Scoring Sales at Book Fairs, Festivals and Trade Shows

Book Fair

Sell books at book fairs

Omar Tyree displayed his self-published books at local bookstores and book fairs. A Simon & Schuster rep saw his book, liked it, and gave him a contract for Flyy Girl. After that, Tyree’s book hit the New York Times bestseller list.

Tyree’s huge success is exceptional, yet every author can increase book sales by getting in the game, so to speak.

For example, author Jeffrey Cook participates in and sets up numerous events, I Heart Books being one

Cook said, “I invite small groups of other local authors to come and do joint events with me. I also do events with Free Valley Publishing and NIWA here in Washington.” He mentioned Norwescon, Gearcon, Fairhaven Steampunk Festival, Steamposium and Orycon. He plans to participate in Maple Valley Days, Washington and the Snoqualmie Holiday Bazaar.

Here are some ways to start scoring more sales for your book:

Contact local and state governments, libraries, school districts, business organizations, clubs, associations and book stores for upcoming events where you can set up displays. And of course, Google “book fairs” and “literary events.”

In addition to setting up booths at the obvious venues, participate in arts and crafts festivals and fun fairs.

Author Natalie Goldberg, for example, used to write instant poetry at her booth at the local carnival. For technical writers, the Technology Exhibit is it. Business Writers: the Business Expo is a go. Children’s authors: Parents Day is the way. Historians: Olde Towne Faire is there.

When you decide to set up a booth at an exhibit, you’ll have two goals in mind. One is to increase the public’s awareness of your goods and services. The second goal is to recoup exhibition costs through direct sales and hot leads that turn into money. (The third is to have fun!)

Make appearing at exhibits part of your overall marketing plan. (Got no plan? Write one. Whether the goal is weight loss or book sales, the chances of success can increase, some say, up to 80% for people who document and use their plans.)

Before the Event:

Find out how many visitors typically attend the event so you can prepare enough give-aways, business cards and literature. (Of course, not every visitor will take your stuff, unless it’s candy in which case they’ll scoop up more than their share. “One per visitor, please.”)

Design clear, concise take-away literature that stands on its own without the need for you to explain it.

Jeffrey Cook recommends authors “Collaborate with other authors in your area to cut costs and increase table interest. Multiple genres will bring people you otherwise might not reach to at least see your work.’

Create a portable, durable display that won’t fall apart when you lug it from home, to the car, to the show, to the car, back home, to the car, to the show…

Tailor your display and activities to fit the exhibition’s overall theme or to reflect a theme of your own if one isn’t assigned for all vendors.

Visitors judge your entire oeuvre’s worth by what they see. Design a display (and that includes you, your attire and grooming, and conversational flair) to represent your excellent writing skills.

Prepare posters of your book covers, photos of you in action leading a writing workshop, and newspaper clips of you receiving a literary prize and similar attention grabbers.

Frame certificates, awards and other impressive documents. Set the framed credibility builders in small easels or plate holders available for a few dollars at craft stores.

Set up your display at home as a “dress rehearsal” to be sure all items fit in the allotted space.

Take a picture of the display so others can help you set up and tear down on the day of the event.

Distribute press releases to the media and send invitations to targeted individuals such as librarians, book store managers, book discussion group leaders and fans.

Have responses ready to counter automatic objections. Visitor: “I’ve already got too many books to read.” You: “That’s fine. I also give presentations about (fill in the blank).” Or, Visitor: “I’m writing my own book.” You: “Congratulations! I critique manuscripts.”

List and pack everything you need including water, extension cord, pen, tape, snacks, etc.

Train someone to give you break during the exhibit. (My niece did a super job. She got the names and telephone numbers of hot leads.)

During the Event:

Do the extrovert schmooze. Writers tend toward introversion, so a day of interacting with people can be tiring. Pace yourself. Be genuine and outgoing. You can decompress later.

Engage passersby with comments or questions about them or the exhibit. This draws them into the booth to linger and look.

Use a one-sentence pitch a child could understand, such as, “Readers say ‘Ken’s War’ is exciting and insightful,” and “I lead workshops on memoir writing,” and “I write resumes for job seekers,” are to the point.

Offer “event only” discounts and special incentives.

Arrange your display so people are corralled into your booth, rather than blocked by a table.

