Signing Your Book at a Large Trade Show

Posted By on March 4, 2011

Judith Laik, Author

by Judith Laik
1st Turning Point Staff Columnist
Copyright © 2011 Judith Laik

As I write this, my co-author and I have just committed to signing our book, Around the Circle Gently, at our publisher’s booth at the Northwest Women’s Show, March 4-6.  I don’t know what to expect, except that it’s big, at the Qwest Field Event Center in Seattle, and has over 400 businesses involved, with booths, demonstrations, plus ongoing events on several stages.  I have no idea how many people attend the show, but I expect it’s quite a lot.  (How’s that for preciseness?)

According to the website mapsofworld.com, “The show features several seminars on health and fitness issues related to women.  The main attraction of the event lies in its sizzling fashion shows, innovative recipe classes and innumerable stalls.  Well known celebrities come here to take part in several performances and also to enjoy the extensive shopping floor from the world’s best brands.  In the past years, celebrities like Richard Simmons, Susan Powter, Anne [sic] Rule and Martin Yan participated in the show.”

In other words, people don’t necessarily show up for the purpose of buying books.  How can we plan to get the most benefit out of the event?

Lynn and I had some prior experience at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association fall trade show in Portland last October.  The attendees at PNBA are booksellers and librarians, and they do come to look at books.  And though it was only a middle-sized event — nothing like the gigantic American Booksellers’ BookExpo America — the place still boasts a surfeit of books — several thousand of them, by my estimate.  It’s hard to corral much interest when people zoom by, trying to discover the big sellers in the short amount of time they have between sessions.

Tripping one’s potential customers as they dash past your table isn’t considered polite, unfortunately.  So, we learned to watch their eyes.  If it seemed their gaze had landed, even momentarily, on our book, we smiled, made friendly remarks, and hoped they’d stop long enough so we could give them our pitch.  We met a number of lovely people, had interesting conversations, and gave away copies of the book to anybody who’d accept one.

If you find yourself participating in a similar event, here’s my advice on how to maximize the experience:

1.  Don’t have inflated expectations.  Unless you’re a celebrity, people are willing to step over your prostrate body to get to the famous person they came to see.  Be gracious and sociable, smile, even if it hurts, and count every friendly interaction as a small victory.

2.  If somebody is interested, don’t push.  Be interested in that person, be enthusiastic, be prepared to talk up the main selling points of your book.  If they just shake their heads and walk away, be philosophical.  Keep your enthusiasm high, even if it’s difficult.

3.  Take the opportunity to network.  You may be able to forge partnerships or mutual aid with others in the same position as you.  Offer to guest blog, and ask them to guest on yours.  Share tips.  Commiserate.  In some ways, the contacts you make with people who aren’t potential customers can be more beneficial than the actual sales you make.

4.  If there are informational meetings you can attend, take advantage of those.

5.  And be grateful for anyone who is interested in your book, and even – heavens! – buys one from you.  Let them know you appreciate their support.  Collect names and email addresses for your newsletter, or have them sign up to belong to your blog.  Have information ready to hand out so they can visit you on Facebook and any other social networks where you have a presence.

Remember that it’s not about the sale, it’s about making contacts.  Above all, have fun!

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Judith Laik is the author of two Regency romances with Kensington Publishing Corp. and other works of fiction. The second edition of her co-authored book of quotations, Around the Circle Gently, has recently been released. She is currently working on a Regency historical and other projects. She lives on a small farm in Washington state with her husband, daughter, and various animals.


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11 Responses to “Signing Your Book at a Large Trade Show”

  1. Judith Laik says:

    And it never even occurred to me that I would be signing the same day this article went up! So, I’ll try to check for comments in the morning before I leave, but if anybody doesn’t get a reply from me, check back later. I’ll look again for comments when I get home.

  2. So you think it might be worth it to go to trade shows that are only loosely linked to your book, and not specifically about books? I might very well try it. Every spring here in Perth we have the Royal Agricultural Show which hosts everything – from cake competitions to cattle prizes to art exhibitions to fashion shows to fair rides to music shows. You can get a small stall for not very much at all. What do you think… I might share with a band of local writers, and see what happens.

  3. I would love to see books at an ag show. Every year here we have the Woirld Ag Expo (reportedly the biggest agricultural trade show in the U.S.) and you can only look at so many tractors. I’ve purchased handcrafts and sat in on cooking shows. Would really love a literary connection since there isn’t much of that sort of thing in Tulare County, CA. Writers sharing a booth could be a real niche market. They get more than 100,000 visitors for the three day show every February.

  4. Judith,
    Sell, sell, and sell. Hope you get cramps in your fingers from signing so many copies of Around the Circle Gently, a wonderful book.

  5. Judith Laik says:

    Roseanne and Carolyn, I can’t tell you whether it’s worthwhile. A booksellers convention and tradeshow, definitely go if you can. You’ll make worthwhile connections. Something not related to books is more iffy. In the case of the show I’m attending, women go to get information to perhaps make their lives better, so I’m hoping books, especially an inspirational (in a non-denominational way) one like ours, will catch their eyes. But getting out in the public can’t possibly hurt, because the basic tenet in marketing is that a product needs to get noticed several times before it really registers as something a potential customer might like. So, why not collect a group together and go for it. One thing to remember is that if you are solely responsible for a booth, that means you need people to attend it through all the hours of the event. Lynn and I had to commit to only two hours because there are other authors throughout the weekend at our table. (I’ll report back later how it went, if you want to come back and check this evening!)

  6. Judith Laik says:

    Norman, thanks! I’ll take your mantra with me. Maybe it will work. I could deal with some finger cramps!

  7. Judy, Thanks for the great tips, especially those on setting expectations when signing at a huge tradeshow event. Wishing you only success this weekend at the NW Women’s Show. May you make many lasting contacts and sign lots of books!

  8. Great tips for any signing, Judy! Hope you sell a ton of copies this weekend!

  9. Judith Laik says:

    Thanks, Gina and Gerri. Long day, and I’m tired! I’ll see you on Monday.

  10. Heather says:

    Great tips, Judy. And, yes, that show is huge.

    And please don’t eat at your booth or table. That really turns potential customers off.

  11. Great tips, Judy. Good luck this weekend! You’ll have to let us know how you did. :)

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