Author Book Fairs – A Behind the Scenes Look

I love book fairs. I attend them not just as an author, but as a reader as well. There is nothing like getting to walk around a bookstore and meet the authors who write the books we love. They have their tables set up with their books and other give-aways on it; they talk to their fans, old and new.  There are talks from several different authors in several different genres. What’s not to love? Walk in, meet the authors, hear some interesting stories, buy a book or two and go home; simple as can be, right? Well, for the fans, yes.

There is a lot that goes into setting up an event like this. My friend and assistant Kathy Porter is the co-chair of the Author Fair I am attending next weekend. Through her, my eyes have been opened to the tremendous amount of work that goes into putting on an event such as this. I thought it was time to give Kathy and others who do this work their due and to let them know how much we appreciate them.

The event is being organized through the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society (GLAWS) and is being hosted by Barnes and Noble on July 23rd and 24th. Before anything else could be done to start planning, the first thing Kathy had to do was find a venue. She contacted Barnes and Noble; for this event she spoke with the Barnes and Noble in Marina Pacifica in Long Beach, California. She chose this venue because of the location and the openness of the meeting area which will allow enough room for all the fans we are hoping will join us.  Once Barnes and Noble agreed to host the event, GLAWS put out a call for authors.

There are certain qualifications for author participation in this event, and Kathy had the tough job of having to gently explain to several talented authors that they were not able to be featured.  In order to qualify for this event an author had to have books available through Baker &Taylor and also through Ingram, the books needed to be returnable and they needed to have enough books in the system to order (usually about 20 books). Out of the 41 authors who wished to participate, only 20 met the qualifications set by the store.

Kathy had to attend meetings with the bookstore to work out how many authors the store could support per day, the event room scheduling and seating as well as the food and drink to be available.  There were a lot of details to attend to such as where chairs should be placed, where microphones needed to be placed and which food and drinks would be free and which would be sold. The author schedule consisted of making sure each author was allotted 5-7 minutes in the event room to speak on his or her subject or to read an excerpt from his or her book(s). Along with that there was also the issue of author table placement in the store; each author’s table being placed according to genre and as close to the area in the store where his or her genre is housed as possible.

Once the authors had been chosen and informed of their ability to participate,  Kathy set out to help them learn how to set up their tables and sell their books; she also had to set expectations for mode of dress, manning the tables, what to bring and how to engage readers in conversation. She held a class for the authors to help get everyone comfortable with what was expected of them and how to best represent themselves and their work to their readers. She also needed to collect from each author their ISBN, title(s) of their work, their names or pen names, a biography, a head shot and a book description – all of which was used in the flyer she made to promote the event and the websites that are promoting the event. To see the websites click here: Greater Los Angeles Writers Society Author Fair and Barnes and Noble Event – GLAWS Author Fair.

Planning an event such as this is no small task and I just want to take this opportunity to thank Kathy, Gillian, others who plan events such as this. You should know how much the authors appreciate you and the opportunity you are giving us to meet and greet our fans and cultivate new fans and friends.  It takes months of hard work to pull off an event like this. Thank you for giving us your time and your skills.

~Darlene Quinn

 

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5 responses to “Author Book Fairs – A Behind the Scenes Look

  1. Setting up a book fair certainly looks like a tough job and I am sure the event is exciting for all concerned. However, as an new author it disappoints me that most book fairs, this one included, make it almost impossible not be included. With the growing popularity of ‘print on demand’ and self-publishing I think it is time for the rules to open up. The publishing industry, as it stands now, is contracting so much that a new fiction writer, no matter how talented, has faint hope of finding a publisher, especially one who will promote as well. That leaves readers with mostly known authors, very little new, and thirsty for new talent.

  2. Lots of good information here! Thanks for information, but I sort of agree with Yvonne, maybe we should start having Kindle Book Fairs!

  3. I had no idea there was so much work involved in a book fair! Since they don’t have them in my area, I’ve never been to one. In my imagination it was just like a book signing or something. I was at one of these at my local library! I have to agree with Yvonne, with the publicity authors can get from the internet, they should loosen the rules. I can understand checking with the bookstore to see how many authors/people they can have. This was an informative post for me!

    • I’m so glad I was able to shed some light on the incredible amount of effort that goes into these events.

  4. Thank you for the very interesting insight. I had no idea so much work was involved. I assume it’s the same in the UK. though I have never had the opportunity to do anything like a signing. If the opportunity ever arises I shall make sure I’m appreciative.

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