Book fairs provide an excellent chance to learn more about the publishing industry, booksellers, publishers, distributors and marketers. You will also learn a great deal about what readers want and how to reach them. While acquiring knowledge about the book industry you can also take advantage of the chance to expose your name to a new audience - leaders who are interested in meeting new authors. You may not walk away with a book deal but you will have made yourself known and that has long-lasting benefits. Word of mouth is one of the strongest promotional tools available and those mouths are at book fairs, conventions and conferences.
Book fairs also provide an excellent opportunity to encounter media reps in search of a story. TV and radio programme producers, newspapers editors, magazines, book reviewers and online media producers all attend these events in search of stories that they wouldn't otherwise hear about. Never pass up on the opportunity to meet the media. Keep an eye out for small I-phone-sized cameras too as they shoot broadcast-quality footage whilst out and about. If you see somebody using one then invite them over and give them a bit of a pitch - you never know who they may be working for.
The major book conferences and conventions often involve travel expenses and over-night stays but local events are just as useful - easily accessible by car and you could reach a good percentage of readers, a reporter, editor or reviewer.
At a book fair, just as at a signing event, take your promotional literature along to pass out. This is a great way to generate future sales. The give-away should contain your contact information, book title, front cover artwork if you have it, website address and where the book can be purchased including any other online details.
Book fairs also often need speakers. By volunteering you can gain not only great exposure but also add that appearance to your CV and any press releases. Plan ahead though as these events are arranged months in advance.
Book fairs are often attended by best-selling authors too who will be willing to spend time you sharing their tips on writing, success and other advice.
To summarise, these events are wonderful places to meet-and-greet with fellow authors and publishers and to network with industry leaders. There are plenty going on throughout the country - the most obvious being the Hay Festival but there are many more such as Latitude at Hensham Park in Suffolk, Port Eliot in Cornwall, Theakston's Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, Voewood at High Kelling, Norfolk, Edinburgh International in August, York Festival in September and Cheltenham on October to name but a few.