This was my first experience of a book fair and I learnt many valuable lessons. So here are my top five tops for standing out at a book fair.
1. Get There Early and Leave Late - I arrived very early for the One Big Book Launch and this allowed me to get to know some of the authors. Growing an author network is very important for a writer because there are lots of ways writers can help each other. Regrettably, I left fairly early because I had to catch the train back to Birmingham. I am sure I missed out on lots of tipsy literary chatter at the pub. Therefore, my advice is stay as late as you can to maximise your networking window.
2. Be Prepared - in the words of Scar from The Lion King, 'Be prepared!' The evening ended with all ten authors swapping books with each other and naturally signing them with a personal message too. This took up a great chunk of time when I could have been chatting with guests. Next time, I will be better prepared and arrive with nine books, already signed and dedicated to each author with a carefully thought-out message.
3. Freebies! - some of my fellow authors' stands look fantastic. Julia Johnston decorated her stand with colourful electric candles, whilst J Paul Henderson's stand was adorned with free chocolate. By comparison, my stand was simply covered in books and business cards. At future book fairs, I will put more effort into the stand itself. I could decorate it with clouds or pictures of the characters. I could give Sheriff-branded magnets and badges to people who buy a copy. I could even give out free cake!
4. A Sign-Up Sheet - I have a Simon Fairbanks mailing list set-up on Mail Chimp so I can send a newsletter to my fans. Sadly, only my wife and I have subscribed to this mailing list! In hindsight, I should have taken a sign-up sheet to the event, simply asking for name and email address. This way, I could have stayed in touch with people who were interested in The Sheriff but did not want to buy a copy on the night. Another lesson learnt.
5. Pour Wine! - networking can be a little daunting. It often feels a little intrusive to wander up to a group of strangers to talk about your book. However, topping up their glasses with free wine is a great conversation starter! Your arrival would be welcome, rather than an interruption, and it also shows courtesy. After all, these people have given up their time to hear about your book therefore it is a nice gesture to make sure their glasses are not empty.
So I learnt lots of important lessons at the One Big Book Launch! I'm very much looking forward to my next book fair.