Monday, September 26, 2016

Demi Stevens: A 6 Step Guide to Creating a Book Fair

Readers’ & Writers’ Field of Dreams
A 6-Step Guide to Creating a Book Fair

As a blogger and writer, you’ve probably asked yourself:
“Does anyone really want to read my stuff?”

While I’m not as gloomy on the prospect as Steven Pressfield’s Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t (hysterical and crammed with great advice, btw), we must realize no one will ever want to read our stuff until they know it exists.

Building name recognition and an author brand unassisted is like trying to assemble a giant Lego set without instructions. Our work needs to be recommended – that shiny badge of social proof that comes from having glowing Amazon and Goodreads reviews – by someone who doesn’t share a family resemblance.

To help my author friends build their brands, I created York Book Expo, where a hundred authors and thousands of readers will join us Saturday, October 15. While you might not be ready to launch something quite this big, you can still use this 6-Step Guide to help create a great multi-author event and massive buzz.

1)      Unleash the power of a “headliner”
Celebrity always attracts (and it almost always enjoys being placed in the spotlight). Use a bigger-name author to bring a crowd to your event. Ask around your writer’s group, libraries and bookstores to find out who’s “trendy and hot,” and then reach out.

2)      Snag a good date and venue
No day is immune to conflict, but don’t schedule your event at the same time as your local team’s game, or in conflict with festivals or concerts your ideal readers are likely to attend. During the week, try 10am for a children’s book event, afternoons for older readers (who sometimes don’t drive after dark), and 7-9pm for other markets. On Saturdays, use 10am-noon, 1-3pm, or 2-4pm, but if you’re creating something longer, remember to plan access to food and drink (and bathrooms!). On Sundays, afternoons work best. Above all, make sure there’s sufficient parking.

3)      Get your author friends on board
Invite other writers to share the spotlight (and hopefully the publicity load!). You can reach out through social media, writers’ group, and often libraries and bookstores. These authors will want to know if there’s a cost involved (does the venue charge a flat fee, or take a percentage of sales?), how much space will they have, will a table and chairs be provided, and is there electricity and/or wi-fi (for laptop displays and credit card processing).

While your first event will probably be smaller than York Book Expo, feel free to download the info sheets and registration forms and modify them for your own use. Make sure you get up-to-date contact info for all your vendors, including author websites/social media, to make online advertisement and posting a breeze.

4)      Tell people about your event
Use multiple channels to spread the news. Start with social media posts – tagging vendors to reach their fans too – and include images. Try Facebook Live videos for quick interviews and book readings! People will need to hear about your event 7+ times before they’ll decide to attend. Send a Save-the-Date card early, then post daily 2-3 weeks prior to your event. Encourage all authors to re-share these posts. If you feature a different author or book in each post, it will keep them from getting boring, and entice readers in your combined network that your event is absolutely worth attending.
Next, create a flyer with all the event details (author names/pics, date, time, location). Hang them throughout your community – grocery stores, post offices, nail salons, banks, churches… even Starbucks and Panera have community bulletin boards. Make sure the text is large enough to read from a distance, and stick to just 1 or 2 fonts. For this year’s York Book Expo, we created colorful bookmarks that say, “Bring this to the event for 5 free raffle entries.”

Finally, issue a press release to newspapers, and local radio and TV stations. Include the names of all the authors, where they live, the event date/time/venue, and any story “hook” that might convince them to cover your event. (Are any of the authors related? Raising funds for a charity? Have a timely theme to their books?)

Here’s an example of a short-and-to-the-point Press Release:

September 29, 2015
York, PA – What do you get when you cross a secret bank account worth millions, a lawyer who hates to practice law, and a Golden Retriever? Answer: A recipe for a comical book series by New York Times best-selling author David Rosenfelt.
York Book Expo will be held Saturday, October 17, 2015, from 1-5pm at Memorial Hall East at York Expo Center. Organized by Year of the Book publishing, and sponsored by Shipley Energy, the event will spotlight the books and art of 100 local and regional authors and illustrators in addition to book sales and signing with Rosenfelt. Book enthusiasts can browse titles from romance to hard-core sci-fi/fantasy to thrillers, mysteries and children’s books. 

