So, this past weekend, I had my first author table at a book fair. It was at Read Local NC, a new event in Durham organized by Light Messages.
I shared my table with Jon Batson, another local author who has been at this a bit longer. He had some ten or twelve books to hawk, and he and his kind and funny wife had an approach all worked out. He was really good at the getting out and meeting people part for certain.
I, on the other hand, was fighting the introverted side of myself the whole way. Luckily, even for someone like me, events like these hand you a lot of built-in opportunities. People walk up to the table, and you have to say something. Even just "hello" is a good start. Children come up and you can give them colorful bookmarks printed with book information or hand them coloring pages (I printed some black and white versions of the art +Charles C. Dowd made for me last Christmas. (Jessica was very popular with little girls).
People ask questions. I'm a teacher and a mom, so questions are my forté. In fact, I probably annoy people by giving really full answers to questions that were meant to be merely polite because that teacher hat is so firmly squared on my noggin.
Given what my book is about (menopausal superheroes), my favorite part was people-watching for "realization dawning." People would walk by the table, casually reading the titles, then stop and double-take (Thanks again +Polina Sapershteyn for that wonderful, eye-catching cover). Or they'd be standing there talking to me or Jon and reading covers as they did. They'd stop and their eyes would grow wide. That was definitely a thrill.
Of course, not everyone who stopped by bought a copy of my book, and if I assess the event in terms of a dollars-per-hour spent, I didn't break even. Then again, maybe I did. That's the thing. You don't know which of those people went home and ordered your book from their favorite bookseller after the event, or gave your bookmark or coloring page to someone else who then bought your book. I also made a couple of contacts that might lead to being invited to future things, like interviews on the radio, panels, and blog posts.
So, my takeaway: these events might not be immediately profitable, and are exhausting, but the long term payoff potential is high.