Make Your Mark at a Book Industry Trade Show By Steve Piacente

Our guest today is Steve Piacente, author of Bella and its forthcoming prequel, Bootlicker. He has been a news and sports writer and is now the deputy communications director at a federal agency in Washington, D.C. He also teaches journalism classes at American University. In today’s post, Steve will discuss how to have a successful book industry trade show appearance.

Steve is also hosting a free webinar on Wednesday, May 2nd called, 10 Ways to Shine at a Book Industry Trade Show. To read more about this webinar and to sign up now, visit

Make Your Mark at a Book Industry Trade Show
By Steve Piacente

Arriving unprepared at a book industry trade show is like waking up in a foreign land without a map, friends, or facility for the language. It is, in short, a bad idea.

Arriving prepared, though, can be an exciting and potentially rewarding experience for the self-published author.

Just like any other trip, the key is early preparation. For Indies, that includes a clear list of objectives, and thorough reconnaissance on everything from your neighborhood of booth mates to the must-meet industry folks who also will be attending.

I like to say that all self-publishers reach a point where decisions have to be made about spending money, and that paid advertising is as alluring to Indies as Eve was to Adam. Best not to forget how that turned out.

On the other hand, imagine an enormous trade show where thousands of book sellers, bookstore owners, agents, movie executives and of course prospective readers are all browsing aisles that include your booth. Is it worth the time and money to tap into this captive audience?

I decided the answer was yes, and last year invested about $2,000 in a booth on Writers’ Row at the Javits Center in New York City. BookExpo America, billed as the largest gathering of book trade professionals in North America, drew 25,000 visitors over three days.

This is what I learned, and why I’m better prepared for this year’s show:

  1. Increase your Twitter following by following followers of the conference. Find the conference website, locate its Twitter feed, and then see who’s following. (In the case of the BookExpo, that’s about 17,000 followers). Then start following the ones that align naturally with your project.

  2. Expect the Unexpected: this can include anything from traffic (Getting in and out of New York City is a task not to be taken lightly.) to aching feet due to shoes you didn’t realize weren’t meant to be worn 10 hours straight.
  3. Let everyone know you’re going, and that you will post blogs, pix and possibly video from the event. You can weigh in on what you’re learning, celebrities who drop in, and important observations, like the fact that people are still excited about books and reading.
  4. Make friends before you get there.
    • Find your booth in the conference guide and learn the floor plan
    • Schedule as many appointments as you can in advance
    • Scour the guide and shoot off introductory emails
  5. Make an editorial calendar and get some things written in advance, like:
    • Tweets (make sure to include relevant hash tags)
    • Blog posts
    • Guest posts for other blogs
    • Facebook posts
  6. Capitalize on being the little guy. You’ll be more nimble than those tied to the big publishing houses, so think like David. While Goliath is chained to his handlers, set your own agenda and meet as many people as possible. Make sure your booth is manned by capable surrogates while you’re away.
  7. Perfect your 10-second pitch. People at trade shows get bewildered by all that’s going on. You’re lucky to get one quick shot at capturing their attention, so make sure you’ve nailed your pitch. Here’s mine about Bella:
    • Isabel Moss knows she could lose her husband when he goes off to war. When the call comes, she’s almost ready. What stops her cold is the second call…
  8. Style your booth. You may want to invest in custom T-shirts for you and your staff. You definitely want to invest in some goodies – we used the very popular Hershey’s Kiss. We also passed out custom bookmarks about Bella, and had a poster-sized copy of the cover strategically hung on the curtain behind the booth.
  9. Be an observer as well as a participant. When an idea strikes or you see something unusual, take notes. And photos (and video, when possible) of everything! These will come in handy in future blog posts.
  10. Measure your results. The dividends from a trade show won’t be immediately apparent, but the potential payoff is significant. Possible rewards include increased exposure, new networks, interview possibilities and a captive audience of prospective readers.


Bio: Steve Piacente (@wordsprof) has been a professional writer since graduating from American University in 1976. In 2010, he self-published Bella, the story of a widow’s quest to uncover the truth about her husband’s death on an Afghan battlefield. The forthcoming Bootlicker is his prequel. Steve started as a sportswriter at the Naples (FL) Daily News, switched to news at the Lakeland Ledger, and returned to D.C. in 1985 as Correspondent for the Tampa Tribune. In 1989, the native New Yorker moved to the same position for the Charleston (SC) Post & Courier. He is now deputy communications director at a federal agency in Washington, D.C., and teaches journalism classes at American University. Contact Steve at Bella is available from Amazon.


Tony Eldridge is the author of The Samson Effect, an action/adventure novel that Clive Cussler calls a “first rate thriller brimming with intrigue and adventure.” He is also the author of the Twitter marketing book, Conducting Effective Twitter Contests. His new novel, The Lottery Ticket, was just recently released on Kindle.

3 Responses to “Make Your Mark at a Book Industry Trade Show By Steve Piacente” Subscribe

  1. Doug April 26, 2012 at 3:14 am #

    What was your return on the Bookexpo experience mentioned?

  2. TheBookFormatter May 8, 2012 at 1:13 am #

    These are very easy things everyone must do to prepare for a book trade show.

  3. jay krish August 18, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    Must see post for any book trade event. I gathered so much knowledge today. Gr8 stuff!!!

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