Tuesday 9 December 2014

Make Your Own Indie Author Fair

“What about a fair? For indie authors.”
“There’s a thought. We could have a pop-up bookshop.”
“Yes, that should be easy enough to organise.”

Seven months later, we’re kneeling in the mud trying to attach a banner to the railings, before lugging boxes of books down a slippery flight of steps, setting up the pop-up media centre, meeting our sponsors, directing authors to their stalls, answering media enquiries and posing for photographs.

Forty authors, hundreds of books in a pop-up bookshop, eighteen readings, five sponsors, a thousand catalogues and hours of buzzing activity on a Sunday afternoon at the end of a London Underground line. All organised by Triskele Books, with the support of The Alliance of Independent Authors(ALLi) and Chorleywood bookshop.

At five o’clock, we celebrated with a well-deserved glass of wine and listened to the feedback. Our first ever Indie Author Fair had been a huge success.

But easy to organise? Not so much.

So what if we could seed the idea for a pop-up bookshop for indie authors around the world, so they become they become a regular part of the literary landscape?

Here we present our beginners’ guide.

Instructions for Your Own Indie Author Fair

  • Start a long way in advance. It takes a lot of organising. We started planning this back in March and we were only just ready in November.
  • Think about what you and your authors most want out of the event. Book sales? Recognition for indies? Creative display? A chance to share ideas and experiences? The answer will affect the kind of venue you look for.
  • Don’t underestimate the response. Indie authors are starved of opportunities like this, and they will flock to join in! Plan the space you are going to need and find the right venue.
  • Cultivate a relationship with a local indie bookstore or Lit Fest. They can share the load of booking and promotion – and it gives your event a certain recognition factor to the general public.
  • Ask for a booking fee from authors, to encourage commitment, but keep it low, especially for a new, untried event.
  • Expenses will creep up, so find sponsorship early on and budget carefully. We found that self-publishing service providers were eager to be involved – in return for a presence at the Fair.
  • Think creatively about how best to promote the event to the public. We opted for a print catalogue featuring all of the authors. An expensive option but a great way to engage with readers. (You can read it online here.) We also ran a daily ‘meet the author’ feature. Promote on all channels – local media, libraries, book clubs, online. If you are including children’s authors, remember that you may need to promote that in a different way – focusing on local parents and schools.
  • Create a community among your authors, so they are keen to support and promote one another. We created a Facebook group to keep participants up to date with the latest news.
  • Put on a show. Readers love author events at bookstores. So include space for author readings and children’s story time. But think, too, about how to integrate that with time and space for visitors to browse, ask questions and chat to authors.
  • See what added extras you can offer, to give the event even more of an edge. Can you provide opportunities for studio photographs? Recorded interviews? Press?
  • Communicate clearly. Authors will have lots of questions, and you need to make sure that, even before the doors open to the public, everything behind the scenes runs as smoothly as possible.

Finally, let Triskele Books know how it went! We love hearing success stories from other indie authors.

Good luck!

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