Attending an International Book Fair: At the Fair

How to have to a great fair really comes down to common sense and being the most effective, positive force you can be. Here are some useful tips and resources from our market guide on attending your first fair.


Dos and Don’ts

  • Do remember your business cards. The first act after shaking hands is to offer a business card. While we are often more casual about the exchange in North America, in Asia one gives and receives a card with both hands, giving due recognition to the holder—so don’t write on it. Take time to read it, as it will help in your initial meeting. Record the name, title, address, and other contact information for follow-up along with notes from your pitch.
  • Do take detailed notes for each meeting. While recording the results of each meeting, you are also starting the process of planning for the next. If someone else will be doing the follow-up, be sure your notes are legible and self-explanatory.
  • Do put away advance copies of key titles at the end of the day. As at any trade show or book event, books can “walk away,” much to one’s dismay. At any time you leave your space, lock your items in the stand cupboard, especially any title(s) in demand.
  • Do keep a list of books to give to publishers at the end of the fair. This saves postage and time. Rarely do publishers ship back finished books, since the costs are too prohibitive. Better to give them away to potential buyers. Bring back only those things that might be needed quickly at home. Better still, arrange for FedEx or UPS packages through the fair office.
  • Don’t forget to keep a close eye on your belongings. It’s not just your laptop or electronic device that could go missing. Watch your wallet and travel documents while on public transit. Stay alert.
  • Don’t keep telling a publisher how great a book is if their body language is saying no. It is not personal. Learn to keep the flow of presentation going by reading the signs, taking notes, and moving on. If not this fair, then perhaps the next one.
  • Don’t forget to thank the publisher for meeting with you. Unless it’s a total mismatch, which does occur, they too have taken time from their schedule to meet. Something in your email or from your website link made them decide your list was worth seeing and hearing more about. Showing your appreciation affects how they will remember you.


Pitch Tips

Everyone has a first fair. Let people know you are a first-timer. Come with pride for your list but with a degree of humility. Show that you recognize there are thousands of books available—but don’t be afraid to show them why yours stand out.

Your pitch of your list should be practised ahead, either with colleagues or in your hotel room to ensure you have mastered the short descriptions of your books. These can be your own, pulled from catalogue copy, or great review quotes that nicely sum up the work. Keep repeating whatever best describes your books to a foreign publisher.

You want to be comfortable and succinct. Thirty minutes goes by very quickly and you must also allow time for general conversation. Remember, if the match of publishers and meeting goes well, it could be a start of a beautiful friendship and long-term busi- ness relationship.

In addition to presenting your list, use your half-hour meeting slot to listen and record the following:

  • what the publisher liked, or not, so you don’t waste each other’s time in future pitches;
  • which books are to be sent post-fair and whether they should be sent as pdfs or finished books (but also see the last “do” in the Dos and Don’ts section above);
  • comments on art, covers, and production quality, which may impact future sales;
  • timing of when they finalize their list for coordinating a co-production or run-on;
  • which fairs they attend to see if more frequent contact will increase your chances of future sales.

Be sure to consider your audience. Is there anything in particular that might appeal to or turn off a publisher? It is a good idea to mention any sensitive content or subject matter that might limit the potential for sales. Children’s publishers want to know about any language or graphic matter that might be an issue before they take the time to read the work. Be open and share appropriately. Keep in mind that each meeting is part of building a relationship. Assuming you have found kindred spirits for your list, treat the publisher with respect and understanding. Like you, they know their market best, wherever it may be.

Want to find out more about how to put your best foot forward at international book fairs? Check out our market guide on Attending an International Book Fair: A Guide for First-Time Participants.

10/06/2017 | Book Fairs