Friday, August 26, 2011

David Fingerman on Do's & Don'ts at Book Fairs

Today I welcome David Fingerman, another author published by L&L Dreamspell.  David offers some advice on ettiquette and selling tips for authors working a Bookfair.

Do's & Don'ts at the Book Fair

For a loner who shuns the public whenever possible, I guiltily admit that I enjoy participating in book fairs even though it's definitely out of my comfort zone. I'm forced to interact with the public, which I suppose is a good thing (especially if I want to sell any books). I have to compete with a myriad of authors, but at least don't have to worry about constantly being the center of attention (although, I do notice some authors strive for that). But for me, I can sit (and/or stand) for hours and observe people. I love observing.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of participating in the Northwoods Art Festival and Book Fair. It took place in Hackensack, MN, population a tad above 300. What's wrong with this picture? As it turned out ~ absolutely nothing. Always unpredictable, this year the weather couldn't have been better. Mostly sunny with the temperature in the 70s. The artists had it great. For us authors, weather wasn't a big deal because we were indoors (but had it been raining I'm sure that would've driven down the attendance). As it was, I think the entire town showed up, along with neighboring towns, and tourists. There were only about twenty or so of us authors, so – less competition.

Another plus was I got to observe the book fair as a whole while staying behind my table. Unlike the huge book fairs that cater to thousands of people, the atmosphere here was laid back and I could actually converse with people without having to raise my voice above the din. And like all book fairs, I got to observe a lot of do's and don'ts.
Setting up a nice table is key. Grab the reader's attention. Gimmicks are good. For my novel, "Spyder" I had little rub-on spider tattoos scattered around the book (kids love 'em and drag their parents to my table). Behind me, a woman who had a couple of adventure books about her pup, had a dog dish with candy and had set up other pet paraphernalia. Down the row another author had copies of her book stacked on the table and that was all. I have no idea if she made any sales, but I did notice people glance at her table and keep moving. As an author she also did nothing to attract them. She didn't engage them in conversation, and didn't even smile (at least that I saw).

That brings me to the author. First off, dress appropriate. Unless it's a theme fair, I suggest smart-casual. If you have the personality for it, maybe over-the-top might be a good ploy to get more attention. But a tee shirt, shorts, and flip-flops definitely sends a message of why should I care.

Don't leave your table unattended. Most book fairs have staff that will gladly sit in if you need a bathroom break. At the very least ask the author at the next table to keep an eye on your books. I noticed one table that sat vacant for over half-an-hour. I'm guessing that the author wanted to check out the art festival. But while he was out a number of people stopped, thumbed through his book, saw no one, then wandered to the next table.

Another don't, and this is a pisser. Don't try to drag a potential customer from another author to your table. I only saw this once a couple of years ago. While one author was chatting with a reader, the guy at the next table interrupted and started pimping his own book. It went beyond rude. I don't know if it was staff or the author, but someone said something and he only did it that once. Show your fellow authors respect!
I'd like to wrap up by talking a little about the mystery writer who sat across from me. While my sales were adequate, this woman raked up. She did everything right. It was obvious she had invested a lot of herself and a lot of money into her writing as a business. She radiated confidence, was outgoing, but not to the point of being obnoxious. It seemed to come natural for her (I hate people like that – mostly because I'm jealous). She dressed professional, her table was well set up, and her two novels had a number of award stickers plastered onto them. I had never heard of most of the awards, but they definitely caught my curiosity and suspicions.

When I got home I logged onto my computer and checked a few of them out. A couple of the contests the sticker said she was a finalist in had about a dozen finalists in just about every category imaginable. Whether it be true or false, I got the feeling that if you didn't win, at least you were a finalist. I also noticed that some of the contest entrance fees were quite expensive. One contest could cost up to $190. In other words, you're buying award stickers.

Yes, there are many good contests out there, just as there are many that I would question their legitimacy. As an author, I had to roll my eyes at buying an award sticker. But as an entrepreneur, I thought it was genius. This writer made a lot of sales because people want to read award winners. And who but other authors are actually going to check out contest awards?

So there you have it. I'm not going to go into the morals of buying award stickers. If you feel comfortable, and have the money – it works, I saw that firsthand. If it feels dishonest then don't do it – best to feel good about yourself. As for the rest of it, I think I can narrow it down to two words ~ be professional.

You can learn more about David at his website

During the summer months when the sun is shining and birds singing, I'm perfectly content to sit in my office, with blinds drawn, typing away at my computer. My favorite day of the year is the first day I pull a flannel shirt out of the closet. After 24 years of working in the court system, I walked away to write full time. "Edging past Reality" is my first book of short stories. "Silent Kill" is my first novel, a suspense/thriller. My second novel, "Spyder" is more of an urban adventure. "Playing the Hand She's Dealt" a sequel to"Silent Kill" will be released soon.


Majid Ali said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Denise Verrico said...

David, thanks for being here. This was a timely post for me, because I'm off to a speculative fiction conference today.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

David, thanks for a wonderful blog! Much that's helpful here.
You have a great style of writing.
Wishing you much success with your new novel.

Jacqueline Seewald
THE TRUTH SLEUTH--check it out at your local library!

david said...

Denise ~ thanks for allowing me on your blog. Best of luck at the conference.

Thanks muchly, Jacqueline. Your comments are very appreciated.

Elizabeth O. said...

David ~ I love book fairs & one of this size would be right up my alley. Youf 'dos & don'ts' are perfect! Great points, all. I talk to many of the authors, and for me, that could make the difference between a sale or not. ~TAG~

david said...

hi bethie ~ lots of book fairs in MN. stop by and say hello. ; )