Book fairs and literary events are increasingly popular forums for authors to meet readers and publicize their books. Whether produced by civic organizations, tourism bureaus or publishing industry groups, book festivals have the potential to bring authors face-to-face with thousands of readers and consumers. Authors shouldn’t pass up these valuable opportunities to publicize their titles.
But talking to total strangers or “working the crowd” can be intimidating, even for seasoned authors. Fortunately, networking is a skill that can be learned with some determination and, most importantly, passion about your work. Your excitement and interest in your book’s subject will be contagious.
Gather Your Publicity Toolkit
Speaking to the public can be easier if you have something to show people. Promotional postcards, which you can make yourself with a home computer and inkjet printer, are a simple tool to open up a dialog. Once you hand someone something–whether it’s a postcard, a bookmark, sticker or other promotional item–you have their attention.
In addition to your hand-outs, have copies of your book with you to sell. The best-case scenario is when you are able to convince a consumer to buy your book on the spot. You’ll want to be prepared with copies (and some change in small bills in case you sell a few).
If you have a table at an event (more on tabling below), bring signage. You don’t need to buy an expensive vinyl banner, but do make a large sign with, at a minimum, your name and the title of your book. You might also consider having a poster of your book’s jacket professionally printed and mounted on foam-core, which you could then display on an easel. Such a poster does add to your expenses, but you can reuse it at subsequent events.
Tabling at Book Events
At most book festivals, individuals can purchase a table and set up their own materials. This costs money, of course, so it may not be a practical option for everyone. Instead:
- Contact your publisher to see if they’ve bought a table at the event. Ask if they’ll have materials to promote your book, and if not, offer to bring your hand-outs to their table.
- Suggest a book signing at the publishers’ table.
- Contact the event’s producers and propose a panel discussion, with you as moderator or panelist, at the event.
Do-It-Yourself Book Publicity
Even if you don’t obtain a table, you can still publicize your book by attending the event and simply handing out postcards or flyers to passers-by. Though it can be intimidating, speaking one-on-one with readers can seal a sale for your book.
- Bring a stack of postcards or flyers with you, and choose a spot at the festival that sees high traffic, such as near the entrance or next to a refreshment booth.
- Boldly offer your hand-outs to passing attendees. Don’t be discouraged if people don’t take them–just keep smiling.
- Make eye contact with individuals and greet them. Say “Hi, I’m the author,” or “This is my book”–something brief that will encourage them to take your hand-out.
- Stick with it until you distribute all of your materials.
Authors can never do enough to publicize their books, and book fairs are an ideal place to meet readers and score sales.