5 Steps to Sell Books at Trade Shows & Conferences
Talk about a captured audience—trade shows and conferences offer publishers and authors tons of opportunities to sell and market their books.
Why are these events so valuable? They offer exposure. And exposure can help you sell more books.
However, if you really want to maximize books sales at trade shows or industry events, just showing up isn’t going to cut it.
So You Have Decided to Attend a Book Conference
That’s great! This is a sure sign you are serious about you book or catalog of books.
A regular presence on the event circuit, or even a tour of your local bookstores, illustrates to readers and other influencers that you care about the book and will put in personal time and effort to share your passion.
Whether traveling to shows for business or spending their own free-time, book event attendees possess amazing book sales potential. These events are also a great way to build your audience and recruit book or brand ambassadors.
But before you jump out on the circuit, you need to develop an action plan. This entails things like:
- Choosing which events to attend
- Speaking and signing opportunities
- Hosting special offers like giveaways or contests
- Communicating to your targets
Step One: Budgeting and Planning
From attendance fees and travel expenses to display advertising, you need to establish a budget and stick to a plan. Attending a conference is a great investment, but make sure you go in with realistic expectations.
A huge shiny display may give you a ton of exposure, but exposure doesn’t necessarily translate into conference book sales. Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning and budgeting:
- Can you get any expenses paid for by publishers or organizers?
- Are there costs that might be tax-deductible business expenses?
- If traveling, how much are you going to spend on food and lodging?
- How much marketing and sales collateral will you need created/printed for the show?
Some events also offer free passes or other special deals to exhibitors. Make sure you exhaust these options first before booking anything permanent.
Step Two: Choose Your Events
Do a bit of research on the different trade shows and conferences available to you. Here are a few suggestions to help you find opportunities:
- Perform a basic Google search for local book events
- Check websites like the American Booksellers Association and Publisher’s Weekly
- Contact local bookstores for signing opportunities
- Look for trade shows and conferences related to your subject matter
You don’t have to limit yourself to strictly “book” events. If you wrote a home repair guide, look into getting space at a local home show. Maybe your about to launch the first in a series of Sci-Fi novels. Why not see if you can get a seat at a sci-fi roundtable.
Step Three: Speaking and Signing Opportunities
This is a simple way to get a huge return from attending a conference or trade show. Speaking and signings provide valuable facetime with readers and market influencers.
Public speaking will definitely help you sell more books at trade shows. But it is also a great way to collect audience feedback and customer data like emails, and other contact information. Getting the opportunity to speak can be simple or a bit challenging, depending on the route you choose. A few examples are:
- Contact local bookstores for speaking or signing opportunities.
- Seek out openings for speakers or round table participants.
- Attending a non-book industry trade show? See if you can get in as an expert.
- Look for available workshop opportunities, or suggest your own.
Step Four: Contests and Giveaways
Swag bags or book giveaways are conference book sales gold. Why? People love free stuff. Plain and simple. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Give away book samples as an incentive to stop by your booth.
- Offer free ebook downloads and collect contact info.
- Provide branded items to promote a new release—stickers, magnets, etc.
- Handout supplements to a book series to tease the next release.
There are a ton of ways swag can help you sell books at trade shows. If your struggling to find out what would work best, consider placing a poll on social media to see what people would like most.
Step 5: Spread the Word
You have a water tight budget. Your plan is foolproof. You have a seat at the roundtable. What now?
Tell people where you are going to be and what they can expect. Tell them what you want them to do.
So maybe you don’t want to scream “Please come to this show and buy my book!” But maybe a subtle, “Come visit me for your chance to win/hear me speak/get your book signed!”
Don’t stop engaging. Once you are at an event, keep the updates going via social media. Tweet. Comment. Post. If you have a decent social media following, create a hashtag.
The biggest benefit of attending events is exposure. Eventually, with more exposure comes more books sales. However, if you want to supercharge your exposure, and in-turn, sell more books at every trade show or conference you attend, it helps to have a tool that can act as a focal point for all your trade show and conference book sales and promotions.