Save grooming, eating and cell phoning for break time.

Wear your name tag at all times. You never know who you’ll meet at the french fry stand.

Have someone take a photo of you interacting with visitors. Use the photo in future marketing campaigns.

Treat everyone – janitors, other exhibitors, that poor soul who comes for the freebies – as a potential client and as someone who will tell other potential clients about you.

Visit other booths for ideas and to see if you have direct competition and opportunities for collaboration.

After the Event:

Follow up on all leads ASAP.

Make notes of what worked and what didn’t. Use this info in designing your next display.

Thank everyone who helped you.



Article by the author of Ken’s WarWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide.


 ken's war cover

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.





Before You Write Your Book, Read This

Julie PolandGuest blogger Julie Poland is founder of  SummitHRD and President of the York, PA Chapter of SCORE.  She wrote an e-book, Secret Messages, and self-published the business book Changing Results by Changing Behavior. 

Writing seems to be on a par with networking and speaking engagements right now in popularity – about every other person we talk to has a dream of writing a book.  The process isn’t for everyone, and we’re not even talking about the quality of the writing that you’re capable of producing.  There’s some strategic work that needs to be done at the outset.
A few months ago a panelist in a workshop for would-be writers said, “The only person who should plan to make money writing a book is the person who has already made money writing a book.”  Perhaps this sounds cynical to you.  Perhaps you DO have the new information, the gripping story or the unique twist that will beat the odds.  But you might not – and you need to think about that.  You will invest time, energy, emotion, ego, and some money before you’re through, so in order to go into the project with both eyes open you want to answer a number of questions before you start.

What is your goal for your book?

  • Source of passive income?
  • Marketing tool?
  • Reason for groups to ask you to speak?
  • Credibility builder with prospective clients?

What is your topic or genre?

  • Non-fiction: biography, history, self-help, business, how-to, etc.
  • Fiction: thriller, mystery, humor, romance, historical, etc.

When do you plan to do your writing?

  • Instead of doing other work
  • At night or early in the morning to fit around other responsibilities
  • As fast as possible
  • Over time as information is collected

Are you writing this on your own?

  • By yourself
  • With collaborators
  • Using research
  • With public domain book as foundation

Who will publish it?

  • Mainstream publishing house, with an advance paid to cover costs
  • Vanity publisher
  • Self-published print-on-demand

How will it be marketed?

  • By the publisher
  • Online through Amazon or other avenues
  • By local bookstores and gift shops
  • Given to prospects, not sold (the book itself is not the intended revenue generator)

 Pros & Cons of Self-publishing

One advantage of self-publishing is the control you have over the project.  There is no executive telling you what spin to put on your concept, or mandating a certain length, style, etc.  The flip side of the control issue, though, is that you have responsibility for far more than the writing.  You’ll need an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), cover design, page layout, editing, artwork, recommendations from pre-readers to use for marketing, placement in retail locations, transference into multiple formats like audio, e-reader, and so forth.  When you self-publish you’ll lay out the funds for these pieces as you go along, as opposed to the publishing house route, where the house covers the costs and connects you to the resources.

Vanity publishing means that you’ll go through these steps and deliver your product to a publisher with an order for a certain number of books.  The books will be delivered to you and it will be your responsibility to get them to your desired distribution channels.  The more you order, the lower your cost per book.  But you will lay out a chunk of change in exchange for a stock of books that will last you until  ______?

Print on demand enables you to avoid having a stack of books in your closet or in your garage.  Create Space (a division of Amazon), for instance, enables you to upload your book package.  You approve a proof, they give you your ISBN and place your book on their Amazon site.  You can buy a supply of books at a certain cost if you want to have some on hand, and if somebody orders your book on Amazon, the site handles it and mails you a check later for your cut of the sale.

Parting Thoughts
As in any business venture, there’s a difference between working IN your business and working ON your business.  If you are writing with the intention of making money from it, the actual writing is only part of the equation.  You can choose to be more writing-focused if you outsource the production and marketing to a publisher, but for the most part it’s them choosing you rather than you choosing them.  Your story or concept or writing is going to have to give them a compelling reason to invest in you.

All that being said, if you have something you want to say in a book, make your decisions, plan it out and go for it.