#5onFri: Five Tips to Ace a Book Fair Field Trip

by Richelle Lyn
published in Community

There are times when I need to escape my normal routine and immerse myself in another world for a little while – to re-discover my inner child and head out on a mini-adventure… or, as I lovingly refer to them, field trips. I’ve discovered attending book fairs is a great way to get my “field trip” fill.

Book fairs offer days filled with interviews of buzz-worthy authors and an easy way to keep up with book trends. Most book fairs offer a mix of seasoned and debut authors, individual interviews and moderated panels, hot topics and recurring themes, and award finalists and winners. Plus, they don’t carry the higher price tag or time commitment which often goes along with attending a writing conference. 

Here are five tips for acing your next book fair field trip:

1) Plan Ahead

Each book fair is unique in its style, focus, and framework; so, it’s helpful to pick a book fair that matches your interests. Start with an internet search to discover what your book fair or festival options are depending on your writing focus and where you live or would like to visit. Many fairs don’t provide detailed information on the upcoming event until 2-3 months beforehand. But for planning purposes, most fairs are annual events held in the same location and on the same calendar weekend. You can usually find online the book fair’s history and subject focus, a peak into its personality, and the most recent event’s schedule to help you determine if it’s the right fair for you.

Once you pick your book fair, it’s important to plan in advance. If you wait until you arrive at the fair to pick which sessions to attend, your options will be limited; and you’ll likely miss the headliner sessions. Take a look at when and how the event and ticketing worked for the last event if the schedule and/or tickets for the next event aren’t available yet.

Book fairs generally charge an entry fee for each day you attend the event, and then each fair has its own ticketing formula for managing attendance to the specific author sessions. Some fairs only require tickets to the headliner sessions, and all other sessions are first come, first served. Others require tickets to all sessions whether or not there is a ticket fee. Some provide early ticket access to membership groups, which increases your chance to purchase tickets to the most popular sessions. Check to see if the book fair will send you the event schedule when it’s released and a reminder when ticket sign-up goes live. If not, mark your calendar to make sure you don’t miss your sign-up window – and your top picks.

2) Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Most book fairs start on Friday or Saturday and finish on Sunday although some offer special events during the week leading up to the weekend. You’ll discover when you first scan the event schedule that it’s jam-packed with multiple sessions happening at the same time, so you’ll have to prioritize which sessions to attend. The sessions usually turn over at the end of every hour – it reminds me of switching classrooms in high school; I had five minutes to squeeze through the hallways, grab books from my locker, and dash to my next classroom which always seemed to be on the other side of campus. Get a good night’s sleep beforehand, since you’ll be sitting for long stretches of time; and pack drinks and snacks if the venue permits, so you don’t miss entry to a session because you’re waiting in line for a bottle of water. 

3) Ask an Author

One advantage to attending a book fair is access to the authors through Q&A sessions and book signings. The Q&As are generally offered in the same room at the end of each session, and any attendee can ask a question – from inspiration to writing routine to past experiences to platform… and everything in between. The book signings are usually held in one or two central locations at the venue and take place after each author’s session. The advantage to a separate signing area is you can sometimes get in line for an autograph even if you couldn’t attend the author’s session, but make sure you read the fine print in the schedule about how the book signings work. Also, book signing lines can get long; so if you have a favorite author that you must get an autograph from in order to call your trip a success, keep this in mind when planning your schedule – and make sure you have the book you want signed in hand.

4) Walk the Perimeter

Don’t forget to explore the rows of street fair tents that usually wrap the perimeter of the venue where the author sessions are happening. The tents are often less crowded earlier and later in the day, but I always feel an electrifying buzz whenever I stroll through them at an event. You’ll discover a mix of local bookshops with tables covered with a wide variety of books (including books by the authors speaking at the event in case you need to grab a book last minute for an autograph), self-published authors marketing their books, children’s activities, music groups, and other cultural events. Check the schedule for information.

5) Catch the Broadcast or Rerun

If you miss a session or can’t make it to a book fair, check out BookTV, which offers live and recorded broadcasts of author interviews and certain book fair sessions. BookTV also has an online video archive under Book Fairs and Festivals.

Regardless of which book fair you select, you’ll be surrounded by other book lovers – both creators and readers – and great conversations. And, remember, no matter how you choose to plan your time at the fair, it’s all about your experience…embrace it and have fun!

 What’s your favorite book fair experience? Let us know in the comments or on social media!


Richelle Lyn writes mysteries for young adults, which is also what she loves to read along with both women’s and YA contemporary fiction. She’s an avid traveler and tennis fan. So far, her favorite countries to keep visiting are Italy and Ireland; and she’s 3/4 of the way through traveling the globe to attend the four Tennis Grand Slams. She loves her tea hot and her coffee iced. She calls both South Florida and Chicago home. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, or email (RichelleLynAuthor@gmail.com).

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