OK, here they are, the 5 things I learned from going to the Book Fair on Saturday (there were probably more, but these 5 stand out):
1. Smile. Really, at everyone, especially if you're new to the business and you don't know who's who. The person wearing jeans and hauling around boxes to get everything set up could very possibly be the best-selling author sitting at your table. And people are more likely to stop and at least look at your things, maybe pick up a business card or bookmark, if you smile at them, make eye contact, and say hello.
2. Looks are important - when it comes to your promo items and your table, anyway. Don't overdo and bring 15 different kinds of items. It clutters the space. Do arrange your books nicely (one of the authors had a black velvet throw that she put under her books, which were all set at different levels on the table. Looked cool.) Do bring something unusual if you can, that relates to your books. The author next to me had a scented candle made by some woman who has a side business, and this author does a lot of promo packages - buy a book AND a candle. She said she sells more of both than you might guess. And more people stopped to smell the candle than stopped to pick up a book, at first glance.
3. Be prepared to listen to people talk about the books THEY'VE written. I heard more people talk about the next best-seller they had lying at home, than I can count on both hands. At least three people said, "Oh, it's fresh and original. There's nothing else like it out there." Then they went on to talk about it...and it wasn't, not really. But that's OK. People who like to talk about writing are usually readers, so you have a chance of convincing them to buy your book. A chance, anyway.
4. Even if you don't sell a single book, the networking at these public events is priceless. In six hours, I made more connections with other authors, publishers, and book distributors than I have in probably the last 6 months. I have promo opportunities for 2008 that I didn't have when I arrived there. And getting your own name out there is just as valuable. Now they know me, and hopefully they'll remember me when they see my name in other places. On the flip side, it was amazing to hear how many authors do little to no promotion once their books hit the shelves.
5. Chocolate is always a hit. I had a tin of Hershey's kisses in front of my display, and almost every person who walked by took one. And a majority stayed as they unwrapped it, to look at what else was on the table. Chocolate. Every time.
Finally, I'm running a contest for the month of December: every time you leave a comment on my blog this month, I'll put your name into a drawing for Scenes from a Holiday. I bought this book to read and review for The Long and the Short of It, so it's a brand new copy. Hope to have the review done soon, too, so you can read it before the winner is announced...right after the first of the year!