Behind the Scenes: Organizing a Successful Book Festival Booth

I had the opportunity to attend and exhibit at the Sunshine Book Festival in Gainesville on January 27, and I learned a lot about how to attract readers and maximize your return on investment. Here are some of the learning tips I identified.

First, consider your goals for the fair. Do you want to maximize book sales? Do you want to develop contacts who might purchase higher value services? Do you want to build relationships with your readers? Your pricing and exhibit decisions may be impacted by your goals. For example, I was hoping to meet contacts who might be interested in my coaching services, so I planned my pricing (I lowered my book’s price so more people would buy) and offered freebies in the form of my “Ask me about my book” buttons to establish my role as a book coach.

Create a table to attract those attending (both readers and authors). Some author tables offered mints, candies, or my favorite—cookies decorated with the book’s cover. I had some free items: my buttons, and my doorhangers that say “Go away! I’m writing.” I also offered a small gift for those who purchased the book in the form of the Writer Crisis Hotline stress ball (shaped like an old-fashioned rotary telephone). One woman bought two books from me (she really preferred ebooks) because she wanted the gift! Be sure to sign your books and use “Signed by the author” stickers for added value.

Develop a display checklist of what you need: book stands (I like the foldable ones), a sign with pricing information, and table banners. I also include bookmarks for those who buy only ebooks, business cards (I ran out!), gifts and giveaways, and Sharpies for signing books. Some authors had a sign-up sheet for their newsletter (I wish I’d thought of that!). I also recommend having your book tote on rollers. Your books can be very heavy if your set up is across the ballroom.

Create questions you might use to engage those attendees who are unwilling to make eye contact! I asked, “Do you want to write a book?” My exhibitor neighbor might have said, “Are you dealing with ‘geri-drama’ and want solutions?” for her book on dealing with aging parents. Also, be prepared to answer the question, “What is your book about?” This is the time when your 30-second commercial can come in handy.

Decide in advance on forms of payment. Many authors offered multiple options. I accepted cash and checks and did offer a PayPal option for one customer without cash.

Be sure to read the rules for your fair or festival. There may be signage restrictions or may require you to stay the entire day.

Festivals and fairs can be a great way to get your book out there, especially when you consider these suggestions.

Let me know your ideas when participating in book fairs and festivals.

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