Maximizing Attendance at Consumer Book Fairs
For printers seeking new business, attending consumer book fairs can often result in new leads. Working a consumer book fair is different than trade book shows such as the Book Expo of America. Consumer book fairs are designed for the publishers to sell books directly to consumers. At trade book shows, publishers sell books to the bookstore buyers. It is important to remember this distinction because it alters one’s objective and goals for attending the show.
The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is a consumer book fair. It will be held Saturday, April 23, 2005 from 10 am to 6 pm and Sunday, April 24, 2005 from 10 am to 5 pm. The Festival advertises itself as the largest and most prestigious book festival in the country, attracting more than 150,000 book lovers each year. There will be nearly 300 exhibitor booths representing booksellers, publishers, literacy and cultural organizations. The LA Times Festival of Books is held each year on the UCLA campus. Admission is free because it is a consumer book fair. Parking is $7. See the map below for exhibitor booth placement.
To effectively work a consumer book show, a book printer must remember that the publisher is there to sell books to customers, not to talk about book printing. Be respectful of the fact that you are interfering with the publisher’s main objective that day. Don’t interfere with any sales opportunities for the publisher.
One must be selective when approaching a publisher’s booth. If the booth is not busy, one can engage the publisher in conversation. Always allow the publisher to watch the crowd for prospects that may be approaching the booth by standing to one side. Speaking to the publisher makes the booth look busier and may attract customers who otherwise would not approach a quiet booth. Begin by asking the publisher about the books for sale, but tell him that you are interested as a vendor, not a customer. Ask how the books are selling. Ask what quantities the publisher prints. Get business cards of the main publisher or the print buyer, if it is a large publisher. Explain who you are and what you do. Offer a business card, but don’t be offended if the publisher doesn’t take one. The publisher is there to sell books, not find new vendors. Spend as much time with the publisher as he/she will allow and be prepared to move on to the next publisher when the conversation lulls.
If the publisher’s booth is busy, make a note. This publisher is selling books and may need a book printer soon. It may be necessary to return to the busy publisher’s booth when the crowds subside. If time doesn’t permit that, search the booth for the publisher’s business cards and take one. One can always contact the publisher at a future date to discuss printing. When the crowd does subside, one can use the same techniques to converse with a busy book publisher as described above for the not busy publisher.
Consumer book fairs were always a success for my book printing business. We developed at least two or three good leads at each LA Times Festival of Books. Consumer book fairs do take more patience when approaching the publishers’ booths than trade book fairs, but the results are worth the extra effort.