No Two Book Fairs are Alike

Author: sybilnelson  //  Category: Marketing

Last week I had my first book fair at the YALL festival in Charleston, SC and today I had my second at the Savannah Children’s book festival in…well…Savannah. I think the one big thing I’ve learned from these two weekends is that no two book fairs are alike. My experiences were totally different. I think next time, I’ll be prepared for differences in fairs and be more prepared.

For one thing, last weekend was a YA book festival, which meant there were teenagers there shopping as well. I was able to bring all of my books and sold a few of my upper YA books and even one of my adult books. I knew Savannah would be a children’s book festival and would target a younger audience so I planned to only sell my Priscilla the Great series and my Queen Bee series. When I got there, it was clear that The Queen Bee of Bridgeton would be too old for the crowd, so I didn’t even take it out of the suitcase.  Even Priscilla was too old for a lot of the consumers there.

I did manage to sell some books, but I think I would have done so much better if I also had some younger books in order to reach more people. I also wish I had some books aimed at boys. Both last week and this week I had people pass up my book because there was a girl on the cover. While I do have an  idea for a boy book, today I suddenly realized that I already have a book with boys on the cover. My collection of short stories Twin Shorts. It would be super easy to add a few illustrations to it, use a really big font and make it a short soft cover book for some of the little boys that were in between the picture book and chapter books stage. At a price of $5 per book, I have a feeling they would sell like hot cakes. Meanwhile, last week with older kids, I probably could have gotten away with selling my books for $15 each instead of $10.

Last week after selling 26 books, I had high hopes for this week and I wanted to sell 30 books. The last book fair had only about four or five thousand and this one had over 30,000 people there so I thought I would do well. I even raised the prices of my books in expectation. When I got there, I immediately dropped the prices so they would be more in line with my neighbors. The fair started at 10 and by 12 I had only sold 2 books. I was starting to lose hope and decided to start thinking of the weekend as just a great getaway with my husband. I met some great authors and once again made great connections, but I was trying not to think about all the money I was losing. But toward the end of the day, things really started to pick up. I ended up selling 18 books total, a vast improvement over the first two hours.

The highlight of my day had to be using my new credit card reader. Thanks to a suggestion from another author, I went and checked out a website called It allows you to download an app to your iPhone and take credit cards. Yes, I was able to accept credit cards on my phone. It was absolutely amazing and I sold 4 books that way. I’m still reveling in its glory. I mean I thought accepting credit cards would be this crazy difficult and expensive thing. Nope, it’s as easy as pushing a button on your iPhone. I love my iPhone.

I chatted a lot with the author next to me and we were able to swap our stories of what worked and what didn’t. She showed me a very nice brochure she had made of herself and told me she had mailed out 500 of them without a single response. This was very disheartening since it is exactly what I had planned on doing. She said that emailing school librarians was much more effective. I guess I’ll go back to that route. Since I’m getting some free brochures though, maybe I’ll try both an email and a mailing for all of the local schools.

Overall, it was a great day. I feel that with each fair I do I learn more and more. They haven’t become real money makers for me or anything, but the experience has been worth the time and effort.

4 Responses to “No Two Book Fairs are Alike”

  1. sybilnelson Says:


  2. Elysabeth Says:

    I have to agree that no two book fairs are alike. Even the same event from year to year can be different. I totally am glad you could use your square this weekend – I can’t wait to get some sort of device to hook mine up to to use for future events, including the school librarians’ conference coming in March. I wish there was a magic button to push to have everything go swimmingly at each and every conference but a lot of times it is a lot of trial and error. Next year you will be prepared and perhaps you will have more out there for the boys. I hope I at least get a couple of sales from online too since there were several dads with their kids who were really interested in my books and willing to check them out and get books from online. Book festivals are great but I need more productive teachers’ conferences like I did a few weeks ago as well as looking forward to seeing how the librarians’ conference goes and maybe I’ll stick to those instead of continuing with the homeschool conferences – just have to see what next year brings. It was so nice to meet you and sorry I didn’t get to spend more time chatting but we will have a chance to really chat in March at the conference then – looking forward to that and seeing you – keep up the great job – E :)

    Elysabeth Eldering
    Author of Finally Home, a YA paranormal mystery

    Ma America, The Travelin’ Maven
    Author of the JGDS, 50-state, mystery, trivia series and Train of Clues (the predecessor to the series)
    Where will the adventure take you next?

  3. Teodora Jaculina Says:

    Quite Informative, thanks for sharing. Apparently You do a pretty nice job with the site as well. I was wondering, do you freelance for others aswell?

  4. sybilnelson Says:

    Thanks! Send me an email at

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