If I Ran An Author Fair

I attended my first author event at a public library last Saturday as an author. I’ve attended them as a reader before and always enjoyed them. This one not so much.

It was in a neighboring town. When I signed up I didn’t realize that the time an author could display and sell their books was one hour only. Such a disappointment. The reason, the entire event took place in only one room. After a speaker, the room was set up for the author’s signings, then the room was cleared and set up for a workshop and so on. I’ve attended a similar event in the past at my local library that gave the authors a room to vend their wares through the entire event. Had I understood exactly how the event was set up I wouldn’t have signed up.20171014_104949

Statistically, people purchase more stuff near the end of an event. I think, the room of 20 authors had all total 2 or 3 books sold in that hour. (I suspect it was author purchases.) It was poorly attended by the public, partly the horrid weather that day and partly being in the basement. I imagine most of these authors may not return. I know if it is run this way again next year I won’t.20171014_111812

Well planned library author events have separate rooms for author workshops and classes so books are available for sale all day. This way authors can interact with library visitors who happen to walk by the event. Library patrons are more likely to stop by and discover new authors with a more visual set-up.

If I were running this sort of event here’s what I would do.

A room with great visibility for the author fair. Clear signs with times of various workshops.

Door prizes provided by the authors to help engage the public in the event.

Lots and lots of promotion on social media, in the newspaper, radio, podcasts and signs all over town.

Two positives to this approach.

  • Great exposure for local writers. Providing them with a chance to get their books in front of a new audience. People are fascinated to know local authors. This provides a great opportunity for writers to expand their fan base.

 

  • Readers who purchase books on-line might be surprised at what they find at the library as they attend to discover new authors. Libraries need patrons and the next generation isn’t as drawn to the library as their parents and grandparents. A successful event creates more patrons.

 

That said, would I attend more of these events?

Absolutely.

20171014_104939.jpg

Carmela Martino and I discuss historical romance. Hers are set in Europe in the 1700s.

During the time before the doors were open to the public I networked with the other writers. I found out lots of helpful information. Discovered writers to interview on my blog. And made connections that will grow my author career. One woman paid me a high compliment. “The one good thing about today was meeting you.”

I want to do more of these events next year. Now I’ll be more discerning and ask questions before I sign up for an event. I’ll seek feedback from others who have attended. Then I’ll go prepared to sell books but expect to meet people and network.  It’s a win win. And BTW my expenses for the event are tax deductible.

 

What has been your experience at library author events or book fairs? Any other events you found worth-while attending where you had good book sales?

 

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10 thoughts on “If I Ran An Author Fair

  1. Last Saturday, a local library here in the Chicago burbs held an Indie Author event because it was Indie Author Day. We were not in a room off somewhere, but front and center as the patrons entered the building.There were 24 authors and we could bring our trad published books as well as our indie books. No one sold many, if at all. I sold none as did another author near me. One sold only one. Only one couple had a decent day. I can’t speak for everyone as we were set up in a couple different very public spots. My reasoning is that people come to the library to take out books for free, not expect to buy books. We had plenty of people come to our tables and inspect the books, but then they moved on. I agree it is great exposure and many were surprised to find we were the actual authors of the books. We also had lousy weather, but that didn’t seem to stop people from coming to the library.

    Last year the event was in a room upstairs and away from the main lobby because of remodeling going on in the area where we were this year. At that event I sold a couple of books and figured now that we were in a more public area I would sell more, but I didn’t.

    BTW Carmela (the author in your picture) is from my local area and is a member of our local ACFW chapter!).

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  2. Saturday was Indie Author Day all across the country, with local libraries participating if they wished.

    My experience with these fairs over the past couple of years have been not so good for selling books, and I really don’t go with that in mind. I look for connections — other authors, people browsing, librarians, etc. — anyone, I can talk to. This year at a couple of fairs I had people come up to me and tell me they remembered me from the year before and we had a chance to talk a bit about their reading. I find it helpful to find out what their reading interest is, and steer them toward authors that fit their interests. Building goodwill is more important, I think, that making actual sales.I make it a point not to let anyone pass my table without walking away with my card, and if possible, a freebie of some sort.

    I agree with you concerning the event you attended. An hour to interact with all of the public is not nearly long enough. They don’t have the time for in-depth discussion if they want to visit all of the tables in the time allotted, and not all of them will be there during that one hour.

    Saturday’s weather was abysmal, to be sure, and there were few who braved it. I found the time with other authors to be extra good this time, though, because we did have the opportunity to get in-depth in our discussions.

    Good post.

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  3. Hi Cindy, I count meeting you as one of the few perks of that Author Fair. 🙂
    I agree with your ideas for such an event in the future. Unfortunately, though, I’ve had similar experiences to Pamela’s. (Hi there, Pam!) Years ago, when my first book came out, I participated in several library author fairs. Even when our tables were in busy traffic areas, we made few sales. I think Pam is probably right–people who visit the library expect to get the books there for free. I thought I’d try this last one to see if anything had changed. Apparently not.

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    • I appreciate hearing about your experience. I’m thinking about hitting some festivals and craft shows. People are usually there to spend money. I love meeting other authors but we all want to sell books. C.Hope Clark says festivals that have a variety of vendors give authors a better chance at sales. I’d like to test that theory.

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      • Some of the authors from my local ACFW chapter worked several craft fairs with me last year and our reaction was mixed.I did okay in sales — certainly better than at the library — but a lot of people come there to buy crafts, not books. We would ask if people liked to read and many said no and kept walking LOL. The entry fees are pretty high in some cases so by the time you factor in that and the cost of the the books and the time, It has us wondering if it’s worth our while. I do an authorfest in my home town every summer. Lake Geneva, WI is a lovely town right on the shores of a beautiful lake and the fest is held in a park next to the beach. My book set in Lake Geneva does very well there, but I have to stand in front of my canopy and hold the book and work the crowd. I’ve learned what works well and employ those methods. I didn’t feel it was appropriate to do that at the library because of the way it was arranged and there wasn’t a lot of space between the tables Inone).

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  4. elainemcooper says:

    Hi Cindy, I’ve done a few of these events and overall would say, they are not effective for book sales. The library events I’ve done have generally had way too many authors (50 or so) and way too few visitors, despite the coordinators utilizing publicity. While I enjoy meeting other authors, we are usually the same attendees at every event. If I’m looking to make sales, I much prefer large, well attended craft fairs. These are my best selling events overall, secondary to speaking appearances which are effective for sales as well. And Christmas craft fairs can be great for sales if you promote an author-signed copy as Christmas gifts. 🙂 Best wishes!!!

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