Book Fairs: Are They Worth It for Indie Authors?

By Erica Verrillo  on Publishing … and Other Forms of Insanity Site:

Large international book fairs, such as Frankfurt and Bologna, are where industry professionals meet to buy and sell rights, arrange for subsidiary rights, such as film and games, and scope out what’s hot in the literary market.

Can self-published authors set up a table at international book fairs? Technically, no. But in 2013, Tina Seskis formed a shell publishing company (hers was the only published book on the list), and exhibited at Frankfurt. She ended up nabbing a $500,000 deal with HarperCollins.

In general, setting up a shell company is frowned upon, and venues are tightening up their restrictions. But you can still exhibit if you have self-published. Combined Book Exhibit offers self-publishers the opportunity to showcase their books (print or ebook) and/or advertise it for a few hundred, rather than a few thousand dollars. There is an annual membership fee of $150.

The question is: Should self-publishers invest even a few hundred dollars? Showing your book at a book fair can be an advantage, provided you (the author) intend to make an appearance and know how to make a sale. Tina Seskis actually attended the Frankfurt Book Fair and set up a booth, so she was able to negotiate a deal. If you aren’t there to represent yourself, and your book is merely displayed, it won’t attract anyone’s attention.

The other thing to consider is whether your book already has a track record. Most publishers are reluctant to make a deal with an author who has no fans, and whose books have not garnered significant sales. (Selling over 10,000 books in the first year is considered significant.)

The bottom line for first-time self-publishers is not to waste your money on an international book fair. However, if you happen to live near one of these events, it is worth attending as a member of the public, if only to get a taste of what is available to publishers.

While international book fairs may not be the best option for self-published authors, local and regional book fairs are another matter entirely. These present many opportunities for local authors to read, sell and sign books, and lead workshops. Local fairs are an excellent means of building a fan base, as well as making contact with other authors. If you would like to exhibit, costs are much lower than for international fairs, and the logistics are easier to manage. You can find out if there is a fair in your region by contacting your local chamber of commerce, or by googling “book fair” and your city.

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Book Fairs in 2018

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