Should I Pay to Have My Books Displayed at a Book Fair?

I received a marketing email from (my POD publisher) offering to put my books on display at a book fair for several hundred dollars. Do you think it’ll be worth it?

The people who make the most money at book festivals are the organizers, who charge exorbitant fees to participate, and the companies renting out space on their own tables. Authors who simply have their books displayed may not (and probably won’t) sell enough books to pay the display/participation/entrance fees. Furthermore, since most are in different cities, authors have no way of knowing if their book was actually displayed or not. I’ve heard from many authors over the years who have expressed frustration after spending money to be “displayed”…and then getting no reports of any resulting sales from their publisher whatsoever.

The organizers of one large book festival in particular charge up to $4600 per table. Tables, chairs, electrical outlets, plants (yes, plants!), phone lines and more cost extra. I checked the exhibitor list for this upcoming event one and there are hundreds of exhibitors signed up to attend.

Large book fairs may have thousands of books displayed on a seemingly never-ending sea of tables. Celebrity authors are used in an attempt to draw in a crowd…but attendees are going to be standing in line for an autographed copy of the celebrity’s book. Chances are most of them will never even notice yours. Picture hundreds of tables, piled high with books, books, and more books….you book vying for the attention of everybody walking by. If you’ve ever been to one of these events, you know that your eyes start to glaze over after the few hundred piles of paperbacks.

Many POD publishers offer to display their authors’ books at specific fairs but they may charge hundreds (or more) to do so. If being displayed at these events really did sell enough books to turn a profit, don’t you think these publishers would offer to display their authors’ books for free? They know who’s making the money from these events – the organizers and the companies that are reselling table space (the POD publishers themselves).

At these events, you may notice a few authors’ books displayed on or near a POD publisher’s table…but you may also see plenty of posters, pens, stickers, etc. promoting the POD publisher’s service itself.

If enough authors pay for table space, the POD publisher itself makes a profit…which means their authors are paying for the publisher’s promotion of itself to attendees.