Tradeshows Like BEA May Not Be What You Think
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Excerpt from The Frugal Book Promoter: The chapter this is taken from includes more on signing, more on how to get a signing spot via the back door, more on how tradeshows aren’t just for the publishing industry, and more on how to find the ones that may benefit your book, etc.
Authors don’t sell books at tradeshows like Book Expo America. We give them away. We’re selling only in the sense that we’re promoting them to the people who come to tradeshows, people who will help us sell them, people like publishers, editors, librarians, and bookstore buyers.
Many tradeshows will not let booth participants sell merchandise directly from the tradeshow show. Tradeshows are about marketing, though customers may place orders with vendors for future delivery. It’s safe to say that tradeshows exist for every industry. In general, they are huge, very busy, creative places. They’re also confusing and can be very expensive to participate in.
It confuses many writers that these shows often call themselves book fairs. To keep our terms straight, we’ll speak of book fairs as those where readers (and yes, others!) come for a fun day of book-browsing and maybe some buying.
Probably the most famous tradeshows in the world of publishing are Book Expo America, London, and Frankfurt. Library organizations hold regional tradeshows for easy access by librarians. To help you see the difference between tradeshows and book fairs, two of the most famous book fairs in the U. S. are the one founded by Laura Bush in Washington DC and the one sponsored by the LA Times in Los Angeles.
Authors dream of being part of tradeshows but often don’t get to participate because booths are expensive, travel is expensive and access is closed to individual authors and they don’t know how to get around those restrictions.
Services have sprung up to fill the void. Some organizations offer to put your book on display in their booths at these publishing-industry shows for a more reasonable cost than renting a booth on your own. Booths can easily run over $1500 and these services usually cost $200 to $500. But your book will get lost among dozens, if not hundreds that they “feature.”
If you are considering a service like this, ask if they are willing to provide their service and get paid only if they produce results. When I say “results” I don’t mean a list of publishers who have “shown an interest.” The lists I was given were either not detailed enough for me to reach the “interested party” or were generic lists given to all their clients. Many of these services do their best, I’m sure. I just think that you can probably spend your money more effectively.
If you can afford to be in these booths in person, here are the advantages:
- Bookstore buyers, acquisition librarians, and the media do attend tradeshows and you might generate interest for your book with some of them.
- Tradeshows can be great learning and networking experiences. Publishers, distributors, warehousers, book-oriented media, foreign rights agents, and publicists will be there. And they expect to be pitched! Most tradeshows even include great education programs taught by the best in the industry.
- If you’re there on a press pass (and you may be able to get one if you are a bona fide reviewer or writer on matters of publishing for any branch of the media), you will have access to the press room where you can stock their shelves with your media kits and pick up others kits, too.
- You may someday be a presenter or panelist at one of these shows. If you are an expert on some aspect of publishing and have some speaking credentials, put your expert query letter skills to good use and see what happens.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. Learn more about her and find lots of free aids for writers in the Writers' Resources section of her Web site at www.howtodoitfrugally.com.
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.