5)      Welcome your authors and customers
Make sure all your authors know where and when to report for set-up, and whether they need to bring tables, chairs, tablecloths, book stands, $$ change $$, a bag lunch, etc.

If there are multiple entrances to your venue, mark the main doors with a flyer, yard sign, or balloons. Greet customers and ask what kind of books they like to read. Make a connection to other authors, too, and remember to smile and be friendly! Check out this lesson from Laura Rudacille to make your next author event a success, including snagging customer email addresses so you can stay in touch.
Remember to leave your venue clean and clear so you get invited back for future book signings.

6)      Thank the people who’ve helped you, and ask for feedback
In this digital age, receiving a handwritten thank you is the equivalent of gold. If someone helped you design or hang flyers all over town, thank them. If your reporter wrote a glowing article, thank them. If your headline author invited their huge fan list and did a great job for you, thank them doubly! And then ask everyone personally if they noticed ways the event could be improved next time so you can put on better and better events – and ultimately help grow your author brand and sell more books!

Enjoyed this article? For even more swag and insider scoop, mention this blog and get $25 off to attend the pre-Expo Writers Conference on Friday, October 14th in York, PA, and have dinner with Demi and the other instructors. Details here: and discount available by email or over the phone to: or (717) 781-4972. Or join us Saturday, October 15th from 11am-4pm for the main event – details at

About Demi Stevens

Founder and CEO of Year of the Book press, Demi Stevens turns writing dreams into successfully
published books. She has personally assisted in the production of 150+ titles by more than 100 authors, ranging from children’s picture books to sizzling romance, award-winning mysteries, and bestselling business books. A self-acknowledged book slut, Demi loves quilting, crocheting, roller skating and travel. She is a classically trained flutist and author of two children’s picture books. To start your book project, contact her at

Have you ever helped organize a book event or participated in one? Do you live close enough to York, PA to participate in the conference or attend the book fair? What kind of swag do you like to pick up at book fairs? Have you read any of Maria V. Snyder's books?


Theresa Milstein said...

This is perfect timing because I've been exploring the idea of setting up an event. Thank you. By the way, I loved the line: "...we must realize no one will ever want to read our stuff until they know it exists." So true!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

A lot of work but everyone benefits. Sponsorship seems like a great way to go.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

It takes a lot of people to put together a big event. I've been involved in one where the proceeds went to a good cause, which spurred more people to participate and buy.

Christine Rains said...

Fantastic advice! I've never participated in a book event, but I like picking up bookmarks and pens at them. Candy is also an attention getter!

Sandee said...

I do know that writing is just a part of this too. Planning, knowing what to do and what not to do plays a huge part as well. Reading about all the issues has made me appreciate authors far more.

Have a fabulous day. ☺

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Thanks for being here, Demi. You do an amazing amount of work for this event. Can't wait to see it all in a few weeks.

Pat Hatt said...

A lot of work sounds like indeed. But the end result sounds worth it. Great tips.

Unknown said...

Thanks, everyone! If you're ever planning your own event, feel free to reach out and we can have virtual coffee. :-)

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

This is a great idea and a lot of help. Thanks, Demi. You've given me lots to think about.

dolorah said...

Very good advice. Too bad authors now need to work this hard themselves.

Michelle Wallace said...

Such a great post!
I particularly love the idea of handwritten thank you notes to those who helped organize the event...nothing beats the personal touch - the equivalent of gold for sure!
Thank you for sharing.

H.R. Bennett said...

Great post! I legitimately never considered a Book Fair before...

Jen said...

What a marvelous post, Demi! Thank you for taking the time to share this. Best of luck to you and your authors at the Book Fair. It sounds like a fantastic idea!

~ Jen

cleemckenzie said...

Great checklist with details. Excellent.

Lux G. said...

Oh, nice. It seems to me that a book fair is a strenuous event to organize. Thanks for this tips.

Unknown said...

It's a tough theme - copyright.
This is a point of lots of discussions and this was always difficult for novice writers to protect themselves from stealing their papers.
Very often employers just steal their works while asking for preview before paying.
And so you should learn how to write essays, how to make cool topics, how to protect your papers, etc.

Eliza March said...

It's great to meet you and this is a wonderfully informative post. So accurate too. I hope you don't mind if I share it.

Mandy said...

Great advice! I can definitely see how doing some of these things would get a writer more exposure.