My First Book Fair/Authors’ Expo – Part 4

Do you practice writing? Practice Marketing, too.

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, and Part 3 dealt with determining what you need to achieve your goals.

This post is about practicing your goal before you get there.


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, and you’ve got whatever additional materials may be necessary to help you achieve that goal. Next comes practicing your goal.

Mirror Practice
Stand in front of the mirror and ask yourself questions. Chances are you have questions you’d ask a favorite author. Ask yourself questions you heard fans ask authors at conventions. Ask yourself those questions and practice answering them. Just get the ideas straight in your head so that, when you’re asked by the reading public, you have something to say. Being attentive and responsive sells lots of books when the selling is in onesies and twosies and small little groupsies.

Bring Water
Want to alienate buyers? Be cranky, feisty and irritable. Want to avoid being cranky, feisty and irritable? Stay hydrated.

Keep that water bottle handy.

It’ll give you something to do with your hands when you want to strangle that idiot asking you stupid questions.

Bring Hand Sanitizer
Speaking of hands, you’re going to be shaking hands, holding hands, handing things out, people will reach out and touch you for lots of reasons (some you don’t want to know about, some you should charge for). You don’t know where these people have been, what they’ve touched, where their hands have been, et cetera.

Bring hand sanitizer.

Your signature
Can people read your signature? Doesn’t matter. Can they read your note to them? Extremely important.

Practice your penmanship. Autographed copies are heirlooms, keepsakes, can be sold at auction, on eBay, in short, they are valued more than the book itself.

Now go one better. Add a personal note. Something more than “Good seeing you at…” or “Thanks for reading…”. Something like, “Sorry about the mess in your room”, “I never knew you could do that with a midget and a chicken”, “Thanks for bailing me out. My turn next time!”, “You are the absolute best at hiding bodies. Thanx!”, “I’ll never be able to eat jello without thinking of you. XOXOX”, “YOU WERE RIGHT! 15 AND COUNTING!”, you get the idea.

That note is what puts your book over the top. Both for that reader and should they ever need to sell it to bail you out of jail because somebody found that 16th body.

Does this cover make me look fat?
Ever check yourself out in a mirror before going to a meeting, on a date, something like that? Ever checked yourself out after 8-9-10 hours standing or sitting at a table or talking with random strangers?

Dress in fashionable, light layers. Several. The AC may die at the event, put the layers back on. The heat may freak out. Take the layers off.

Want to dress up like a character from your books or in genre apparel? My first recommendation is not to. It marks you as a newbie, unprofessional and limits your audience growth potential. All that noted, think how your bustierre will look, how your pirate makeup will look, how that leather brace will look, et cetera, after you’ve been wearing it 10-15 hours.

You know why those things never came off back in the day? Because personal hygiene was unknown. Remember that the next time you have your sweat covered protagonist rescue someone equally sweat covered. They’re both going to be slippery to hold and smell like horsebarns. And that meeting in the hayfield? Ticks. Snakes. Poisonous insects. Upset animals with large teeth and claws.

Go ahead. Be romantic now.

Bring Fresh Wipes
You’ve been on your feet or sitting in the same place most of the day in the same clothes/costume and the heating/AC is/isn’t working.

Bring something to wipe your face with. Fresh wipes, wet naps, moist towelletes, alcohol swabs (yeah, definitely alcohol after you’ve been talking with people and standing on your feet all day), call them what you will, bring something to wipe down your face.

Just to make yourself feel cleaner.

People like what is familiar, people trust what is familiar
People want to know where you got your ideas, what it’s like to be an author, how long have you been writing, how tall is your dog, all manner of things.

What they really want to know is “What is my reaction to this person?”

That’s an important question. Most people want a positive reaction. That’s best, definitely, and a negative reaction is a good second. People are drawn to what they like and what they don’t like. People are not drawn to things they’re indifferent about. Indifference equates to “forgettable” and no author wants to be forgettable.

Are you personable? Good. Being friendly, conversational, upbeat, these are all good things. You’ll need more. Being personable is the foundation on which you put your opinions, beliefs, ideologies, metaphysics and the like.

People can’t say much pro or con about you if you’re personable. But if you’re personable, a devout Catholic and militant pro-choice, ah, there now, we got ourselves side-choosing things that people can feel pro or con about and if you write about such things (doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or non-fiction), you’ve found yourself and market and an audience.

There’s lots more I can get into here (and probably will in future posts). The key to everything, though, is know what you want and plan to get it.