Turin Book Fair
Turin Book Fair 2023
Thanks to the generosity of my Italian publisher, Marcos y Marcos, I was invited to the 2023 Turin International Book Fair. In the past, I was active doing book events. I’ve been to the LA Times Festival of Books several times, three times to the US Library of Congress, numerous mystery conventions, keynote speaker at a writers’ convention, appeared at many libraries, countless bookstore signings, and other events. Since recovering from my illness, however, I haven’t been active, so this is the first event I’ve gone to in over 15 years.
Writers get opportunities to attend various events. Especially when you are starting, it is an effective way to get your name out in public. If you write in a genre where there are specialist conventions (mystery, romance, etc.), this is the best convention venue to start with, in my opinion. You should know that it is unusual for a publisher to support a new writer going to a convention. If you get whole or partial support from a publisher for your first convention, you should cherish it. Most people have to pay for their first convention, which is a good use of advance money.
Sometimes the publisher does not have the budget to support travel or convention costs, but they may be able to provide bookmarks or other materials for you to hand out or to put in the Convention’s “goody bag” for participants. Coordinate with the Convention management for timing, quantity, and other conditions to have them put your material in the goody bag.
When my first book was nominated for an Anthony Award, the publisher, St. Martins, moved up the printing schedule for the mass-market paperback and sent enough books so every participant got a copy in their goody bag. I don’t know if this is why I won the award, but it obviously didn’t hurt! This book was an orphan (the buying editor left for a bigger job) and initially had a zero-marketing budget, so I was sincerely grateful for this support as the book built momentum.
You can go to a convention as a fan, but if you are going as a writer you should be on a panel or a presentation of some kind. Without this exposure, it really isn’t worth going. This can be difficult for beginning writers to get on panels, but you can improve your chances by following all rules and deadlines for panel participation. By the way, don’t threaten to not appear if you’re not on a panel. If it’s a good convention, it’s not much of a threat and can earn you a bad reputation. Just look for another convention where you can get some exposure.
I used to have business cards with my name, the book name, my website, and the name, time, and location of my panel. I’d print them using my home printer and business card stock you can purchase at office supply stores or via the Internet. I used to hand them out to anyone I talked to. I didn’t just hand them indiscriminately to anyone passing me.
I’d always visit the area where books are sold. I’d introduce myself to any dealer that had my book, and I’d also note how many of my books were available at their stand. If only a few dealers had my book, I would make a point of telling the audience at the panel who had my book and if it was in short supply. I also visited the booksellers at the end of the convention, checking on my sales and thanking them for stocking my book. I once had a dealer tell me, “I don’t know what you did in your panel, but it worked. As soon as your panel was over there was a rush to buy your book.”
It's almost impossible to sell enough books to pay for a convention, but your purpose is to meet people and introduce yourself and your work. I am a shy person, but at a convention, I am doing a job and I want to make sure I maximize my time and effort. That means forgetting my shyness and saying hello and talking to strangers.
Which brings me back to Turin. Thanks to Marcos y Marcos, I had a couple of TV tapings (including 5 minutes with RAI), a radio interview, several print interviews, several photography sessions, two signing sessions, some brief blogger videos, and a full interview with a live audience. The interview was in a room set up for simultaneous translation (English/Italian). The audience (and me) had headphones so you could hear either Italian or English in real-time. It’s the first time I’ve worked with that. It was great.
The Turin Fair was in three HUGE buildings with thousands of readers. These readers came to buy books, and it was great to see so many people deeply into books. Although Marcos y Marcos treated me far better than I deserved, I was kept humble by the hundreds of people who wanted to see Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood and others. I was thrilled to meet my readers, but the long lines for other authors brought me back to earth.
I enjoyed my time in Turin and Milan (where I had a signing), but it was much harder than I remembered. I am much older than the last time I did a convention, so although I am thrilled by this experience, I’m not ready to pack my bags and get on the convention/conference circuit again!
(Note: Photo of Book Fair materials by Sharon Flanagan)