Yesterday a writing friend asked me about the West Hollywood
Book Fair this weekend, and was it worth taking the time to check it out. I
attended last year, and she wanted my referral. In our time-precious
world, no one wants to waste a day on a futile trip. Besides, the temperatures are supposed to reach into the 90s this weekend in Los Angeles. WeHo, as West Hollywood is known by the locals, will be toasty.
When I attended last year I was still a novice without a lot of experience at book fairs. A year later I have some knowledge. Here are my tips on determining whether a book fair is worth your time.
First of all, let me tell you that a good book fair is as beneficial as a writers’ conference, and in some ways better, primarily because it is free. I went to a three-day writers’ conference last year that cost me, between the conference and the hotel room, $600 or $700. I spent two days at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books two months later, learned as much or more, and my biggest expense was public transportation to the event (three dollars, round-trip).
So, back to the things you should look at to determine if a book fair is worth your time:
- Promotional material—The better the promotional material, the more likely the event is going to be a good one. I took a look at the WeHo Book Fair website and found the list (click here) of panel discussions and other events. It looked good.
- Quality of Presenters—Who are the folks presenting at the event? WeHo is dwarfed by the larger Los Angeles Times event, but they still get some good presenters. If you recognize some names, chances are it is going to be a good event.
- Event History—The longer the event has been around, the more likely it will be a good one. They have made all the mistakes and they know how to avoid the nightmares. The AV for the presentations is good, the speakers show up, and things run smoothly. If it is a first-time event, or not been around that long, expect some bumps.
- Word of Mouth—My friend, mentioned at the top of this post, had the right idea. Find someone else who has gone to the event in the past and get their take on it.
Once you make the decision to go to a book fair, here are some tips that will help you make the most of the event:
- Plan Your Time—Get hold of a schedule (if it is a good event the schedule will be on the website) and pre-select the panel discussions and seminars you want to attend. Do not be afraid to book up your entire time there. You can always opt not to attend an event when you get there.
- Pre-registration—If they offer pre-registration for the event or for seminars within the event, do it. It saves time. The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books offers on-line pre-registration for all the panel discussions and presentations, and it is the only way to go. Some of these events fill up fast and if you are not registered, you very well may get turned away.
- Brown bag it—The better events will have food concessions on site and they charge premium prices. You will save a chunk of change if you pack sandwiches, cookies and fruit.
- Public transportation—If the event is a popular one, and it is in a large metropolitan area, getting there could be a disaster. Two years ago the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books moved to USC. Traffic on the freeway off ramp was a mile long. Tempers were short. Folks were going postal. This year I took public transportation and also used the courtesy shuttle for the event. I was a much happier camper.
So there you have it—Tim’s rules for choosing a book fair, and what to do when you get there.
See ya’ later
WhatIfYouCouldNotFail.com by Tim Sunderland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Image courtesy 2012 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.