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For Writers: The People You'll Meet

Exhibiting at a book show or participating in a conference have one thing in common: They cost money. Whether the author lives in a garret, garage, or gatehouse, spending those dollars might seem too steep a price for probably very few or no book sales.

In the past two weeks, I’ve had a booth at the Kensington Festival of the Book and attended the Malice Domestic Conference. This year, I sold a lot of books at both, not enough to cover my expenses, but a gratifying amount. It wasn’t always like that. Whether I sold or not, both experiences were worth the money.

First, though, wake up your networking and conversation muscles. Nothing will happen at a book show if you sit behind your table and bury yourself in a book. Get up, engage with passersby, ask them if you can tell them about your books. Smile. And if they shake their head or ignore you, that’s okay. Go to the next person. At conferences, engage with other participants, attend the social functions, be alive, trade business cards, and help wherever possible.

Here’s what you can gain.

Feedback. Do people show interest in your cover or title or quickly pass by? What about the subject? Concept? How do your books compare with others on offer? What about your exhibit? Is it enticing? Well done? Most people will pass by, but lack of interest might be a clue for you to consider.

Information. Workshops, panel discussions, keynote speakers all offer important information you need to write, edit, promote, and sell books. Pay attention. Other exhibitors might also offer tips.

Resources: Casual conversations can reveal tips, ideas, places to go, organizations, and other resources you can use.

Promotion: Being there, talking about your books, passing out flyers, brochures, business cards or swag may all reap sales down the road. I notice increased sales from Amazon and other places after I’ve displayed my books at a book show. I’ve participated in book shows and conferences for many years. People recognize me, and now they ask for my latest.

The writing community is full of kind people looking to help each other. Be a part and help when you can and thankful when it’s offered.


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