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Using Tech for Book Marketing

Kate Gingold from Sprocket WebsitesKate has been building websites with her husband Don since 1996 for all sorts of clients, including authors.

Kate regularly writes about online marketing for Sprocket Websites and provides tips and techniques for entrepreneurs and small-business owners. Since being an author today is not really different from being an entrepreneur with a small business, most of those tips are just as useful to authors.

Kate is an author herself. She writes books on local history, including the award-winning "Ruth by Lake and Prairie," a fictionalized account of the true story of Great Lake pioneering to the shores of Chicago and beyond to found Naperville, Illinois. 

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Author Tips and Tales

The Pros and Cons of Author Fairs
Kate Gingold Host
/ Categories: Author Tips

The Pros and Cons of Author Fairs

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. 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 writers who have attended an author fair for their sales info and most will tell you that it’s pretty modest, but at some events, you might really connect to the perfect audience for your particular genre. Only you can decide what sales number, in addition to intangible rewards, would make an author fair worth your while.

Your best bet is to try an author fair or two and see how it goes. If nothing else, it will get you away from banging away at your latest manuscript for a bit and refresh your thinking process!

Photo by Hans Michel Beaugelus 

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Full disclosure:  Writing for Sprocket Websites is my day job, so if you have questions about digital marketing, I'm happy to help!


Marketing Author Interview

Following a presentation for In Print Professional Writers Group, Kate's husband (and publisher!) Don was interviewed by author Louise Brass for WBOM Radio. During the conversation, Don shared many of the marketing tips from his presentation. You can listen to it online here.

The Sprocket Report

The Sprocket Report is published every other week with Internet marketing tips, tools and techniques. The archive features articles from 2011 up to the present. You are welcome to read how business owners are using technology to market themselves and apply those tips to your author business.



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