Book Fairs

On Sunday, March 8th, I’ll be at the North Port (Florida) Public Library from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at a Book Fair being put on by the Friends of the North Port Public Library. (http://www.folofnorthport.com/)

North Port Library

North Port Library

This will be my first year to participate in this book fair. I decided to attend for several reasons. (1) My Five Star Mysteries are primarily sold to libraries, so getting to know a librarian and library is always a good idea. (2) The cost is minimal. $25 for half a table/$50 for a full table. (3) We’re allowed to (encouraged) to hand sell our books, and don’t have to pay any commission to the library. (The table fee is all they request.) (4) There will be over 30 other authors there, representing fiction and non-fiction books, all genres, traditionally published and self-published. (5) Last year the librarian said they had lots of people come through during the book fair, which means, of course, more exposure of my books to the public.

I mention all of these features because not all book fairs are created equally, and not all are worth attending. For example, later this month, the Venice (Florida) Book Fair will be held on Venice Island with talks being presented in the Venice Theater. I will visit that book fair and I hope to attend a couple of the talks, but I won’t have a booth, primarily because the cost of a booth for an author is $150 ($175 if author signs up after a certain date). I’d have to sell a lot of books to make it worthwhile for me.

Last September I participated in a book fair at the Saranac Public Library in Michigan and had a fantastic time. It’s a small library, but the librarians were wonderful and a lot of people came through the library between 4 pm and 8 pm, and I sold several books. I was also invited back to give a talk there April 27, 2015. Now, Saranac is 168 miles, round trip, from where I live in Michigan, but I feel both the book fair and my upcoming talk are worthwhile, both for the books sold and also for the word-of-mouth potential.

I’ve also done a book fair for two years now in Buchanan, Michigan through the Buchanan Art Center. They take a percentage of sales, but they handle the money (I don’t have to worry about having the right change), we have 15 minutes in which to read aloud and answer questions, and the group is wonderful.

Years ago, when I was writing romances for Harlequin, Silhouette, and Bantam, I participated in several book expos, but those were sponsored by bookseller associations. Back when I was writing for Harlequin I had a chance to participate in the ABA (American Booksellers Association) show in San Francisco. (ABA is now BEA, Book Expo America). That was a thrilling experience for me, like being in the middle of a three-ring circus. All of the major publishing houses (and there were a lot more back in the 1980s) were there, along with major bestselling writers and TV personalities. Books were given away, talks given. But it wasn’t focused on the individual writer as much as the publishers and distributors (again, there were a lot of those around back then).

For several years in the 1990s, the published writers in our Mid-Michigan Chapter of RWA purchased membership in the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association and paid for a table. We gave away copies of our books, some donated by the publishers, but most donated by the authors. Our goal was to promote the romance genre and our chapter. That, too, was fun. I always came home with a bag of ARCs (advanced reading copies), pencils, pens, and other PR materials. But again, it cost us money, and we could only hope our presence helped sell our books. After a time, we stopped attending. It really wasn’t worth it.

Every year cities and libraries have book fairs. It’s something writers should be aware of. If you’re unpublished, attend and see what’s out there, get ideas so when your turn comes, you’ll know how to set up a display, do a reading, etc. For published writers, attend for similar reasons as well as a way to decide if you might want to attend a following year. Whether it’s worth it is up to you.

 

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10 Responses to Book Fairs

  1. Hi, Maris,

    I read your discussion with interest. I’ve only done one book fair. I didn’t sell much, but engaged in a lively panel which I enjoyed. My book fair, Books NJ, was also sponsored by a library. I’ll do it again this June. But I’m not charged for a table and so there is no overhead.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Jaccqueline, that sounds like the perfect book fair to attend. Often it’s not the books you sell during the event as the contacts you make. I know if I meet and like an author, I might not buy a book at that time, but later, when I’m looking for something to read, I’ll remember that writer and will look up his/her books.

  2. L. C. Hayden says:

    Good article. I have done some book fairs here and there, but not many. How does one go about finding out what’s available out here in the Southwest?

  3. Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

    Good question, L.C., and I’m not exactly sure what to suggest. Most of the book fairs I’ve participated in have been ones I heard about through the writers’ groups I belong to. Since book stores and libraries often have a connection to these book fairs, you might try talking to your local librarian and any independent book store owners. Watch the “coming events” section in your local newspaper(s). Google “Book fairs+your state/town” and see what pops up.

  4. Lyn says:

    These fairs sound like a lot of fun. It would be worth $25 just to spend the day with readers and other authors. 🙂

    It also sounds maybe a bit tiring for an introvert to be surrounded by people all day long. Maybe two writers could go in together and give each other little breaks through the day.

    Best wishes–sell a lot of books and make lots of new friends.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Lyn, I’m sure you could find another writer or a friend who would sit in for you for a while. In thise case, I’ll be sharing a table with another writer (I have no idea who), and I’m sure he or she would be willing to watch over my part of the table while I wandered around looking at the other tables/books/writers, got something to eat, used the restroom, or simply went outside for a little peace and quiet. And sometimes there’s a lull and no one stops by, which gives me a chance to close my eyes and recharge. That said, I know I will be exhausted by the end of that book fair. But it’s a good exhaustion.

  5. Melissa Keir says:

    I have a book fair coming up at a local library. I don’t know if it will turn out with any sales, the last one didn’t. But it’s a chance to be seen and get some recognition locally!

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      I hope you do have some sales, Melissa, but you’re right, the main importance is getting people to know you, know your name, and know the type of books you write. Then, when they’re trying to decide what to read next, we hope they’ll remember you and your books.

  6. I hope your book fair is a good experience! It sounds like a great opportunity for local authors to showcase their books.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Simply getting to know and be known by the librarians will make the event worthwhile. Also I understand a bookseller will be there who already has some of my books in her store on consignment. This will give me a chance to talk to her. So, HiDee, I see this as a win/win situation.