Overheard at the Book Fair

Posted on 16 April 2012

I spent the bulk of Saturday at the Hudson Library Ohio Author Day & Book Fair. It was my first book fair and, despite the inherent humiliation in these kinds of things, I enjoyed myself. I got to talk shop with other authors, picked up a few books I can’t wait to read (never mind that the size of my to-read pile already gives me night sweats), practiced saying “Feel free to take a bookmark!” in my best friendly and not-at-all-desperate voice, had a nice visit from some family friends who dropped by, and taped a short cable-access TV segment that started out okay before I inexplicably trailed off and went into shut-down mode.

I also picked up some tips and ideas for my next author fair. For example, it never hurts to put a bowl of candy on your booth. Consider making a sign that describes your book  in a few lines so passersby can decide with a quick glance whether they want take a closer look. Most people are reluctant to pick up your book for more than 3 seconds to see what it’s all about because you, the author, are sitting right there staring them down, and they worry they’ll feel obligated to buy it whether they really want to or not. And even if a bookstore is selling your books at a separate table (as The Learned Owl did at this book fair), bring a few of your own copies to set out on the table so people can browse.

I’ll leave you with a snippet of my conversations and/or overheard remarks from the day:

Woman: So your book is fiction?
Me: Yes.
Woman: How wonderful for you! Now me, I only read nonfiction. I can’t imagine anything more interesting than things that actually happened.

Author: My hope is that this whole e-book thing just kind of goes away.

Woman, to friend, as they browse the book fair: I have two cross-country flights coming up next month.
Friend: That’s awful. How will you pass the time??
Woman: Oh, I’ll catch up on my shows on iTunes.

Author: The best part of these events is just talking to people. You can’t judge your success by the number of books you sell.
Me: Yeah, because if we did, we’d all want to go home and kill ourselves.

Kidding, kidding. I actually did sell some books, the event organizers did a lovely job, and I’m pleased with my first book fair experience. (Next on the schedule: The Ohioana Book Festival in Columbus.) That last author was right, though: The value in a book fair seems to be your conversations and connections with other writers, readers, booksellers, librarians, etc., instead of the actual number of books you sell.

If you have any questions about book fairs, I’ll be sitting right here, ready to help. Feel free to take a complimentary bookmark on your way out.


13 responses to Overheard at the Book Fair

  • A bowl of candy at your booth! That’s perfect. How ’bout some free sharpened pencils with the words Living Arrangements engraved in them? Better yet, fortune cookies with the words “I see Living Arrangements in your future.” That would give ’em something to talk about.

    You’re learning so much by putting yourself out there. Thanks for being such an inspiration.

    • I haven’t decided for sure if I’m bringing candy to the next festival. On one hand, it might be fun and inviting. On the other hand, there’s a fine line between “enjoy some candy while we chat” and “oh god please come over here I’m so lonely.” Or maybe that’s just me. (Also, I’d probably eat it all myself. Not good.)

      • Averil Dean says:

        Hershey Kisses. I’d even stop for the Shades of Grey chick if she had kisses on her table.

        I’m cracking up over the author who hopes the e-book thing will go away. There’s always the apocolypse, I guess. . .

  • These are great ideas…thank you for blazing this trail for other authors!

    While I appreciate the nonfiction lover’s honesty, I can’t help but think it was TMI to an author of fiction. It’s interesting how people do fall into camps, though.

    Lyn

    • “TMI” is one way of putting it. She actually seemed well-meaning, believe it or not, and probably just didn’t realize it sounded rude. Or that it made her look unimaginative…

  • Erika Marks says:

    Laura, I especially love the first one because it reminds me of one of my favorite lines from SIDEWAYS, when Miles meets Jack’s soon-to-be father in law and the man announces he never reads fiction because (and I’m paraphrasing) there’s so much interesting stuff that really happened–why read something someone made up? Waste of time! (I am frankly ashamed that I can’t call that quote up verbatim since I’ve seen the film easily 40 times…)

    I am heading to the SC Book Festival next month–my first-so we’ll have to compare notes (and quotes) when I get back…

  • Downith says:

    I would stop at a booth with free candy (as long as it was wrapped!) but I’d also stop based on book cover, author, etc

    If you are at a book fair, I wanna believe you are interested in books!

  • Lyra says:

    Yay! Another one under your belt. I am so proud of you, having seen you at one of these tables, I can say that you don’t come across as the least bit nervous, but charming and gracious.
    Although Hershey Kisses are never a mistake…

    • Food should play a bigger role in my next book so I have something themed to hand out. As it is, I don’t think a stack of bagels and cream cheese (“A System Based on Counting”) or prune-filled dumplings (“How to Speak Czech”) are the best ideas for a booth fair booth…

  • Teri says:

    If I see one more person on a flight with absolutely nothing to read — nothing! — I’m gonna … I’m gonna … I don’t know, but I’m gonna do something.

    Somebody recently asked me what I write. He was a doctor and I was in his office. I said mostly nonfiction, essays and memoir. And he said, “Memoirs are hot, I hear. Everybody’s writing them. What happened to making up a great story?!”

    (love love love your list, Laura…)

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