Author fairs are a mixed bag. Some folks avoid them while others spend serious tire tread attending them. Newer authors especially may be wondering whether they should make the effort to find and attend them. Here is one author’s opinion:
Let’s talk about the cons of author fairs first.
There is expense involved.
Some fairs charge a participation fee or table fee and may collect a percentage of sales as well. Many smaller fairs don’t charge anything at all, but you’ll still need gas money to get there and your marketing materials. Weigh what you’re getting for your investment. A well-publicized and well-attended fair might very well be worth your while.
There is time involved.
You have to prep yourself and your materials, schlep everything into to the car, drive out to the event and schlep everything in so you can set up a nice display. Then you hang around for a few hours, regardless of whether anybody shows up or not. And you shouldn’t leave early. Not only will it land you on the black list of the event coordinator, it’s just rude.
Libraries are the best and worst fair hosts
Librarians LOVE books and they LOVE authors, too, so they are common hosts of author fairs. And librarians are usually so happy to have you that they treat you like a celebrity! But people come to libraries to get books FOR FREE so it can be tricky to convince them to buy yours.
Author fairs are often add-ons to another event
Some event planners may include an author fair along with presentations, speakers or some other engaging activity. The speaker may have a good following, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will also be interested in you.
But now let’s talk about the pros:
You are pitching one-on-one.
Marketing people have a phrase that describes the path to a sale: Your customer has to know you, like you, trust you before they’ll buy from you. Engaging with someone about your book has a much better chance of ending with a sale than if they just saw your book sitting on a store shelf.
You’ll meet librarians and event coordinators.
Today it’s an author fair with a bunch of other writers, but tomorrow it could be your solo presentation with only your books for sale in the back of the room. This is your chance to connect with and impress the people who hire speakers and buy books.
You’ll meet budding authors.
Author fairs bring out folks who dream of becoming authors themselves. They bring their writing notebooks and shyly ask you questions. Some are teenagers or even youngsters. Some are retirees or young moms. They may not buy your books, but who doesn’t need to feel like somebody’s hero once in a while?
You’ll meet fellow authors.
This is probably the biggest pro of them all. Networking is all important for a number of reasons. These are your peeps and you have much in common. You can learn from the old hands and get industry news, like when the next author fair is. It’s also just nice to make new friends and you’ll be seeing these people at other events in the future.
Note that “sell a zillion books” was not one of the pros. Ask anyone who has attended an author fair for their sales info and you’ll see that it’s modest unless you are a big name. In addition to the intangible rewards, only you can decide what the sales number is that would make it worthwhile for you.
So try an author fair or two and see how it goes. If nothing else, it will get you away from your manuscript for a bit and refresh the thinking process.