by Jane Choate, Children's Book Insider contributing editor
Participate in a book fair? Not for you? Think again.
Authors in all stages of their careers are signing up for book fairs, showcasing their books as well as themselves.
Book fairs can be bewildering. Which one is right for you? And how do you go about choosing it?
Educate yourself about book fairs and expos.
Like any promotional effort, attending a book fair should start with planning. If you do it right, you can choose the fair most appropriate for you and your book. Have you written a biography targeted at the educational market? Then you'll want to choose a book fair that focuses on that segment of the market. Before signing up for a fair, you may want to attend one first. Learn about specific fairs and evaluate each show's effectiveness at attracting the right profile of customer and/or editor and agent. Visiting fairs (before you sign up as an attendee) also provides a great opportunity to study the booth and both traffic. By watching booths, you will get an idea of how successful authors are in selling and getting leads for future follow-up. (You are planning to follow up with any contacts you make, aren't you?) Will an autographing event be included? You will have to arrange to ship your books there. Don't forget the cost of shipping in your projected expenses.
Establish your objectives.
Is your objective to meet industry professionals, such as publishers, editors, and agents? Do you want to network with other writers in your genre? Do you want to reach potential readers? Just like writers' conferences, book fairs emphasize different aspects of the publishing industry. Ask yourself what your goal is in attending the fair.
After you have identified the right fair for you, reserve space well in advance.
Call the fair's coordinator or professional organization sponsoring. You will probably receive a show kit, consisting of general information about the fair, including time, place, costs, featured speakers, educational events, available space, etc. The kit will also include a floor plan for the show with the committed major exhibitor's spaces marked by name. Study the layout in order to choose the best space for your needs. A call to the show's coordinator (his or her name and contact information will accompany the kit) will net you details of which spaces are available and which are booked. Reserve your space as early as possible because booth space frequently sells out.
How do you go about finding book fairs?
Let's start with the biggie: Book Expo America. Book Expo America, the largest book fair held in North America, is held annually. Book Expo America (commonly referred to within the publishing industry as BEA) is the largest annual book trade fair in the United States. The Expo is almost always held in a major city over four days in late May and/or early June.
Nearly all significant book publishers in the United States, and many from abroad, have booths and exhibits at BEA, and use the fair as an opportunity to showcase upcoming titles, sell current books, socialize with colleagues from other publishing houses, and sell and buy subsidiary rights and international rights (although not on the scale of the rights negotiation that occurs at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October). Authors, librarians, and buyers for book retailers also attend the event. The networking possibilities are limitless. Check with your publisher. Chances are it will be sending an editor or two. A savvy author never misses an opportunity to meet with her editor.
What about other fairs? Read the standard trade journals and other publications, such as CBI, SCBWI, and others. Check out your Chamber of Commerce. It's a good starting place for finding out about smaller, local shows. If you belong to a writers' chapter, ask the members about their experiences. If you don't have a writers' chapter close by, check with your library. Librarians have numerous connections. Even if they don't know of book shows, they can probably find out where to direct you.
Attending a book fair can be a shot in the arm for your career. Do your homework and choose the right one for you.
Tags: book fairs, promotion, self-publishing