Planning to Exhibit at a Book Fair? 15 Tips!

04 Feb


Large book fairs in the U.S. and worldwide are geared toward booksellers and librarians. These shows offer big trade publishers, as well as smaller ones and author-publishers a chance to promote their books to bookstore buyers and librarians. See how authors can participate on a budget at small regional or national and even at major publishing industry trade shows.

Major International Book Shows
Frankfurt Book Fair, London Book Fair, Bologna Children’s Book Fair, Abu Dhabi and Leipzig Book Fair, not to forget the book show in Edinburgh, focus mainly on international book sales and the sale of foreign and translation rights of books. Non-fiction books might often have a higher chance of success at these fairs. National or state-wide book fairs, such as the BEA in New York City, or the Texas Library Show  are attended by both, librarians and bookstore owners.

How to Learn About Book Shows
First of all, find as much information about these shows as possible on their websites. Study their list of exhibitors and the genres of books displayed. Learn which audience is usually attending these shows. Check out the website of the American Library Association ALA where the library conferences are taking place throughout the year. Ideally attend book fairs first as a visitor and talk to as many people as you can – visitors and exhibitors alike, before you decide to rent a booth. It will be a great learning experience. Notice what other presenters are doing. Bring a notepad and paper, taking notes on what you appreciated in certain booths and what you thought other booths could have done better.

How to Save Expenses
A great way to share expenses is to get together with other independent publisher/authors you know, and rent a table or a booth together. If you divide the cost for a booth through three or four, your partizipation is suddenly not prohibitive anymore. Beware of companies that offer to show your books at International Fairs, such as the one in Frankfurt. Their fees run often from well over $200 to $500 and they will claim that hundred-thousands of visitors will see your book and you might even get a foreign language contract. Truth is, your book will sit with hundreds of others in a shelf, and no one will promote it to potential publishers. Save the money! There are millions of books displayed at these fairs and the chance that a foreign publisher discovers your book is smaller than to win the lottery.

What to Prepare
It is never too early, but often too late, to organize such a complex venue, especially for out-of-town shows. Here are just a few ideas for your checklist:

  • Sign up early. Apply and pay any fees ahead of time, too.
  • Contact event organizers with any special requests.
  • Need lighting or electricity in your booth? Request it well in advance.
  • Choose a booth location on a high-traffic spot.
  • Calculate expenses, such as booth rental, electricity, travel, hotel, giveaways etc.
  • Make reservations for hotel, flight and rental car if necessary.
  • If you are the sole exhibitor, organize at least one more person to help.
  • Order your displays and signs, flyers & business cards for your booth well in advance.
  • Check out all equipment that they work properly: laptop, overhead projector, displays, cables, lamps, spotlights, charger…
  • Giveaways such as book marks, peppermints, stickers, pens, even totes with your books title or cover image (if you want to splurge) should be ordered well in advance.
  • Folding chairs, a step ladder and a cart or dolly are useful items that you will be glad you brought.

How to Attract Visitors

  • Display and let your book trailer run throughout the day. All you need is a laptop and projector and a white display for the background. It draws for sure more people to your booth.
  • To stay in contact with interested visitors, bring a fish bowl to collect business cards and email addresses / contact information. Offer a really attractive prize for this sweepstake and you can be sure to get lots of cards.
  • Offer interested visitors to sit down for a moment, to have a cool drink while talking with you. They will be happy to rest their burning feet …
  • Have a well-lit booth to attract visitors, dress professionally and never, ever! eat at your exhibition booth.

Partizipating in a book fair means a lot of organizing, and it should be done well in advance, especially when the show is in another state or country.  These are just a couple of tips, check out these three sites for comprehensive checklists:




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