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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Exhibiting at a Book Fair

Today's post has to do with selling your book at a book fair or festival. I haven't actually done this yet. But I have a festival coming up. And I've attended a few. So I thought I'd share my plans.

In October, I will have a table at the Minneapolis RAIN TAXI BOOK FESTIVAL. That means I get one of thirteen zillion, three-foot wide tables on which to display and sell my wares . . . er, books. Here are some of the challenges I can foresee and how I plan to address them.

Get my table noticed from a distance. There are going to be multiple l-o-n-g lines of tables just like mine at this fair. Everybody at every table will be selling books. I need to do something to distinguish my table from the others, and hopefully, to attract buyer notice at a reasonable distance. I know you're probably thinking that an organ-grinder and a monkey would be just the ticket. But I'm pretty sure I'd irritate all the exhibitors around me, and probably PETA, too, if I chose that route.

I'm still mulling this over. But I have a particular affinity for Diet Mountain Dew. It's my morning coffee and my afternoon tea. One of my books also features Diet Mountain Dew as an integral component of my hero's plan to save the U.S. from nuclear disaster. (No kidding. If you had read the book, you would understand.) So I'm considering placing a one-liter Diet Dew bottle on a chrome pole with a battery-powered light (or two) inside it, and standing the pole beside my table. If it's tall enough, it just may pique someone's interest.

Making my table look good close-up. Once readers get close to my table, I want to make sure that my table display looks classy, professional (in contrast to my Dew light) and approachable.

Part of my plan is to have a selection of tablecloths along with me . . . different colors and styles so I can select the best one at the last minute to make my table look better than everyone else's -- or at least, better than someone else's. I'll probably have red, green, cream and brown/tan options available . . . all fairly formal, but not lacy. My hero is a man of action, after all.

Naturally, there will be several stacks of each book, of varying heights to indicate that sales have been made. I'll also have an 8" x 10" color poster displayed in a plexi-glass, standing picture frame, featuring Author and book cover pics, together with a short bio and a one-sentence description of each book (targeted at this particular audience, of course).

I'll also have a nice table-fan of take-away glossy bookmarks containing all crucial book and contact information.

And I thought I would lay out on the table, a laminated sheet (8.5" x 11") containing choice blurbs from book reviews. If I'm busy talking to another buyer, the next person can bide their time by checking out my list of reviews -- just in case they doubt my talent as an author. (You never know.)

Human contact. Perhaps the most important part of my "fair strategy" is to present an approachable presence at the table. I will be either standing or sitting on the edge of a wooden stool during the entire fair. I won't be sitting down in a chair. I don't want people to feel like they might be interrupting me if they approach my table.

I will have a couple questions designed to engage passersby in friendly conversation. And I will have a one or two sentence synopsis of each book at the ready.

I will know WHY THE READER SHOULD BUY MY BOOKS, and be able to convey this information concisely.

I WILL NOT be pushy or try to force anyone to engage with me if they don't care to. But I will open the door to conversations, and hopefully, book sales.

Other logistics. I will have a change box with plenty of bills and coins so I don't ever have to turn a buyer away for lack of the correct change. I will also have a quick reference guide to provide me the exact cost of various combination sales of my books so I don't have to calculate it each time. (For example: 2 of Book A + 1 of book B = $X including tax).

I'll try to have someone come by the table to give me a break once in a while so I can hit the head or grab a bite. But if I can't arrange this, I'll try to make friends with neighboring exhibitors and see if we can arrange to cover one another's tables for short, but necessary, absences.

I may allow readers to register for a door prize of some sort (not my books -- I want them to buy those) to attract further interest to my table. I will notify them of their winnings via email, allowing me to possibly make an unobtrusive post-book-fair contact with them.

I will bring plenty of books, and have more in the car. I might not sell a lot . . . but I WILL NOT RUN OUT!

I might have a dish of wrapped mints available. Hmmm?

I'm sure I'll come up with better ideas as I continue to prepare. But those are mine for now.

Do you have any book fair tips you'd care to share? Please post a comment.

That's it for today.




  1. John. I have two words for you: SERVE COOKIES. MOLLY

  2. Ahhhh! Could be pricey -- but likely worth it! Thanks Molly. John