How to Maximize a Book Festival Appearance: 9 Tips

This past weekend, I had the honor of signing books at my local (awesome) book festival: Cincinnati's Books by the Banks Book Fair. It happens every year in the fall, and this was my third appearance. Every time I sign books at a regional fair in Ohio or Kentucky, I seem to get better at interacting with readers. If you'll be appearing at a future book fair to promote your traditional or self-published book, here are some quick tips that may help you. 1. If possible, stand. I've read multiple places that you make a better first impression if you're standing when people first meet you. So stand if your health allows it.
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This past weekend, I had the honor of signing books at my local (awesome) book festival: Cincinnati's Books by the Banks Book Fair. It happens every year in the fall, and this was my third appearance. Every time I sign books at a regional fair in Ohio or Kentucky, I seem to get better at interacting with readers. If you'll be appearing at a future book fair to promote your traditional or self-published book, here are some quick tips that may help you.

1. If possible, stand. I've read multiple places that you make a better first impression if you're standing when people first meet you. So stand if your health allows it.

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2. Bring a blown-up poster of your book cover. That way, attendees can see it from a distance. You'll figure out real quick that you have just a few moments to catch the eye of passersby and draw them closer to check out the book. With this in mind, anything you can do to convey information about the book that is not simply you talking about it is a good thing. For example, my friend Brian Klems was signing his parenting humor book, OH BOY, YOU'RE HAVING A GIRL. In addition to a blown-up poster of his book at the table, he also placed a small sign on his table that said "Great gift book!" Now the attendees who drew close to his table already saw the title and cover of the book, and could see that it was a possible gift idea for friends and relatives. All that information was conveyed from a distance before the attendee picked up a book or Brian got a chance to say hello.

3. On that note, bring items to put on your table. These can be any kind of visual aids. Since my bestselling books at these types of events is HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK, I bring actual garden gnomes and a gnome tablecloth. It's visually striking, and brings people back to the table. (It also gets the kids interested.) I've seen some people put candy on their table to bring people closer.

4. Smile, smile, smile. Again, first impressions matter.

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Me (in the yellow) on a social media panel at Books by the Banks 2013.

5. Volunteer to be on a panel; if no panels exist, suggest one. Large book fairs can have up to 100 authors or more. Anything you can do to draw individual attention to your books is wise. So speak on a panel or teach a session that helps attendees. Book fairs oftentimes have panels or sessions or "Author Q&A" gatherings. Get involved. Such an opportunity will shine a spotlight on you and your books that will help you sell more copies.

6. Bring copies of your own book(s). At 2 of the 3 Books by the Banks events I've attended, they have run out of at least one of my books. So I always make sure to bring my own backup copies to sell. Once you sell out of the provided stock, you can sell your own.

7. Stand some books up straight. I don't even know what the name is for those small white bendy bookstands that hold books up straight—but you need to buy a few of those. They're great.

8. Refine your pitch lines, and convey info quickly. Here is what happens if you approach my table at a book festival event.

  1. I make eye contact as people pass closely. (I do not make awkward eye contact from afar. I wait until people are passing by to make eye contact, because staring at someone from s distance can come off as off-putting.)
  2. I point to my books and simply identify their categories, saying "Humor gift books here [points], and writing reference books here [points]." That way, you immediately know the exact types of books I have to offer. People who are interested in gift books and writing books stop, and the uninterested move along.
  3. If the attendee pauses for a moment to look over the table, I encourage them to pick up books and look through them. This is an important step, as it stops them and gets them to consider the products more thoroughly.
  4. If they've gotten to the step of flipping through a book, I always come with one last line designed to help them make up their mind. For example, if they're looking through my GNOME ATTACK book, I'll tell them that the film rights were optioned by Sony. If they're looking through CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM, I mention it was praised by Forbes.com.
  5. I try to say nothing else unless the reader engages me in a conversation.
  6. The entire goal is to not be too sales-y or talkative. The more your vibe comes off as "PLEASE buy my book!" the more difficult it is to make a sale.

9. Interest generates interest. When you have a few people gathered around your table looking at your books, that will draw others, in turn, to the table. After all, they want to see what all the hubbub is about. So getting people to stand around and look through your books is key, because it draws more people. Meanwhile, if your table is a ghost town, people may think it's unpopular for a reason, and keep walking.

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