To score, you gotta play. Get in the game at
the Library of Congress website at http://www.loc.gov/loc/cfbook/bookfair.html. Click on the LOCs "Book Fairs and Other Literary
Events." Also contact local and state governments, libraries, school
districts, business organizations, clubs, associations and bookstores for
upcoming events where you can set up displays.
In addition to setting up booths at the
obvious venues, participate in arts and crafts festivals and fun fairs.
Author Natalie Goldberg, for example, used to
write instant poetry at her booth at the local carnival. For technical
writers, the Technology Exhibit is it. Business Writers: the Business Expo is
a go. Childrens authors: Parents Day is the way. Historians: Olde Towne Faire
When you decide to set up a booth at an
exhibit, youll have two goals in mind. One is to increase the publics
awareness of your goods and services. The second goal is to recoup exhibition
costs through direct sales and hot leads that turn into money. (The third is
to have fun!)
Make appearing at exhibits part of your
overall marketing plan. (Got no plan? Write one. Whether the goal is weight
loss or book sales, the chances of success increase to 80% for people who
document and use their plans.)
Find out how many visitors typically attend
the exhibit so you can prepare enough give-aways, business cards and
literature. (Of course, not every visitor will take your stuff, unless its
candy in which case theyll scoop up more than their share. "One per visitor,
Design clear, concise take-away literature
that stands on its own without the need for you to explain it.
Create a portable, durable display that wont
fall apart when you lug it from home, to the car, to the show, to the car,
back home, to the car, to the show
Tailor your display and activities to fit the
exhibitions overall theme or to reflect a theme of your own if one isnt
assigned for all vendors.
Visitors judge your entire oeuvres worth by
what they see. Design a display (and that includes you, your attire and
grooming, and conversational flair) to represent your excellent writing
Prepare posters of your book covers, photos of
you in action leading a writing workshop, and newspaper clips of you receiving
a literary prize and similar attention grabbers.
Frame certificates, awards and other
impressive documents. Set the framed credibility builders in small easels or
plate holders available for a few dollars at craft stores.
Set up your display at home as a "dress
rehearsal" to be sure all items fit in the allotted space.
Take a picture of the display so others can
help you set up and tear down on the day of the exhibit.
Distribute press releases to the media and
send invitations to targeted individuals such as librarians, bookstore
managers, book discussion group leaders and fans.
Have responses ready to counter automatic
objections. Visitor: "Ive already got too many books to read." You: "Thats
fine. I also give presentations about (fill in the blank)." Or, Visitor: "Im
writing my own book." You: "Congratulations! I critique manuscripts. Heres my
card. Call me."
List and pack everything you need including
water, extension cord, pen, tape, snacks, etc.
Train someone to give you a break during the
exhibit. (My niece did a super job. She got the names and telephone numbers of
Do the extrovert schmooze. Writers tend toward
introversion, so a day of interacting with people can be tiring. Pace
yourself. Be genuine and outgoing. You can decompress later.
Engage passersby with comments or questions
about them or the exhibit. This draws them into the booth to linger and look.
Use a one-sentence pitch a child can
understand. "Reviewers say my book, Half Baked in Taiwan, is humorous
and insightful," and "I lead workshops on memoir writing," and "I write
resumes for job seekers," are to the point.
Offer "exhibit only" discounts and special
Arrange your display so people are corralled
into your booth, rather than blocked by a table.
Save grooming, eating and cell phoning for
Wear your nametag at all times. You never know
who youll meet at the french-fry stand.
Have someone take a photo of you interacting
with visitors. Use the photo in future marketing campaigns.
Treat everyone janitors, other exhibitors,
that poor soul who comes for the freebies as a potential client and as
someone who will tell other potential clients about you.
Visit other booths for ideas and to see if you