Tips For Selling at Book Festivals

Tips For Selling at Book Festivals

Most authors today struggle with marketing their books, mainly because no one else will do it for us. Most publishers are going to do little or nothing in the marketing area so it means we, the authors, have to do it ourselves. We can buy marketing help, of course, but little is going to come easy or cheap.

However, one item most of us will miss might be one of the best ways for marketing, both to “civilians” (make that readers) as well as to people in the industry – and that is book fairs, conferences and festivals. In other words, purchasing a booth at an event and getting out in front with our books. Here are several tips that will help make events like these more successful.

1. Determine what your genre and market are and then find events that are specific to those. If you are writing romance novels, you don’t want to be booking space at children’s fairs. If you write mysteries, consider events specific to that genre. Large, general fairs are good for most genres as long as they do specify they have people from your genre coming. Consider industry specific events such as dog shows for your book on grooming dogs, a horse show for your romance novel about two horse lovers, and a science fair for a mystery about people marooned in space.

Also, you are likely better off starting with events that are close to home. Local fairs where you can advertise “local boy writes cookbook.” Check your newspaper or Chamber of Commerce or library for events coming to your area. What is it? Would your book fit within the topics being presented? Consider things like flea markets where you can usually get a booth very inexpensively and where there will likely be a large number of people coming through. Look up “book fairs” in the Internet and look for lists put out by major, reputable organizations.

Watch out for overall cost wherever you book. Rooms, meals and travel costs are added to the basic booth rentals and fair entrance fees, so be sure you consider them all. Consider starting small and growing as you gain both experience and recognition. And, if you know of someone else attending the show, even if they aren’t showcasing the same product as you are, see if they might want to share a booth.

2. Thirty days or so before the event, be sure you have everything in place. Do you have plenty of copies of your books to take with you? Are your display signs made (do they look professional?) Do you have your confirmation and instructions for the event? How about exact directions for getting there? Travel tickets booked? Hotel? Most of us forget table coverings. What size table will you have, and what type of booth? Do you need special coverings for table, walls, backdrop? Do you need to bring your own food and drinks for the booth, or will they be available (more cost?) at the event. Will you be inside or will you need to have outside supplies–hat, bug repellant, sunscreen? Cleaning supplies for both you and the booth (Handi-wipes, towelettes, paper towels)?

3. How many books should you take? Generally you should have 30-50 books available, depending on the size of the festival, how long you will be there, and how well known you already are. Keep in mind: What are you going to do with all the leftover books you bring home. It might be a costly investment, so be careful. But, do take as many copies as you comfortably can, because you only get one chance at these events and you don’t want to run out.

BUT, what to do if you run out and people want more? ALWAYS keep at least one book on hand, even if you really, really want to sell it. Because–if you have no books, you have nothing to show people who are still stopping at the booth. Be prepared in advance with a clipboard and paper already lined out to take names and addresses of people who would be interested in you contacting them. Have a good supply of business cards, bookmarkers, half-sheet pictures of your book cover with all your contact information on the back–anything to put in their hands so they will remember you. Also, see if you can take pre-paid orders for books you can mail when you get back home. Consider a hefty discount for people who will do that. Or, offer to send them a book when you get home with an enclosed invoice they can pay at that time. Risky–sure. But you want to move your books, right?

Keep your mind open BEFORE you go to the event for anything you can think of that might come up and how you will handle it. You are paying good money for this event and you want to make the best use of it.

4. What if you meet bookstore owners at the event? Immediately ask if they would be interested in stocking a few copies of your book. Offer a consignment deal between you and them (risky, yes, but maybe a way to get started.) Offer to deliver the book personally to their store (no freight costs for either of you?) Give them two or three books on the spot–FREE–to take home and try. Remember, the only other place they will see you and your book is in a catalog with about a thousand other books screaming for their attention. Make your pitch NOW, and make it good.

And, one last item to keep in mind:

5. Collect business cards from EVERYONE. Go up and down the aisles getting something from everyone you can to take home with you. This can be as valuable as the immediate selling of your books. These will be your future contacts for when you get home. People to sell to. People to network with. People to do joint ads with. Bookstore owners who have now seen your face. Agents. Publishing and marketing contacts. Industry experts. Collect them all–and follow up with them. Send them something–anything–to make an acquaintance, a friend, a future business contact.

Top off the event: Enjoy Yourself. Don’t party your time and possibilities away, but keep in a good mood. Laugh. Meet other people. Talk with them. Be fun. Walk around. Be active. Write down notes for use in the next events–and find out word-of-mouth when and where the next (good) events are. Whether or not you actually sell any books, make the event profitable and successful just by the experience you get and the contacts you make. Come home with a list of things you will, and won’t, do at your next event–because there will be a next one.

Jim Magwood is the author of the international mystery novel, SANCTION. Visit him and SANCTION at his website, Jim is also the webmaster of the site, The Author’s Inn, dedicated to showcasing author’s works and connecting them with the book reading public. You can visit The Author’s Inn at

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