to network with. Have a pitch or strategy for each:
- Publishers, agents and publicists
- Media people and press
- Marketing people, book review, websites, distributors, printers
Tips for Networking with Industry Professional
- Vendors want to sell books, sign you up for newsletters, solicit members, promote events, etc. Expect to be pitched. Be prepared to sign up for some things and of course, buy some books!
- Bring books, bring cards, marketing materials. Always be prepared, however, don’t waste anyone’s time. Keep in mind that the person you are pitching wants to know what’s in it for them.
- Find out about outside ancillary events. Are there parties or events you can attend? For example, the LA Times Book Fest offers Book Fest After Dark—a list of outside events happening after show hours. These events can be perfect for networking.
Featured speakers included Desireé Duffy, Ruth Klein, and Godfrey Harris:
Desireé Duffy, founder Black Chateau Enterprises, the 2017 Irwin Award Book Publicist of the Year, with invaluable tips on attending the L.A. Times Festival of Books, April 21-22, 2018 on the USC campus in Los Angeles, California.
Ruth Klein, veteran book merchandising expert, the 1995 Irwin Award winner for Best Print Campaign of the Year, will disclose success strategies for the 2018 Book Expo May 31-June 2, 2018 in New York City at Javits Center.
Godfrey Harris, longtime book producer, editor, and author of over 70 books, a 1996 Irwin award winner for Best Non-Fiction Campaign, will divulge ways to work the international scene such as book fairs in London, Frankfort, and Jerusalem.