Friday, December 26, 2008

Why Attend Book Fairs?

When I was on the airplane to the Capetown Book Fair, the man next to me asked why I was going to Capetown. I told him and he said, “A fair for books? Hmmm. Well, it takes all kinds”.

He obviously didn’t see the use of book fairs and, unfortunately, there are still many writers who feel the same; I am not one of them. Book fairs have so many positive attributes, if I had my way I’d attend every one I could.

Let’s take a closer look at how attending book fairs can help you.

1. Rub elbows with the Big Guys.
Most book fairs have one or two big names on their list. They will often be scheduled for talks and book signings. This is an opportunity to ask them the questions you’ve been dying to get answers to. They have gone through it already; why not tap into their resources?

2. Get free stuff
Definitely you will come home with a ton of cool bookmarks. Often you can get free books, magazines, bags, pens, post cards, calendars, writing pads, and pencils. I love free stuff and take everything they want to give me.

3. Networking
Go with business cards and give them out to everyone you meet. Take everyone’s business cards too. Book fairs are fantastic networking opportunities. You might even go with a few packages of your latest manuscript (synopsis, cover letter, first three chapters) just in case you happen upon a publisher who seems keen to look at your work. Be bold, but not pushy. You can always get the contact and email when you get back home.

4. Knowledge
Book fairs usually have many different workshops going on simultaneously. I’ve attended workshops on rights, book cover design, anthologies and their payment plans, among others. All were excellent and free after paying the entrance for the book fair.

5. Speaking Opportunities
Book fairs are often looking for speakers. Why not offer your services? Speaking is exposure, exposure means selling books.

These are just a few of the reasons why book fairs are valuable to writers, both emerging and established. So, book your travel plans for the next one!
Lauri Kubuitsile is a full time writer in Botswana. To make a living, this means she writes anything that requires words being placed sensibly on a page. Her writing has been published on four continents. She blogs at Thoughts from Botswana.

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  1. Great post Laurie! I was at the CT book fair as well this year, went to support my husband's brother-in- law who had taken a stall for his bookshop (Select Books). It was my first book fair and what an experience! Your reasons why writers should attend were spot-on.

  2. "You might even go with a few packages of your latest manuscript (synopsis, cover letter, first three chapters) just in case you happen upon a publisher who seems keen to look at your work."

    Every writer and editor who has mentioned this point, that I've read, have been unanimous: leave your manuscript at home. This is a sure sign that you're an amateur.

    The last thing editors and agents want is to lug more material back, especially now when you can e-mail a manuscript as soon as you get back.

  3. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  4. Thanks for the advice, Bill. I did hand over a few things and got a few bites- but were they out of pity?? Could be things are slightly different in this neck of the world where we don't operate with agents, etc.

    Ann- what a small world this is? Perhaps I'll see you this year. I hope to be going. I compiled a collection of short stories for a South African publisher and we hope to launch there. We'll also be pushing an anthology I have a story in called One World.

    Susan- so happy you enjoy The Blood Red Pencil. Keep reading and leaving your comments.

  5. I love book fairs, but then I'm addicted to books, so that's not unusual. The only problem is counting on the weather.

    Last year I participated in Printer's Row and had a great time selling my books, but a Summer storm played some havoc. Hoping for better weather this year.

    Morgan Mandel

  6. Don't overlook state book festivals. For example, Texas has one each year. It's huge. You can be a vendor and rent a table, but it's expensive. You might could hook up with your publisher's table and sign there or with an organization that's buying a table and sign with them. But your best bet is to find out what the requirements are for that festival for you to be a featured author. Check your state festival's site for the requirements. That's usually your best bet for exposure and sales.

  7. Anytime you can afford to travel, network, and sell, it's worth the effort. And there's no reason not to carry a few CDs with a PDF of your current manuscript. Just in case.

  8. We have very few book fairs to choose from this side of the world. Helen it is lovely that your state has a book fair. Do all of the states do that?

    L.J. I agree with you, I love to travel so that is always a good thing. And too every time you meet a new person you're expanding in so many ways. The worst case situation is you meet someone and they say, "Do you have any of your work with you?" and you must say "No.". It doesn't hurt to be prepared.

  9. Great advice Lauri. I'd add that if you don't feel ready to offer your services as a speaker, offer them as a volunteer. Volunteers often interact with the guests in smaller groups, or even one-on-one. It's great way to meet people and learn about the business.

  10. Lauri,

    I always have my promo package with me, but don't mention it. Once (and only once) I was asked for it at a function and was very happy to have it with me. Most often though, editors and agents will hand over a business card and ask the writer to follow up. This frees the agent/editor from lugging heavy paper around and weeds out those individuals who don't have enough professional etiquette to follow through.

    I know this, but feel unprepared if I go to a function with out The Package. I also carry the same thing on CDs - and if I have a completed manuscript, that goes on the CDs as well.

  11. That and anywhere that everyone attending loves to read has to be a good place to be. :)

  12. Hiya - Glad you enjoyed the book fair!

    Just a gentle correction: It's Cape Town (2 words) not Capetown... I used to live there, and it bugs residents when people spell the city name as one word :)

  13. Thanks Mags- I've been told that before but forgot and our fearless editor, Dani, could not be expected to know.


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