Book Fairs From an Author’s Perspective – Yes or No?

One of the “channels” authors use to publicize and sell their books are book fairs. The theory is that people come to the book fair and buy your books. Attendance at book fairs varies. Some are well attended, some are not. At some you sell a ton of books and at others, you can’t give them away!

My mantra is simple. Be polite and talk to anyone and everyone who stops by my booth. The set-up is always the same. The author has a table and you lay out your books, tabletop displays and, if there is room, a stand-up sign. Then, you wait for the people to come by (buy!!!).

There is a second purpose to the book fair and that is networking with my fellow authors. Most are willing to share tips on promotions, contracts and publishers. At the limited number of fairs I’ve attended, more and more authors are self-published. What is interesting is how many who have moved from traditional publishers to self-publishing and the reasons why.

At the fairs I attend, during set-up, I walk around looking for authors who write books that interest me and often we swap books, or I just buy. Sometimes there’s a publisher or two and they are interesting to speak with.

All of this brings me to the people who are supposed to attend who I refer to as buyers, browsers and others. Let’s start with the “others.”

At one book fair, the tent was in a square in the downtown area and open to any and all comers. All day long, homeless people would come into the tent and the organizers and the park police would gently usher them out of the tent. They would talk to us until they were asked to leave. It was sad.

Browsers are those who stop at my table, may ask a question or two and flip through a book. If there’s a conversation, what comes out early is they only buy e-books. Right…

Then there are the buyers. They want to talk to learn more about you and your books. At a fair, I sign and write personal note to the buyer or a loved one in every book I sell. It is gratifying to talk to someone who wants to read you work.

At the end of the day, I am dog-tired from standing on the hard floor even though the most strenuous thing I’ve done all day is lug the books in and out during the set up and take down.

Are they worth the effort? Yes because it is a chance to build your brand. Are they economically viable? In terms of revenue or profit versus expenses, once there is overnight travel involved, the answer is no. Will I keep going to them, probably?

Net net… The jury is still out on book fairs, but I am going to keep speaking to the jury!

Marc Liebman

March 2018

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