My First Book Fair/Authors’ Expo – Part 3

What do you need to help you achieve your goal?

This thread is based on my experiences, conversations with authors and several years helping companies develop and execute marketing strategies. Part 1 introduced setting reasonable goals for attending book fairs and authors’ expos, Part 2 discussed doing research to make sure a given con/fair/expo will reasonably meet your goals.

This post is about figuring out what you need to help you achieve your book fair/author expo goal.


What is your reason for going to the event?

Determine your reason for going to an event before you sign up to attend. Come up with a reasonable goal. I knew my reason and shared it with several people before attending; I went to learn about such events. Specifically, how to plan for such events so that I maximize my ROI (“Return On Investment” including emotional, mental, physical and spiritual return on investment, not simply financial).

At this point, you’ve set a goal and done research to know whether or not your goal(s) will be met. Next comes making sure you have what you need to achieve your goal.

My goal was to learn. I read some blog posts by other authors who wrote about cons, expos and such, talked with authors who’ve attended such events, laid all the suggestions on a table and and picked those that made sense to me.

I brought books to sell, bookmarks (these were a hit. Lots of people took them. To copy the format I used. I know because they told me so), flyers (also a hit for the same reason), business cards and breath mints. The bookmarks, flyers, and breathmints are considered swag.


Some of this is obvious. Do you want to sell books? Bring books to sell. And appreciate that selling anything person to person requires communication skills. I mentioned in Part 2 the woman who called people stupid if they didn’t want to read her book and bemoaned her inability to get the recognition she believed she deserved. She didn’t sell any books.

Some may not be obvious. Breath mints give people a reason to stop above and beyond your book, yourself, your swag (more on swag in another post). What I would add here is a bowl of ice with some of those little springwater bottles.

It all goes back to Part 1 – What is your reason for going to the event? I would have been better bringing a notebook and some business cards (Note that I’ve attended more book fairs/author expos since I started this series. My success rate is much higher now). I sold a few books my first time out. Not enough to warrant the price of admission, drive time, et cetera. I met some nice people, most of them self-published (more on this later. Maybe). I did make enough to buy coffees and some yummies for everyone in my little area of the convention floor (about six of us. The event didn’t offer refreshments until the door opened, about six hours after we’d been there. Not good).

Come to think of it, it wasn’t enough to cover the coffees and goodies.

But what the hell. It was fun seeing people smile and hearing thanks when I came back, coffees in tow.

We had some great conversations while we sipped our coffees (this one had been a lounge singer, that one had been a lumberjack, this one was an ambassador’s daughter, this one got started writing as a path out of mental illness, that one because his grandkids loved the stories he made up for them, this one had her characters say and do things she never could, that one loved a good mystery so what the hell, let’s write one!).

All but one had been to several such events. Happy to talk. To gossip. To give me the low-skinny on events and such.

So I got what I came for. Lots more, yes, and definitely what I came for.

Next up – Practice achieving your goal before you get there. It’s like everything else; the more you practice, the more successful you’ll be.