Choosing the Right Events for Your Target Market - article

Trade shows, conferences, conventions, and other large-scale events offer opportunities to interact directly with a large number of potential book buyers. While this kind of event marketing could be a valuable marketing investment for you, you’ll need to do your homework first. Will your booth bring you enough sales to make it cost effective? Can you expect to make many sales at a trade show? What is your real goal for attending a major event, and how can you best reach that goal? These are the questions you’ll need to answer before you make the commitment to participate in a trade show, conference, or other large marketing event.

No matter what your book’s topic or genre, you can find a local, regional, or national conference, trade show, or other marketing event that will draw members of your target audience. If you are a fiction writer, there may be conferences and other events that are applicable to you, depending on your genre. The following are some of the event types you might consider.

Book Trade Shows and Fairs

These large gatherings of authors and booksellers draw the attendance of professional book buyers, as well as members of the media, publishers, retailers, library representatives, and the general public. Most book trade shows and fairs run for two or three days. Vendors rent and staff booths to directly promote and sell books (some shows don’t allow direct sales, however, so check the details before registering), as well as to make contacts for future sales.

Trade shows and fairs take place on the local, national, regional, and international levels, offering you the ability to start small before you commit to the expense of a larger event. Most of these shows charge booth space, corner space (open corners available in your booth), and many charge extra for tables, electricity, phone lines, and so on.

Transportation, lodging, and meals, of course, would be added to these expenses. Booth space at large trade shows and fairs can be quite expensive, as can nearby accommodations at the time of the event. Smaller regional events typically are less expensive and more cost-effective. These events typically offer a better opportunity to get face time with buyers interested in regional authors.

Again, if you decide that a book trade show is a good investment of your time and marketing dollars, look before you leap. Visit a few shows as an attendee, rather than an exhibitor, to get a feel for how they’re organized, what kinds of books are being exhibited, and which types of exhibits seem most successful. And start small; you might be overwhelmed by a huge, national show, but a small local show might be very cost-effective, manageable, and an opportunity to determine whether you’re interested in attending larger events.

Conferences and Conventions

These events, like trade shows and fairs, typically draw attendees from a particular trade or industry, and offer vendors another opportunity for face-to-face contact with potential buyers. Some of these events are directed at a very specific niche market; if your book also occupies that niche, attendance or speaking engagements can be especially beneficial for sales. If you can land a speaking engagement at a workshop or seminar associated with the event, you can gain even greater promotional benefits.

Conferences and conventions come in all sizes, of course, as do the costs associated with attending. And as stated earlier, you have a much more targeted attendee list at smaller events, and thus a better opportunity to reach your target market. Opportunities for arranging presentations and seminars at smaller events are also greater.

Book Festivals

These events typically offer vendors the opportunity for direct sales at retail prices. As when attending trade fairs and shows, you buy booth space and work the booth yourself, so you have invaluable opportunities for direct contact with large numbers of buyers who have come to the fair specifically for the opportunity to purchase books. You aren't dealing with as many professional buyers at these events, however, so booth space can be less costly, depending upon the size and popularity of the festival.

Again, look for small local festivals initially, then plan on moving to larger events after you've gained experience in managing a booth, handling direct sales, and promotional contacts with festival attendees. Most book festivals also have author readings and demonstrations, and so offer other promotional activities beyond sales at a booth or table.

Doing Your Research

You need to do some careful research and evaluation to determine whether any conference or trade show will be a worthwhile marketing investment. Beyond researching individual events to determine whether they will offer an appropriate environment for promoting and selling your book, you also must determine your specific goals for attending the event. Then you must analyze the associated costs and benefits of your attendance. Most event Web sites list the event's important details.

In addition to basic dates and locations, review the event agenda, the list of sponsors, exhibitors, and attendees. The online registration forms typically outline booth sizes and costs, floor plans, added expenses, and other important information for registrants. With this information in mind, consider your goals for attending the event. Are you most interested in exposure? List your goals and then review them in light of what your research has told you about the event. Do the size, cost, attendee and exhibitor lists seem to describe an event that will help you reach all or most of your goals? Estimate your expenses and determine how those compare to the potential and likely benefits of attendance. This kind of cost/benefit analysis is important before you undertake any major marketing effort, but the potential expenses associated with trade show attendance give it special emphasis.

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  • Thank you. I do book signings and sales sometimes at the local charity markets. The locals are friendly and I always meet interesting people. 

  • Wonderful information. I was thinking of going to many of my churches to pay meeting to sell my books. I love your advice. They are great. God bless, you give me strengths to go after my gold.
  • Thanks for your information regarding reaching your gold in sales and marketing your book. Very important and informative. I love your advice. God bless.