Image: Matthew Loffhagen
Have you ever sold books at a fair, convention, or festival?
If not, perhaps you ought to try – it might just be the best thing you ever do to market your book.
Online marketers spend an awful lot of time trying to find the best way to sell products over the internet. In spite of this, 67% of business marketers feel that attending events is the most effective strategy they use.67% of marketers feel that attending events is the most effective strategy they use.Click To Tweet
A lot of the hassle of selling books over the internet is convincing online audiences to sit up and pay attention long enough to fall in love with your novel.
The fantastic thing about book fairs is that everyone in attendance is there because they love reading and they love books. It’s the perfect place to attract new readers.
There’s something special about meeting an author in person which makes convention attendees far more likely to open their pockets than they would be normally. Many of those you meet at such events will be looking to get something that’s a little harder to offer online: a personally signed book.
Benefits beyond the obvious
Beyond directly selling books, there’s a second key reason to make appearances at book events – it gets your name out.
Giving away flyers, business cards, or even free chapters of your book means getting your work in front of more readers. Even if they decide against buying your book right then and there, a lot of people you talk to will want to visit your website at a later date and could be persuaded to give you their email address, which is the first step to building a relationship.
What’s more, you’ll get the chance to network with other independent and self-published authors and to learn from the experiences of others in the same boat as you.
Choosing the perfect publishing event
There are plenty of book fairs all across the world, but not all of them will be equally rewarding so it’s important to do some research before opening your wallet. If you’ve got a wide variety of books to display, it also helps to choose which stock you bring, and which books you draw attention to.
Patricia Fry is a writer with an extensive library of different literary works. When she attends local conventions, she makes sure to mostly bring local history books as she knows they’ll go down well. Similarly, you’ll want to choose a book fair with an audience that matches your target demographic.
To a certain extent, you can even choose events that fit your genre – for example, there are plenty of crime novel festivals around the world, with events in Iceland, Scotland and New York that all cater to local tastes.
If you’re not sure whether a particular event is the right fit for your book, it’s worth contacting the event organizers or other attendees to ask what kinds of crowds are to be expected. Primarily, though, you’ll want to make sure your event of choice caters for independent and self-published writers.
A good example is the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair, which will draw in crowds who are eager for something they’ve never heard of before. If attendees are expecting indie titles, you’ll stand a much better chance of selling books.
If all else fails, there are always the big book fairs. Book Expo America is the largest event stateside, and it boasts an impressive number of tables and authors. Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany is another huge one – it’s known for drawing in a particularly high number of literary scouts and agents, so making connections at this event may be a huge step forward for your novels. The London Book Fair also draws in huge crowds of potential readers and agents, so it’s another great one for those hoping to network and build relationships.
These events can be wonderful, but be warned: the experience is not for the faint of heart. Among so many booksellers, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd, and the atmosphere can be fairly aggressive compared to relatively small conventions.
Catch the eye of booksellers
The environment in a hall of hundreds of booksellers isn’t all that different to selling through Amazon or other online retailers – convention attendees have so many choices vying for their time, attention and money, that it’s easy to get drowned out among all the (sometimes literal) shouting that’s going on around you.
For this reason, it’s important that your table is as eye-catching as possible. Stand books up wherever possible to show off the covers, and if you can get hold of signs pointing out your genre, all the better.Your table at a book fair needs to be as eye-catching as possible.Click To Tweet
Think about the element that makes your book stand out – a romance novel could be advertised with roses, hearts and chocolate (everybody loves free chocolate) while a young adult book in the style of The Hunger Games might feature a bow and arrow, or toy soldiers arranged in a death-match.
You want people to see your book, and want to know more about it. Do whatever you can to make your table stand out.
The personal touch
Ultimately, the most unique part of the convention bookselling experience – the thing that increases immediate sales rather than online ones – is you.
Readers will love the chance to meet you, and the way you interact with attendees will make a huge impact on your sales.
After all, human interaction is the only reason why face-to-face marketing is so successful.
Being friendly and outgoing will get people to your table better than any marketing tool you can employ. Then comes your opportunity to give the elevator pitch: your thirty second synopsis of your book. It’s worth practicing this before you attend a book fair, and once you’re there, you want to give it to as many people as possible. Let them know why your book is unique, and why they should want it in their lives.
Spreading the word about your book
Aside from anything else, attending book fairs is a lot of fun. Meeting people and getting direct feedback on your work is a fantastic experience, and even if you don’t sell a single book, you’ll come away having made connections and, with any luck, increased your presence as an author.
A lot of these benefits are hard to quantify, but every public appearance, whether you’re a seasoned professional or a relative newbie, is the best publicity you can hope for.
After all, imagining a million people enjoying your book isn’t anywhere near as rewarding as actually seeing somebody smile because of something you wrote.Have you ever attended a book fair? What's your experience?Click To Tweet
Have you ever attended a convention? Do you have any advice to share? Let us know your experiences, thoughts and questions in the comments below.