Lessons Learned from My First Book Expo

This summer, I received a Tweet touting a Mid-Ohio Independent Authors Book Expo. Since it was nearby (in Grove City), I thought it would be a good test run to see if I could gain traction.

Before the expo (things I did right):

Eileen Curley Hammond visits her first book fair.
Eileen Curley Hammond visits her first book fair.
  • Ordered author’s copies of my books. I had no idea what to expect, so I over-ordered, figuring better to have too many.
  • Obtained a mobile credit card swiper/chip reader. (I decided on PayPal. The exhibitors next to me had Four Square. Both worked.) Preloaded my prices and tax so that I only had to press a few buttons. I also brought change with me for cash buyers.
  • Designed and ordered an overlay table cloth. (The tables came with cloths, I wanted to brand mine.) Vistaprint made this an easy process, as all I had to do was the wording; they had a design I liked. I also used them for a tabletop sign for my book that will be released end of September.
  • Ordered wire display holders (stands) for my books.
  • Became a Transient Vendor for the State of Ohio so that I could collect sales tax. (You can do this online.)
  • Checked my stock of bookmarks.
  • Practiced my elevator pitch.
  • Touted the expo on my social media platforms. (In hindsight, I would have done this earlier and more frequently.)

During the expo (things I learned):

  • A wheeled cart is a back and arm saver. The venue indicated that they’d have people help with load-in; they did, but they were hopping. I’m going to order one along with plastic containers to store my books. The exhibitor across from me had a very sturdy looking cart and one enormous bin for his books. He said that the bin was over 100 lbs. I will be buying smaller bins and stacking them.
  • Introduce yourself to the exhibitors around you and let them know what you write. That way if a customer tells you they only read sci-fi, you can refer them next door. (Mutual referrals happened several times.)
  • In addition to your display books, put at least a few of your stock on the table too. I thought it was better to have a clean look to the table, but one reader was hesitant to buy because she thought she’d be getting the display. (I put several on the table after that experience.)
  • Think about bringing a candy bowl or dish and keep it filled as an enticement for customers to speak to you.
  • Smile and be bold. Make eye contact, ask what the person reads, and tout your book(s). Don’t be afraid to step away from the table and into the aisle.
  • Ask another author to take your picture; post it on social media while you are at the venue. (Make sure your boxes are out of the way.)

Was it worth it? This particular book expo was not well attended, though I did sell several books. The organizers did a good job getting the word out, but it was a lovely Saturday before many kids went back to school. From my perspective, it was positive, as it gave me a chance to get the kinks out. Now I need to determine the next best one to attend.