Book Fair: How to Use a Book Festival to Promote Your Self-Published Book

book fair festivalA book fair (sometimes known as a book festival) is an event that showcases authors and recently published books and connects the publishing world to readers of the public.

This blog series has been exploring various, unique ways you can promote and sell your book. Traditional marketing works great (and should be used concurrently), but these lesser-used venues can be quite lucrative for self-published authors, whether they’re new to the scene or publishing veterans. Book fairs and festivals should definitely be on a self-publisher’s radar. Tons of readers, agents, and publishers attend them, and they’re an excellent way for authors to promote and sell their recently published book. Think of them as direct channels to potential readers and fans.

What is a Book Fair?

A book fair is a celebration and showcase of authors, books, and publishing houses. A book fair is usually hosted by a publisher, bookseller, or book dealer as a way to promote and sell books and build interest. Book fairs may be big and attract writers, publishers, and readers from all over the place, or they may be small, community events that showcase local talent and businesses.

Book festivals are larger and will often include a book fair so attendees can purchase new books.

How to Prepare for a Book Fair or Book Festival

First, you’ll need to start out by contacting the organizers of the fair or festival to figure out their rules and registration policies. Each will be different, and depending on the size of the fair or festival, you may have to register and sign up for a table several months in advance, so be vigilant with your research. Renting a booth can be pricey, again depending on the size of the festival, so be sure its a price worth paying. You can always consider sharing a table or booth with another self-published writer to split costs.

Have copies of your book printed and ready to be sold at the festival. Keep in mind when you self-publish with DiggyPOD, you’ll need to prepare your manuscript and cover files, purchase your desired number of copies, and allow time for manufacturing and delivery. Don’t wait until the last minute to ensure you have enough books on hand for the book fair.

Deciding how many books to take can be tricky. It’s impossible to know how many people are going to walk past your table or booth, see your book, and decide to investigate further. Always estimate a higher number. It’d be better to have more copies on hand and have a few leftover than run out of copies midway through the day. For local community events, try to order a size that is comparable to how many will likely attend (if you live in a small community, and the event’s attendance will be minimal, don’t order hundreds of books!). If the book fair or book festival is larger, order accordingly.

You’ll also want to promote your attendance at the fair or festival prior to the event itself. Post on social media, author websites, etc.

Other preparations, such as decorations and flyers, can be decided on closer to the day of the festival. If you’re sharing your booth or table with another writer or writers, collaborate or confirm your decorations with them as well.

The Day of the Event

On the day of the event, arrive early so you can locate your booth or table, set up, and be prepared for when the doors open and the readers arrive. Depending on the size of the fair or festival, this may take some time, so allot yourself plenty of cushion. You don’t want to be rushed and frazzled when pitching to perspective readers.

The most important thing to remember is this: your excitement and passion for your book will directly affect how many people purchase it. If you aren’t fired up about your own book, why should someone else be?

Go into the event with a pitch in mind. If you come up with something on the spot, you may forget key selling points. When readers approach your table, give them a few seconds to browse, read the back cover, and flip through the book. Then you can launch into your pitch. Be relaxed, though! You don’t want to come across robotic. Tell attendees what genre your book is in, what it’s about, and what makes it special or different.

Making payment options easy for potential readers can also help sell books. If you can only accept cash payments for books, make sure that’s clear right away. Put out “CASH ONLY” signs if this is all you can accept. If you want to make it even easier, offer both cash and card payments. You can buy a card reader for your phone or tablet that makes swiping and charging a breeze.

Popular Fairs and Book Festivals

Check local community boards or sites for information concerning book fairs and festivals held in your city or county.

Here’s are just a few popular book fairs and festivals in the U.S., most of which are free to attend:

  • Brooklyn Book Festival
  • National Book Festival (Washington D.C.)
  • The Miami Book Fair International
  • Chicago Tribune Printer’s Row Lit Fest (largest in the Midwest)
  • LA Times Festival of Books

If you’re not quite ready to sell your self-published book at a book fair or book festival, you should at least attend one to get a feel for how they work. Your attendance, as a reader, will inform how you present and sell your book as a vendor. Pay attention to what draws your attention—what is it about certain displays that you like? Which sales techniques worked on you? Could you pay with both cash or card? Did that make it easier to decide to purchase the book? Learning what you like as an attendee will allow you to make informed decisions when preparing to sell your book.

A book fair or book festival gives you a direct line to consumers. It provides authors the chance to meet their readers face to face. Even if you can only sell at local book fairs or festivals, small events with people who live in your same town, these are readers you can connect with and share the love you have for your self-published book. Remember, your excitement and passion for your book, be it novel or memoir or self-help, will inspire them, and it just might persuade them to purchase it.