Our in-house experts share their thoughts on picking the right shows to attend and their tips for getting the most out of the experience, whether you’re speaking on a panel, exhibiting on your own, or attending a show with Penguin Random House.
How do I choose which events to attend?
Penguin Random House divisions attend many shows of all shapes and sizes throughout the year. As the event marketing industry has grown, we’ve increased our presence at larger shows, such as San Diego Comic-Con, while also attending an array of smaller shows, including BookCon, Phoenix Comicon, RT Booklovers Convention, YALLfest, and Denver Comic Con, among many others. With new events popping up every day, choosing the right show can be tricky.
When thinking about attending an event, consider the following:
- Does the event have a proven track record of positive fan experiences? This can be assessed by looking at social media engagement on a show’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts, as well as looking for general media coverage and pop culture buzz.
- How many attendees are expected? Has the show been growing or shrinking over time?
- Does the genre of the event align with the titles you’re looking to promote?
- What is the cost associated with attending the show? Is there a better use for your funds?
If you’re interested in attending a particular event but you’re not sure if it’s the right fit or the right scale, reach out to your Penguin Random House marketing and publicity contact for guidance.
What will make my event appearance go smoothly?
- Mobile book sales
Many show attendees are collectors and interested in buying convention exclusives, and attendees are generally willing to spend some money on something they love. In this day and age, customers expect quick and easy transactions when they make purchases. There are many platforms to process debit and credit card orders using a tablet or smartphone, inexpensive hardware such as a card reader, and a WiFi connection.
At larger shows, Penguin Random House uses a customized version of Shopify to sell books right from the booth. We carry backlist titles for authors who will be signing, as well as new titles that our staff will recommend or classics that they’ve always meant to read. We are also experimenting with non-book merchandise such as T-shirts and tote bags.
But if you attend an event on your own and want to sell direct, you can open an author resale account and sell through that. The easiest way to set up a resale account is to reach out to our customer service group (who can also help with any other questions on this topic). Shopify and Square are great, easy options if you’re interested in doing mobile book sales on your own.
- Digital email collection
It’s important to engage with fans throughout a convention, but you should also think about how you’re going to continue that relationship once the show is over. Our digital operations team has developed a digital clipboard that makes it easy for publicity, marketing, and sales to collect email addresses for multiple newsletters via a tablet at events, conferences, and festivals. Attendees are incentivized with an offer for a free sampler, which is sent to their email, along with a welcome note, almost immediately.
There are many easy apps on the market for you to use if you’re exhibiting at an event. Most of these apps require three simple steps: setup, capture, retrieval. Once emails have been retrieved, you can communicate with your fans directly.
A few tips for collecting emails:
- Be sure to inform fans about the kind of information they are signing up to receive and get their consent. Have a small poster in your exhibiting space, or discuss with attendees how you plan on using their email addresses.
- Privacy is very important. Emails should not be used for any other purpose than what was consented to.
- Develop your strategy for communication with fans before collecting information. For example, plan on sending a monthly newsletter with updates on your work and upcoming appearances, or share a behind-the-scenes look at your creative process.
- Always include an unsubscribe option in any communication.
How should I connect with my readers?
Connecting with readers face-to-face at consumer shows is very valuable, and there are many ways for an author to engage with avid fans as well as readers who may be new to the author’s work. Some shows have more than one hundred thousand people in attendance—that is a lot of opportunity!
- Signings and panels
When we attend a large show, we encourage our authors to speak on panels, sign books at the PRH booth, and engage with fans directly throughout the show. Showcasing our talented authors and illustrators is what makes our booth such a great destination for fans.
If you’re exhibiting at an event on your own, it’s important to make yourself available to fans in whatever ways a particular event offers. Meeting authors in-person is a major draw of fan conventions.
- Advance copy giveaways
It’s all about buzz. A sneak peek into a new book or series is always a plus for attendees who love exclusives, so it can be very valuable to share an advance reading copy or chapter sampler of a new title with fans.
- Interactive activities
Some of our divisions, such as Audio and DK, mix things up by having a prize wheel and hosting trivia contests at their booth. Both activities are extremely popular and help drive email acquisition. Authors should feel free to play around with new ideas to engage with fans, such as having fun giveaways or taking the time to do custom illustrations.
In a nutshell, when attending a fan convention or other consumer event:
- Make sure your book(s) align well with the tastes of the expected audience at an event.
- Try to make yourself available for multiple signings and panel discussions if the event has multiple days.
- Promote your appearances via your social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
- Be prepared to engage with enthusiastic fans while also keeping your signing line moving.
- If you’re comfortable, let fans take photos with you and remind them to tag you when they post on social media.
Lindsey Elias is Senior Manager, Consumer Shows and Conferences for Penguin Random House.