What can an author do at a trade fair? If you’ve booked a booth or table, the answer should be obvious…promote your book. You should have everything you’d normally take to a book signing, and more. People expect to enter lots of free draws at a trade fair. Choose something with an obvious connection to your book, such as: a very large stuffed toy if you’re a childrens author, a bit of trendy technology if you write science fiction, a good quality small kitchen appliance such as a mixer if you write cookbooks, etc. If you can afford to exhibit at a trade fair, you cannot afford to neglect having at least one quality prize in exchange for people giving you their contact information. (Never sell your contact lists, it really irritates people.)
Don’t take your book with you unless you’re a registered exhibitor. Worst case scenario, you might be removed by security and asked not to return, which could exclude you from future opportunities. It might also get you a bad rap as someone to avoid. Exhibitors paid to portray their product or service, and that should be respected.
Do take your business card. If it doesn’t have a picture of your book, make a new one. This is very important if you’re a new or unknown author. The picture will stick, even if the name doesn’t. Remember, at least some of those exhibitors are looking for you, too. Maybe not you, specifically, because they don’t know you yet, but this is an opportunity.
Some of the obvious people you’re looking for include various members of the media. This is a chance to meet them, if you haven’t already, and remind them about you if you have. Usually, no appointment is necessary here, since they came to increase their own visibility, with the hope of finding some news. You might be their next story, which makes their job easier, since they don’t have to go looking for you. It’s also a good way to keep yourself visible without looking desperate.
Less obvious opportunities can also pop up at trade fairs. Other visitors might include people who have seen you on TV or in the paper, but promptly forgot your name and/or book title. It happens. (Some of my casual contacts still refer to me as, ‘that author I saw on TV.’ To them, I don’t have a name yet.) If you win a prize, your name might get onto a list of trade fair winners. Memory is a funny thing–even a distant connection like that may make the difference for a book sale.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn the local small business and enterprise center was selling a copy of my novel, Been Blued, as part of their local author promotion. I offered to sign it, since that adds value to the book. They were pleased, and I spent the next several minutes answering questions about publishing and self-publishing.
Trade fairs–you should go. Thanks for reading. 🙂
Phyllis K Twombly