The weather was warm and sunny and the crowds relaxed and interested at the annual Kensington (MD) Festival of the Book on Sunday. We were busy at our booth all day. At my booth, I displayed my 90’s Club mystery novels, author Millie Mack displayed her Faraday mystery novels, and my husband Roger McIntire displayed his practical books for parents.

Selling at a book fair is not easy. Most passersby will do just that. Pass by. You have to stand out front, establish eye contact, and ask them, “Can I tell you about my books?” Most

Millie Mack, author of the Faraday mysteries.
Millie Mack, author of the Faraday mysteries.
people will say, “Okay.”

All three of us at our booth were generous to the others. After describing our books and answering questions, we directed the visitor

to another author at our booth, and when that person finished, he or she directed the visitor to the third. This, my friends, is the way to run a railroad, that is, a book fair.

Of course we like to make our booth look interesting and attractive. We’ve found over the years that having more books to sell rather than one brings in more people, so sharing the booth or running a cooperative booth makes sense. We’ve put out bowls of candy sometimes, but that doesn’t do too much except give out candy.

As I walked around the fair yesterday, I noticed some authors sitting behind tables stacked with their books and watching the passersby. Hope was written over their faces that someone would stop by and talk to them, maybe even buy their book but they made no effort to engage anyone. Worse were the authors sitting behind their tables stacked with books and looking not at the passersby but at the book they were reading in their lap. This is not good.

The sales we make at our booth rarely cover the expense of the event, but we make sure to give out cards about our availability for speaking engagements, bookmarks, giveaways with our name and website, and any novelty items we might have to give or sell. It’s the exposure and the opportunities that count.

Another good bet is to collect e-mails by holding a raffle and asking people to enter by filling in a small form and putting it in a bowl.

We’re always looking for new ideas, so if you have other tips, I hope you’ll share them with us.
– Eileen Haavik McIntire