In this post excerpted from our guide on Attending an International Book Fair, Catherine Mitchell provides expert advice on how to ship your materials internationally and set up for a book fair.
Next to your schedule, shipping is the most important part in attending a fair. However your materials arrive, be sure to have included all the books, catalogues, display matter, and other pre-publication material you feel necessary. Think about your display and who you are meeting, and plan ahead.
What to Bring
- Include one copy of each book you are pitching—more if these are already requested. Doing so will save time in getting into the hands of your agent, scout, or foreign publisher, even if bringing extra copies may at first seem expensive. You will be ahead of the game in providing reading material for the trip home for some.
- If not yet printed, take colour copies of new covers of yet-to-be published books. Consider including a few bookmarks, postcards, or other point-of-sale material to show the extent of your promotional matter. These can be given out at the fair as a visual reminder while a publisher awaits the book, whether in print or digital format.
- Print sales materials still have a place, although it’s evident that the need for large quantities at book fairs has diminished. Don’t waste effort by taking too many. Weight is a factor for everyone and paper is heavy. If your budget can run to USB keys with your catalogue, sample chapters of key titles, author bios, and other background information, take time to include this and bring along as many keys as you have meetings. Failing that, simply nudge prospective partners to your website for handy pdf links to your books.
- Follow the instructions carefully on documentation for consolidated shipping provided by Livres Canada Books or with your shipping company. Countries like Mexico may remove items not listed in the paperwork, so be correct and detailed to eliminate any costly surprises.
- Speak to any publisher who has experienced a book fair or two and they will tell you to make sure to take any crucial materials in your carry-on. Although rare, it has happened that a shipment of books through a reputable carrier did not arrive prior to the start of the fair or, worse still, at all. Wise publishers have a backup plan. Bringing at least one catalogue and a key title on the plane with you may save the day—and your fair.
- When taking space on the Canada Stand at any fair, shipping details for the consolidated shipping provided by Livres Canada Books are distributed long in advance to ensure publishers have time to amass what they want for display. Note these deadlines carefully, otherwise the cost of finding an alternative carrier could be very expensive.
Setting Up for the Fair
While rights should indeed prove exciting, if not plain interesting, a large book fair really brings home the reality of just how many publishers there are in the world. For the first-time fairgoer, this can be very daunting. It’s natural to wonder if your great list will ever find interest and sales. Take a deep breath and have faith in your publishing instincts. It also helps to do some planning around your setup to ensure you and your books are discovered.
Seeing your books among so many can be daunting, but it is ultimately instructive in learning how to make your books stand out. Here are a few simple and inexpensive ideas.
Best Practices for Setup
- Attach any award stickers in a good spot on the cover, whether finalist or winner. The brighter the better. If the award doesn’t have a formal sticker, create one in the office with the correct wording and year. Bring a list of awards and honours for all of your books as a handy reference. Whether large or small, awards and other honours are affirmation and useful in proving the house and its books have merit.
- While you might not yet be able to advertise any rights sales for your book, be sure to highlight good reviews in short quotes, with the biggest and best ones at the top. Print these on office-prepared bookmarks inserted in the appropriate book. The idea is to make your list look as appealing as possible.
- Some fairs will provide bookmarks advertising “NEW!” to insert accordingly, or make your own on a bright colour to attract attention. Be professional and inventive.
- Despite best efforts to pitch key titles, sometimes sales occur quite unexpectedly for an entirely different book or collection. Simply smile and enjoy the ease of it all. You don’t have to question why a publisher is interested in a particular title. All that matters is that the fit is right.
- Take photos of your stand prior to the start of the fair. Use them for marketing, to show the authors and staff, or for future reference in planning next year’s fair. Take photos of other stands you might emulate for their unique display or promotional practices worth trying.
- Be sure to take time to walk the fair. After all the advice on comfortable footwear and incredible distances to be covered on a daily basis, the suggestion to “walk the fair” may seem unnecessary. But it is a worthwhile practice, no matter how seasoned you are in your attendance. Putting a set amount of walkabout time into your meeting schedule is advised, either on the afternoon of day two or the morning of day three, once you have had sufficient meetings to warrant some time off-stand.
- Each walk in a particular hall or down a specific aisle will provide market intelligence on trends such as covers, printing techniques, hot topics, and general information about how the world markets are faring. If you know a particular market is one to target, focus on those aisles or that hall. Take note, whether in writing or just with good mental images. Do this before you are too fatigued, since no one has the mental energy to absorb anything new at the end of the fair.
- Don’t forget lighting. If you are on a collective stand, this will be part of your package. If you opt for taking your own stand, order appropriate lighting to ensure your books are well lit. The recommended walkabout will immediately demonstrate which stands recognize that book fair success is all about the books.