By Sherrie Wilkolaski

The Cannes Film Festival is world-renown to both the film industry and indie film buffs. Held in Cannes, France every year since 1946, it is the most glamorous invitation-only, film festival one could hope to attend. It is for film professionals and press only. Film festivals are to the silver screen as book fairs are to publishing. The crème de la crème events that drive what audiences will be watching and reading in the months and years to come.

So why is it that independent authors are out of touch with the stature that a book fair can bring to their title?


Here are the three hurdles where indie authors miss the mark:

1. Education. Authors stepping into the self-publishing arena are thrust into a new world as they cross the threshold of publishing, having to learn about everything from editing to ISBNs. Book marketing options can fall by the wayside. There is so much to learn about the business of publishing, they may only reach the chapter on book fairs at the tail end of their educational journey. Book fairs are most-effective within the first two years of a book’s release, or with the support of a marketing campaign if the book is being re-introduced to a new or existing market.

2. Resources. Financially, book fairs appear to be a huge expense, but it is absolutely not true. Many authors go directly to a book fair’s website and see the cost to have their own booth and it is extremely cost-prohibitive, not to mention it will not bring the return on investment that a new author is looking for. There is a solution. If a self-published author digs a little deeper they will find that they can participate in dozens of book fairs both internationally and in the US, for only a few hundred bucks.

3. Right Fit. Deciding on which book fairs to participate is the next big question. Authors looking to maximize their exposure while keeping their pocketbooks in check should consider budgeting for the following:

  • International book fairs. London, Book Expo America, Frankfurt, Taipei, and Beijing. If you have written a children’s book, you must register for the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Book fairs run throughout the year and an author can budget accordingly. You can also buy the book fair service in packages or bundles, which will help with the overall expense.
  • US book fairs. American Library Association Mid-Winter and the American Library Association Annual are both a must. The National Education Association is a must if your title is a good fit for the education market. Additionally, authors should look at regional library association book fairs in their local areas.
  • Expectations. “I want it now!” Authors looking for instant gratification from participating in a book fair will need readjust their thoughts on this marketing vehicle and look at the long-term value of participating in a book fair via a Combined Book Exhibit partner, like Author’s Boutique. Just like editing, investing in a book fair is a long-term investment. These industry events target book buyers, media and publishing professionals, NOT individual consumers. Buyers each have their own particular buying schedules and buy seasonally. For example, they may attend the 2012 London Book Fair and be looking for new titles for the 2013 holiday season. Members of the media are there to learn, look for story ideas and may not plan on writing about what they’ve discovered at the event, for months or longer.

You’ve got to play to win. If an author doesn’t participate and make the investment to be a part what a book fair has to offer, they cannot reap the rewards. Time and again, authors come to me and say, “I should have registered for (that) book fair, now I’ve got to wait an entire year to participate.” Another year gone by is a long time to wait. Take action today!