Book Fair Survival Guide

The following is a useful list of survival tips gleaned from seasoned colleagues over the years and shared by Catherine Mitchell in our market guide, Attending an International Book Fair: A Guide for First Time Participants. 

  • Bring business cards, pens, and paper for note-taking if not using a computer, plus shipping labels (FedEx or other forms) if sending books onward or home, and Post-its and tape (for display or packing).
  • Bring a list of the books you have shipped to the fair. Consider bringing book covers or jackets to display on the shelves in case of delays. Nothing is worse than an empty stand.
  • Ensure you have access to the most recent production schedule, handy for quick reference if co-production or running on to a printing are possibilities.
  • Bring two copies of your fair schedule, even if you’re working from a device. Internet connection in the halls is often spotty, so paper can be better.
  • If you are bringing a laptop or tablet, bring cords, chargers, and converters.
  • If using print catalogues, bring two spare copies, one for your use, the other in case it’s accidentally picked up in a meeting. If using a USB key, have it pre-loaded with catalogues, promotional material, and even chapbooks of key titles.
  • Going to a book fair is a form of cultural diplomacy. You are a representative of your industry, however new you may be on the foreign front, so consider taking small gifts from Canada for special meetings or to seal what may be a potential deal. Be sure the gift is easy for the recipient to pack, as well as light, or the thought may be less appreciated than intended.
  • Wear comfortable shoes! Believe the veterans when they say to leave the heels for the party, not the hall.
  • Dress for your comfort and ease but be professional in attire. Bring a scarf, shawl, blazer, or sweater, as fair halls can be cool and draughty. A few throat lozenges can also be useful and appreciated by a fellow standmate, as one talks a lot during a fair.
  • Getting the “Frankfurt cold” is not uncommon, but it may be a badge of honour you wish to forgo. Pack some medicinal items such as cough drops, echinacea, oil of oregano, facial tissues, aspirin, Band-Aids, whatever works for you. All fairs have a pharmacy, but having a few items at hand can save time and a good night’s sleep.
  • Guard your valuables at all times. Most thefts of purses and laptops take place on the first day, when publishers are a bit groggy and not paying attention. Don’t chance it, and be alert on behalf of the publishers with whom you meet.
  • Security checks are now the norm, particularly in the Frankfurt and London halls, so build in extra time for lineups.
  • Determine the location of the closest washroom for quick visits.
  • Stay hydrated. Fairs halls are large and one is constantly talking. Water is best for the endurance of your first fair. Consider buying a large bottle to have at your stand.
  • Take advantage of the Canada Stand beverages, which are intended to assist while you sell and promote your list. Your guest will be grateful—they may have walked some distance to reach you.
  • Consider having some backup nourishment like apples, nuts, raisins, and chocolate, just in case. Wrap up a sandwich from your hotel’s breakfast buffet to save money as well as time in fair lineups.
  • Book fairs are work; in fact, many consider them marathons. So much to see, so many people to meet. Maximizing time to increase the odds of sales is what it is all about.
  • Accept invitations to stand receptions if they may further sales and build contacts. You may have to attend business dinners with the same aim. However, for some, working hard during a full day is enough, and quiet dinners with colleagues or new friends is a reward in and of itself. From the standpoint of your colleagues back home, you are one of the lucky ones, so take time to enjoy the fair and the city, wherever you find yourself.
  • Productive book fairs rely on maximum efficiency while safe-guarding effort. Strive to be that publisher writing up meeting notes on the flight home so you can hit the ground running. You’ll increase the chances of making your trip a success.


For more helpful tips and information on how to make the most of your attendance at an international book fair, you can download the full Guide here.

See you in Frankfurt!

10/10/2017 | Book Fairs