Going into the Inspire Toronto International Book Fair as a new Canadian self-published author, I had an idea of what to expect, but was it realistic since this was my first time promoting my books? I was excited at the prospect of promoting my novels at an event that was a targeted audience of book lovers. How do you determine how many books to bring with you to an event like this? I brought 125 copies of my first novel, Saving Grace, and 75 copies of the second novel in the Taylor Sinclair Series, Unfinished Business, and I was worried I wouldn’t have enough. What I learned was that it wasn’t about book sales. Sales for unknown indie-authors like myself were pretty much non-existent at the Book Fair. I failed to take into account that we would be competing for sales with over 400 authors, many of them best-sellers and a few of them legends.
What the inaugural event of Toronto’s Book Fair was about for authors like myself was networking, making contacts with professionals in the literary world, and getting our name out there. These things were invaluable and made the event a success despite the financial loss. I invested a lot in the creation of promotional materials such as banners, business cards, and a Kindle Fire HD draw to entice people to join my email list. Other costs included the purchase of the booth itself, travel and hotel expenses, and the printing of 200 novels (which I will still be able to sell). So, all in all, with only ten books sold at the event, it was a financial loss. But that doesn’t take into account future online sales that may result from handing out my business cards, or from people checking out my website from the links on the Inspire Toronto International Book Fair website and print materials, or from the exposure on social media sites. It may be too early to determine just how much of an impact the Book Fair will have in regards to book sales, but I definitely believe it has been a very worthwhile investment.
Networking with other authors, both traditionally published and self-published, publicity firms, publishing companies, printers, and marketing specialists provided a valuable learning experience as well as the opportunity to share social media exposure. These things are where the value in taking part in such events come. I also had the opportunity to spend time with some amazing talent and incredible people who I hope to keep as friends for a long time to come.
What I have learned that I will take into next years event is that I need to schedule hours where I will be available for signings and either share a booth with other authors or hire someone to man my booth for me. That would free me up to take full advantage of what the Toronto Book Fair has to offer in terms of speakers offering advice for writers and self-published authors. It would enable me to do more networking and visiting the other booths and exhibitors that I missed out on by being tied to my booth. Next year I won’t be concerned about book sales, although I hope that the sales will be better than this year. I will be more concerned with the networking opportunities and the valuable relationships that can be built during an event like this.
If I had advice to give to help make next year’s Book Fair even better it would be to give more attention to the Hub exhibitors. I was scheduled to speak on the Soapbox Stage on the Saturday from 12:20 to 12:40pm. I had thought that there would be Book Fair staff or volunteers there to help out and to introduce the speakers, but this didn’t happen. I just put one of my banners on the stage and went about my reading with no support from staff anywhere in sight. It felt a little bit like the Hub area was ignored. I know that there has been talk of putting the Hub in a more central location next year so that it isn’t ignored, so writing that piece of advice is probably a moot point. That is another of the impressive things about the organizers of the event: they were already looking at what they could improve for next year. Very impressive!
I am very grateful to the Inspire organizing staff, particularly Maddy Curry and Jesse Bernstein, who were extremely helpful both before and during the Book Fair. Also, whoever runs the social media sites for Inspire_TIBF, thank you for retweeting my tweets! It is very much appreciated.
See you at next year’s Inspire! Toronto International Book Fair!