To Market, To Market
The trade show is an event that is common to all industries, from pork producers to zymurgists. What makes this venue so special to authors who have self-published nonfiction work is that trade shows represent a highly targeted niche audience. As a vendor at one of these shows, the self-publisher can tap into this audience, gain exposure, and reap the benefits in sales.
Most mid-size to large cities that have an airport and at least one major hotel host trade events. Many times, these are advertised in the local newspapers or on television. However, the most effective way in which to discover trade events that address a particular profession is to examine the trade magazines and journals of those professions. If you happen to belong to one of those professions, you can subscribe to one of these magazines for free; if you are outside the profession, trade magazines may be available through the local library, or you may be able to obtain a sample copy from the publisher for the cover price plus postage. Listings of many of these niche publications can be found on websites such as Tradepub.com, FreeTradeMagazineSource.com and Magazines.com.
Generally, trade publications have one or two pages dedicated to listing events around the country, along with dates, locations and contact people. Sponsoring organizations often publish a website specifically for an event as well, and this site often offers downloadable information for visitors and vendors. The download for vendors often lists booth sizes available, whether or not electricity is included, set up and breakdown times and the cost to rent a space. Space rental cost is the key; if an author can recoup the rental costs with a few book sales, then it may be worthwhile to register as a vendor.
The show display does not have to be extravagant; a well-manicured table with an organized pile of books for sale, one or two books available for browsers, a stack of professionally crafted promotional flyers that contain a book synopsis, bullet points that would be strong motivation for the reader to make a purchase, excerpts from any good reviews the book has received, and ordering information in the event a browser wants to purchase the book later. A short “About the Author” section on the flyer will also add credibility and allow potential customers to evaluate author credentials. Finally, a professionally designed sign, either on an easel or fastened to the display table, will draw the attention of passersby. Thanks to chains such as Staples and Kinkos, the printed material (sign included) should cost no more than $50.00 to create and output.
Every contact made at the show represents a potential customer, so authors need to be aware of how they present themselves. Consider the entire event to be one large sales call. Dress neatly, maintain proper etiquette while being personable, and answer questions about topics in the book the way good interviewees do, by referring to a specific chapter in your book.
Can fiction writers benefit from trade shows? Yes they can, because the book publishing industry holds an extravaganza known as Book Expo annually. This show attracts purchasing agents from libraries, universities and independent and chain bookstores, all of whom are seeking the next best seller. Although large publishing houses maintain their own sales tables, small and independent publishers can take advantage of this show by becoming a member of the North American Booksellers Exchange (NABE). NABE members can submit copies of their book(s) for display at the Expo for a small fee, and the NABE sales force will help promote it to these avid buyers. Furthermore, publishers receive the names, addresses and e-mail addresses of all those who have made even a cursory glance at the books on display. This data is forwarded to the publishers, who can then add them to their mailing lists for future contacts. Information about joining NABE is available through the website BookMarketingProfits.com.
Taking advantage of trade shows and events puts a book in front of people who are already passionate about the topic, and can lead to other opportunities for the author such as speaking engagements or teaching situations. The personal touch introduces a greater level of trust into the transaction, and sets the author apart from the competition. It is well worth the effort for self-publishers to escape the safety zone demarcated by the PC and thesaurus and venturing into the deep waters of a trade show one weekend.