Book Fairs, Festivals and Conventions; What Authors Should Expect

So you bought a booth, or table at a book convention, festival or fair, or perhaps you are sharing space with other authors who are also hopeful to sell lots of books. This is just one of the many ways authors are able to get there books in front of readers. But your wondering – does it have value? Is it worth the cost? They the cost of one of these events can range in price from as little as $100.00 to over $2,000.00 for larger events. What do I do to promote myself there?

The cold hard facts are that you may not sell enough books to cover the cost of your booth, or even your portion of a shared booth. However the exposure your book receives could be priceless. Keep in mind when you are at a book festival or fair you are in the midst of hundreds of other book authors also selling books. The most famous and popular draw the crowds and then wonder around looking for interesting books – maybe yours. So how do you stand out from the crowd?

The first thing you have to do is take off your writers hat. Today you are a marketer and to sell your book(s) you have to think like one. Think of several reasons a potential reader should buy your book. I know what your thinking – that is much easier for ‘how to’ and ‘self help’ books. But fiction books have the same ‘reason to buy’ potential. For example: does your book have a blurb from a well-know author? Is your background story based on real event that are prevalent today? Do you have a story that deals with a particular hardship, ethnicity, past or recent or future event, readers can identify with? Or are you in a niche genre like science fiction or fantasy? Are there characters or animals you can make eye catching visuals i.e. poster, Tee Shirts, 3D sculptures? All these things can be utilized to create a customers ‘need to buy’.

Your booth should to be neat and eye catching, featuring your book(s) in an enticing way. Now that doesn’t mean you can sit at your table inside your booth expecting your visuals to do the work for you. You have to get up and out of your both and engage people whose sense are overstimulated by the huge volume of wonderful and new books and other items on display. This means as they go past your booth it will hold their attention for only a few seconds. By standing in front of your booth with a bookmark or flyer to hand to them with a smile on your face and a one-liner to pique their interest in your book.

Here are some examples of what you can say – good and bad.

Bad: “Would you like a bookmark? ” – This question could generate an easy ‘No thank you’ and you have missed and opportunity to talk about your book.

Bad: “Can I tell you about my book?” – Never asked a question they can answer with ‘no’.

Good: “‘Webs of Power is a cross between” The Devil wears Prada” and Wall Street” and place the bookmark in their hand with a smile. As they reach for the bookmark you have a second moment of opportunity. “‘Webs of Power” is a character driven novel about the demise of our favorite stores in the ’80’s and how three corporate women struggled to survive.” — You have caught their attention and have a great opportunity at this point to get to your booth and get a book into their hands.

Think of one line introduction for your book that will entice a potential reader to want to hear more. Again, I know that it is easer for a self help book, but all books have potential platforms. Think about what your book relates to and deliver your one liner to a potential reader with a generous smile and a show of confidence. Be engaging, even if your conversation with a passerby begins with small talk – you have to drive the conversation back to your book. Bottom line is you have to believe in your book and its potential.

Attitude is everything at an event. If you are thirsty, over heated or cool, hungry, tired, or distracted your chances of selling are slim. So be prepared with an ample supply of water and snacks, a packed launch, layered clothing so you can adjust your comfort. Make sure you are well rested and prepared with to sell. Have a mirror and comb handy and most of all smile.

Get to know your neighbors in the surrounding booths. These people will most likely show up at many of the events you will attend to promote your book. You can be great assets to each other for referrals. Let’s not overlook those of you who are alone in the booth for the day – your booth neighbors can give you the few moments you need for a restroom break.

Okay authors here is the hardest thing you will do at book selling events – asked for the order! So you need a closing line right? Please don’t use words like ‘sell’ or ‘buy’. “Would you like to buy a copy for yourself or as a gift?” is asking for a ‘no’. Instead try, “Who should I sign a copy to?” – I like this one because it’s not a question they can answer with ‘no’. So it’s a better closing line. Or after telling someone about your book and their interest is obvious – “How would you like to pay for your copy? I take cash, checks or credit cards.” Or my favorite – “What’s your name so I can personalize your copy?”. Do you see how you need to take the emphasis off buying and selling to ‘how do you want it signed’ or what currency they want to use. Using the assumptive sale sells books. Your biggest mistake would be not to ask. You are not an author today you are a marketer and books are your product so you can’t wait for them to ask for a copy – though some will. But you can sell far more books by using the closing lines I just taught you.

As you can see the success of your convention, festival, book fair etc., depends on one major factor – YOU and how prepared you are to sell. Practice your one liner, your smile and know how to complete the sale. For your cash sales have plenty of change available. Don’t wait till the day of your event to find out how your new credit card processor works. Know what the local taxes are and make sure you have a sales tax permit either a permanent one for your state or a temporary one for out of state cities. These are very easy to obtain over the internet.

Finally talk to everyone. You never know who may come by your booth. Remember that today you are a marketer here to sell books. You may or may not cover your cost. But with a confident attitude your book exposure can result in future sale and more. In today’s publishing world your book sales depend largely on your marketing ability and how aggressive you are about getting the word out about your book. Festivals, conventions and fairs are potential gold mines. So make some posters out of your book cover, get bookmarks and flyers, have business cards, an enticing one-liner about your book, confidence a firm handshake, and a smile. I believe your are ready so get to yourself a booth, be prepared to sell, and most of all have fun.

“How would you like your copy of Darlene Quinn’s new sequel “Twisted Webs” to be signed?”

~Kathy Porter

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