A Fair of Authors

Twenty-some authors all penned in a room together.

Sounded dangerous.

It was a local authors’ fair, held at a library not far from my home. Should I go?

Well, I could probably learn a lot about tabling in a smaller venue. That could benefit me greatly for when I start doing it, hopefully within a year or so. See what works, what doesn’t, how to deal with people.

But then again, I didn’t have much money. I didn’t mind not spending money on every author, but I wanted to at least be able to not waste an author’s time on me without having something to offer them – in this case, actually buying a book.

I hemmed.

I hawed.

My wife started loading the kids in the van to go to the library. She rolled her eyes at me when I finally climbed in, too.

And so I went. My wife and our youngest two children accompanied me; the older two children elected to go look for books in the library itself rather than in the conference rooms where the author fair was being held. No problem; that’s less for us to have to deal with, and they’re old enough to be on their own for that much.

And then we entered the room…

It wasn’t anything fancy for setup. A few aisles of tables, and an author at each one. Some authors had decorated their tables extravagantly with cloth and props and swag to give away. Some simply laid out piles of their books on bare tables.

And I did learn. And I did purchase. (My wife dug up some dollars that would cover the cost of one, maybe two books.)

What did I learn? Before I list it all out, I’m not calling out any authors. I’m not saying, “Oh, this was bad!” or “Man, what an idiot!” I’m seeing what I learned from interacting with the authors that were at this event.

So, what I learned, in no particular order:

  • In a room of tables, the banner caught my eye. One author had a banner with her name in a fancy logo on it suspended beside her table. Another author had a large map on a stand behind his table. Those two items drew my eye. If you’ve got my attention, you’re more likely to get the sale.
  • Along with the banners, decorated tables that showed the authors wanted to provide an experience also grabbed my attention. Not all of that had to be expensive; one author had fire-singed pages on her table, which tied into the books. Really neat and novel approach!
  • Most of the authors sold books of genres that personally neither my wife nor I were interested in. A lot of romance books, which just aren’t our thing. However, that made those who sold our preferred genres stand out much more.
  • Many of the covers looked… frankly, cheap. The authors that had professionally-made covers made me think they spent more time not just in writing, but being professional in what they wrote. (That’s not always true, of course, but I’m more likely to spend money on a book with a professional cover!)
  • Similarly, if I couldn’t read a back cover because of font choice, color choice, or just bad grammar, I’m not likely to buy the book. If I can’t get through the blurb that’s supposed to convince me to buy the book, I’m not confident in the quality of the writing within.
  • On the other hand, a good blurb does suck me in and make me interested enough to read more!
  • The authors with free candy got my son’s attention, and that meant they got our attention, whether we wanted to give it or not. We spent time talking with authors who wrote books in genres we weren’t interested in. But, again, if you get us talking, we’re more likely to buy!
  • I greatly appreciated authors that laid out exactly what their books were. I knew I wasn’t interested in the romances, and a lot of the “spiritual fiction” wasn’t the kind that attracted me. On the other hand, there were some books where, looking at cover, title, and presentation of the author, I had to pick up the book to find out what it was. That made me annoyed, and even though I spent time looking at the book, I was less likely to buy it.
  • When authors were confident (but not over-confident), it put me at ease. If an author was nervous, it made me nervous.
  • When authors were excited about their books, it made me more interested. I think some authors were concerned with over-selling, and yes, that can be a problem, too, but excitement helped me buy what I bought.

So, what are the big take-aways for me, personally?

When I’m tabling as an author:

  • I want a professional cover with a great blurb.
  • I want a banner of some kind to attract attention, if possible.
  • I want swag to decorate the table and hand out.
  • I want to be excited, but not pushy.

In other words, the local author fair was definitely worth my time. I learned quite a bit by example! And yes, I purchased two books myself. I haven’t had the chance to start reading them yet, but they’re on my headboard, which means I’ll get to them soon!

Have you ever been to a local author fair? What did you think? Was it worth your time?

2 thoughts on “A Fair of Authors”

  1. I haven’t been to a big fair, but I have been to a couple of author meet and greets. My big take away? If as an author you’re rude to someone who took the time to come to your signing- or if not deliberately rude, then very markedly unenthusiastic when they try to say something nice to you- it’s PROBABLY not going to make them super keen on reading your books! And that’s all I’ll say about THAT… 😀 Great tips, Jon, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

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