Showcasing You, the Author, and Your Books at Trade Shows, Book Fairs, and Genre Cons

I'm Robert Stanek and today I'm talking about trade shows, book fairs, and genre cons. As a successful author whose works have been showcased around the world, I often get questions from other authors about how to effectively use these events to sell books. Previously, I blogged about selling your rights at trade shows, taking your work to Hollywood, and other related topics.

Many authors seem to think trade shows, book fairs, and genre cons are all about selling. But in reality, these events aren't necessarily about selling anything at all. You, as an author, should be there mostly to build relationships and industry connections.

In the early 2000s, my books and I were at nearly every regional, national, and international show for a number of years. A steady, multi-year investment landed numerous rights and distribution deals:

My William Stanek books have been translated into 34 languages and counting
My Robert Stanek books have been translated into 15 languages and counting

It took a great commitment of time, capital, and resources to make those deals possible. The publishing landscape has changed considerably since the early 2000s, however.

Today, I would, and do, approach trade shows, book fairs, and genre cons very differently. For starters, you're going to have better luck at these types of events if you have several creative works, rather than a single published work.

As an independent with several works available, you're going to have the most success at regional shows, including the regional shows from:

California Library Association
New York Library Association
New York State Reading Association
Michigan Reading Association
Texas Library Association
Connecticut Library Association
Pennsylvania School Library Association
Florida Library Association
New Jersey Library Association
National Education Association
Pennsylvania Library Association
Illinois Library Association
California Library Association
New York State Reading Association
New England Library Association

Note that most of these regional shows are either "library associations" or "reading associations". Here, you are connecting with library staff, school library staff, teachers, school administrators, readers, and others. If your books aren't available to libraries or schools, you'll want to approach the library shows very differently than you would otherwise.

Regional shows can be expensive, so you may want to stick with ones in your area before you try anything outside your local area. Don't spend money on tables or booths without first getting as much information as you can. You also may want to attend one or more of these events beforehand.

An even better idea? Build up to something like this before you spend any money. My recommendation: regional independent bookseller organizations and shows.

Regional independent bookseller organizations are excellent resources, and it's good to get to know the organization in your area to see if it and you are a fit. Regional indie bookseller organizations include:

Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (PNBA)
Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA)
New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA)
Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association (GLIBA)
Midwest Independent Booksellers Association (MIBA)
New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA)
Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association (MPIBA)
Southern California Independent Booksellers Association (SCIBA)
Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (NCIBA)

These organizations also host book shows. Attend the shows hosted by these organizations, learn how they work, and see if you think they might work for you and your books.

With some experience at regional shows and with regional organizations, you might want to look to national and international shows. Shows of this type, I recommend include:

American Library Association Midwinter
Bologna Children's Book Fair
London Book Fair
BookExpo America
American Library Association Annual
Beijing International Book Fair
American Association of School Librarians

International shows have the most potential, especially the London, Beijing, and Frankfurt shows. At these international shows you can have tremendous success selling translation and other rights to your works.

Attending trade shows, book fairs, and genre cons can be expensive. Don't spend a dime before you take the time to research the aforementioned options to determine whether any of them are for you.

With any of these shows, whether a regional, national or international trade show, you don't have to attend personally. There are many organizations that will host and showcase your books for you. Thus, rather than spend $250 for a table and $625 on travel expenses to attend one show, you could pay one of these hosting organizations a flat fee to showcase you and your books at multiple shows for around the same amount of money. For example, it may cost $125 to showcase one book at one show or $350 for a shelf in a display that allows you to showcase 5, 6, or 7 books.

Hope this helps!

Robert Stanek


  1. Wow, Robert! Thank you for this informative article. I only have 2 books out and am just getting the hang of the whole genre con and conference scene. My natural instinct was to mix and mingle with the other vendors there, so perhaps I was on the right track with that.

    I've bookmarked this and will definitely refer back. Thanks again!

    ~Tui, swinging by from #Mondayblogs to say hi!

    1. Good to connect. Great to hear the article was helpful!