Book fairs are more than places to negotiate book deals. They bring authors, agents, distributors, publishers, and book lovers alike together to meet, network, and do business. They allow all those involved in publishing — from publishers to printers and technology providers — to exhibit as well as garner industry and media attention for their products and services. Book fairs are vital tools for book publishers, so you should likely include them in your budget — and consider the following reasons for both attending and exhibiting.
The importance of book fairs
Book publisher sales were up in the first half of 2017, and print was the most-sold format. Publisher revenues were $5.72 billion, up 3.5% from a year earlier. But surprisingly, considering the pervasive push toward electronic content, eBook sales were down. Despite eBook convenience, portability, and price, sales prove a strong, lingering desire for the sensory experience of the printed page. That’s why book fairs are so crucial for publishers. They pull everyone with common interests in book reading, writing, publishing, printing, distribution, and marketing together.
Book fairs allow publishers to reserve space to showcase their latest titles, create buzz for soon-to-be-released books, meet potential authors, sell their wares, and market their services. As exhibitors, publishers typically allow authors booth space to connect with readers and provide platforms for authors to meet with agents. It’s also important for publishers to visit book fairs as attendees with or without an exhibitor presence. This allows savvy publishers to keep up with the latest industry trends, attend educational sessions, and meet with service providers. Publishing success relies heavily on personal relationships, and book fairs offer the opportunity to make those connections.
To get the most from book fairs, it’s important to understand your goals so you can choose which fairs to exhibit at, which to attend, and which you can afford to miss. Do you want primarily to meet with agents and authors? Do you want to make sales? Do you want to connect with members of the public, or would you rather focus on networking with service providers? Book fair organizers specialize in helping publishers meet certain objectives: Some encourage public attendance while others are strictly events for trade professionals. Some specialize in niche markets to target attendees’ audience bases. There are local book fairs and opportunities around the world, and all of them have a particular focus or cater to a certain audience. Looking for the best fairs for you? The International Publishers Association hosts a calendar of book fairs publishers can use to help them plan. If you’re looking for a more targeted selection, Sheridan also offers a top-10 list for niche publishing events and the top-10 book festivals in the U.S. Most publishers cannot afford to exhibit or attend them all, so it’s important to choose those that best fit your goals.
Budgeting for book fairs
Because book fairs are so vital to publishers, it’s important to include them in your annual budget. Although attending some fairs can cost less than $100 or even be free, don’t forget about transportation and lodging. For those willing to invest, reserving space for an exhibitor presence can run in the thousands. Publishers who go this route need to figure in booth space, customizing their booths, utilities, advertising, and more. However, publishers can find ways to reduce those costs with proper planning.
- Plan ahead to get early bird deals for registering in advance, and search early to find the best deals on transportation and lodging. Typically, attendees can simply show up and register on-site for a book fair, whereas exhibitors must usually book space six months to a year or more in advance.
- Take advantage of fairs that address several of your goals in one venue. For example, choose to invest in a book fair with broad appeal to the public that also lets you connect with your readers, provides a great marketing venue, and has a reputation for high-quality education sessions. Another option is to choose a fair that focuses on hosting service providers to network with while allowing opportunities to negotiate book contracts and connect with new authors.
- Don’t forget to budget for transportation for you, your staff members, and your booth materials; lodging, dining, and client meetings; marketing materials; as well as set up, tear down, and other event logistics.
Book fairs are some of the few places where publishers can connect with representatives in all aspects of publishing under one roof. They are crucial resources for connecting with authors, agents, and audiences — and provide excellent opportunities for publishers to spread the word about their latest titles as well as learn about the latest trends and innovations in the publishing industry.
Contact your Sheridan representative for a consultation to discuss how Sheridan can streamline your publishing processes.