12 Tips for Selling Books at Book Fairs and Conventions

The following article by Terry Cordingley contains great information for anyone planning on exhibiting their books.

The 12 Commandments of Selling Books at Book Fairs, Conventions, and Festivals


1. Register for the event as early as possible.

• Contact the event organizer.
• Find out the cost of the booth or registration.
• Register for the event and inform your marketing representative.

2.  Spread the word about your appearance at the event.

• Church bulletin
• Online newspapers free event calendar listings
• Free online listing at Craig’s List http://www.craigslist.org/about/sites.html
• E-mail invitations to your address book

3. Share expenses.

• Split the cost of the booth with another author, if festival organizers allow booth-sharing.
• Decorate the booth with a banner and tabletop posters announcing that the author is available to sign copies of books.  Make the booth as attractive as possible!

4. Establish a family member or friend to help you during the event.

5. Be prepared with conversation starters.Have a one-minute pitch ready to go that tells people who you are and what your book is about.  Practice it so that it seems natural and not forced.

• “How did you hear about the event?”
• “Are you an avid reader?”
• “Do you live in the area?”


6. Have a guest-book on your table for people to sign their name and e-mail address. By doing this at every event, you can create a large mailing list for e-blasts or newsletters about your book.7. Practice good booth etiquette.

• If you are sharing a booth, be considerate and polite to your fellow authors.
• Don’t complain to your fellow authors if the event isn’t going well and you aren’t selling many books.  Attitude is contagious!
• Work out ahead of time how you will approach customers at the booth so you aren’t overwhelming them and pressuring them to buy books.
• Be friendly and approachable.
• Don’t just sit at the booth and wait for people to come to you.  Engage passersby in conversation and offer them any giveaways you may have.  Use the opportunity to tell them about your book.

8. Arrive early, allowing plenty of time to set up for the event. Items you will need for your booth:

• Books. You will need to determine how many books you will need to have available for the event.  You can always keep extra copies in your car, if needed.
• Giveaways. Just like at trade shows, attendees are always looking for free items.  Have a supply of bookmarks, business cards and push cards on hand to help promote your book if people don’t buy a copy on the spot.
• Décor. Most festivals will give you a table and a chair, and not much else.  Find out if you’ll need table coverings, a tent or awning (if an outdoor event), or a power supply for any video or audio needs you may have.  Also make sure you have pens and posters to advertise who you are and why you are there, preferably with a photo of your book cover on it.  You may even want to have a banner made for your book that you can re-use at future events.  You’re only limited by your imagination.

10. Have book ordering information available in case you run out of books. Business cards and push cards can be used for this purpose.

11. Send a thank-you card to the organizer after the event. If the event was especially successful, send a letter of commendation to the event organizer. They may ask you to be a featured author next year.

12. Book early for next year’s event.For more information about book marketing and promotion, read Terry’s Cordingley’s self-titled blog at http://terrycordingley.blogspot.com.

Even JK Rowling needs a good publicist

The following is a guest post by book publicist, Alison O’Leary.

AlisonOLeary.headshotIf you’re not JK Rowling, there’s work to be done

If your book received “withering reviews’ that included an assessment like, “so willfully banal, so depressingly clichéd” you’d never sell any copies, right?

Unfortunately, writers with gold-plated names like JK Rowling can overcome such a New York Times review (it was of one of her post-Harry Potter novels, “The Casual Vacancy”). According to this article it still sold more than 1.3 million copies and was the No. 1 best-selling hardcover fiction book of 2012.

So, unless your name is JR Rowling and your readers aren’t looking too closely at the cover, there’s a lot of work to be done to get book sales rolling.

The behind-the-scenes work to create a platform prior to publishing your book is almost as much work as the writing itself.

This is a great, step-by-step guide to  publicity and marketing, including working with related blogs two months before publication and planning a “cover reveal.” Interestingly, it says little about sending out advance copies for reviews.

And if you’re querying agents, your online presence is important, according to this survey. So think about showcasing your expertise in your subject matter or providing evidence of an audience (yes, prior to publishing). It’s all about your platform, which is well-described in this blog post.

Later, Rowling published “The Cuckoo’s Calling” under a male pen name (Robert Galbraith) and the book sold only modestly until she was unveiled as the true author. It had done about $50,000 in sales, prompting the NY Times writer to comment:

‘What’s clear is that without the aura of celebrity, “The Cuckoos’ Calling” would have been just another work of debut crime fiction. Its author might have gotten a modest TV deal, and maybe another book contract, while working another job to make ends meet.’ 

Published with permission. Alison O’Leary is a book publicist who can be reached on LinkedIn.