My first Book Expo America was at the brand new McCormick Place in Chicago, back in the late ‘90s. Since then, I have worked shows in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. This year will be the first year that I will not have a booth in this annual event. Want to know why?
Trade shows have changed dramatically over the past fifteen years that I have been exhibiting in them. Book Expo America is no exception. Trade show participation falls somewhere in the general category of advertising. The goal of participating in a trade show is to meet buyers that you would not otherwise meet. In theory, these buyers will buy books. Companies large and small rationalize the cost of participating in trade shows with the expectation of increased sales. When sales don’t materialize, the after-the-fact rationalization of the investment is usually the “good will” or indirect sales. But at the end of the day, someone looks into the mirror at the end of the show and honestly assesses: “Did I get my money’s worth?”
Last year we tried something a little different. In addition to the regular booth on the show floor, we also participated in the New Title Showcase. The New Title Showcase concept is simple. The company that runs it has excellent space right at the entrance of the show. For very little investment, a publisher can have a title displayed face out on one of a dozen or so bookshelves. It is a very attractive display. In addition to the book being displayed, it is also included in a printed catalog, which is handed out to book buyers at the show. The title is also listed in the New Title Showcase Web site’s searchable database. I offered inclusion in this display to Publishing Basics readers at a discount of the retail price. Participation was good as was the overall satisfaction with the value. Did anyone get a giant bookstore order or call from a major publisher/agent? Not that I know of, but there was a feeling that the advertising value was there. I put my own Publishing Basics book into the display at the same price I was offering to others and felt I got my money’s worth.
Based on last year’s success, participation in the New Title Showcase is being offered to Publishing Basics readers again this year. The price is $225 (up a little from last year), which is $40 off the retail price. Participation is easy.Simply click here.The whole thing is pretty self-explanatory. Shortly after purchase, you will receive a confirmation with a link to the New Title Showcase database. All you need to do is fill in the requested marketing data and send a physical copy of your book to the address given. It’s as easy as that. For more information about the actual display, you can visit:Be-a-Part-of-New-Title-Showcase/. If you purchase at the Book Expo Web site, you will pay the retail price. You will need to come back and purchase atSelf Publishing Shopping Cart to receive the discount.
As for a booth on the showroom floor this year, remember that mirror I referred to earlier on? At the end of last year’s show, after all the smoke had cleared and the final invoices had been paid—I looked in the mirror and determined that no matter how I tried to rationalize it, my investment was not paying off. I had figured out, probably ten years ago, that the show was not really the best place for displaying my core business: self-publishing services. The show was for book buyers, not would-be book publishers. Sure, there were people who stopped by who were in the process of writing a book or had a friend or family member, but were there enough to justify the money I was spending? No.
I started offering booth shares, thinking I could get a group of authors together, and we could all share the costs of the booth. Each year, we would try a little different specialty and a little different location. The authors who participated in these “shares” all seemed happy enough with their experience, but part of that was that I capped the price so it wasn’t a true “share.” It was more like I was paying 50 percent, and the rest was being shared.
My office is located right across the street from Grand Central Terminal, where over 400,000 commuters pass on a daily basis. The standing joke is that I could toss books out my office window, and I would have a chance of hitting a book buyer. I’d also have a chance of getting arrested, so I don’t offer that service. A trade show is a little bit more organized than my window toss but follows the same concept. It doesn’t matter whether you have a book on a bookshelf in the New Title Showcase or a 5000-square-foot booth, there is a chance a buyer will see your book as well as a chance they won’t. The only thing the show people can do is to bring the buyers through the front door. Where they go from there is a combination of marketing/planning and luck. The entry-level $225 New Title Showcase is strictly luck. It is a very good entry-level investment for the average self-publisher to become part of the largest book show in North America.
The next jump in participation is a booth in the small-press section for just under $2000. It’s a shame that there isn’t something in between. Like I said in the first paragraph, trade shows are going through dramatic changes. Who knows, maybe someday soon I’ll be able to announce some sort of show participation that falls between $200 and $2000 (where I don’t personally lose 50 percent). Until then, it’s the New Title Showcase. It only costs $225 through SelfPublishing.com and the Publishing Basics newsletter—a $40 discount off the retail price of $265. To purchase, click here. To find out more about the show, click here.