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September 6, 2019
We’re nearly a week into September, and you know what that means. #WOTS30 is just a few short weeks away!
It can be really exciting as an exhibitor/organization to be part of Canada’s largest book and magazine fair—but with thousands of literature lovers flooding Harbourfront Centre for a day of perusing good books, there can be a lot to keep track of, too.
We want you to thrive during festival day, so we’ve compiled a list of best practices that we’ve used in our own time as exhibitors. Keep them in mind and you’ll be well on your way to a successful WOTS!
Be sure to plan your trip to the Harbourfront Centre so that you have plenty of time to set up your booth before 10AM. Each exhibitor has a separate load-in time prior to Sunday—make good use of that time! Label your boxes clearly so you know exactly what everything is (you don’t, for example, want to accidentally bring two boxes of one book and zero of the other!), and have an idea of how long it will take you to set your space up. Volunteers will be on-hand the day of with garbage bags, zip ties, and other handy setup tools.
There’s a lot happening at once on festival day: author panels, readings, Sharon & Bram’s performance, and a bustling marketplace with so much to see! Getting creative with your table display is a surefire way to interest more festival goers. Patterned tablecloths, colourful signage, decorative items—all good options to draw curious folks to your table!
Take some time beforehand to consider how to set up your space. Depending on your booth size, you might need to play with more vertical layouts to maximize your display space. And don’t forget the practicalities of an outdoor festival! Bring a pretty paperweight or two in case you need to keep the wind from blowing your nice new bookmarks away.
Exhibitors handle their own transactions, so come prepared with a cash box or other secure container for the money you make (fanny packs are sooo in this year). Make sure to keep it out of sight unless you need to make change—and don’t forget loonies and toonies for said change-making! Also, always have someone you trust to watch over your valuables if you need to step away.
Many exhibitors have also begun using debit/credit readers to facilitate purchases at their table. While some festival goers will have cash on-hand, it may be useful to consider broadening your options for payment.
Some of the most successful tables we’ve seen at WOTS are run by those who advertised their presence well ahead of festival day. Add “@ #WOTS30” to your Twitter or Instagram handle, alongside your booth number; send a reminder out to your newsletter, post about the different things you’ll be doing at the festival, and help get people excited about your presence.
And a Festival Day social media presence helps, too! A few posts during the event showcasing fun moments can help to bring curious people your way. We found it helpful to schedule a few posts in advance, because festival day can be quite busy! Our social media accounts are @torontoWOTS (Twitter/Instagram) and this year’s hashtags are #WOTS30 and #torontoWOTS. Follow us to join the fun! We’ll also have a team monitoring the accounts to re-post our favourite moments during and after the festival, so please tag us!
Being an author is a business like any other, and that means you can and should be keeping tally of the resources you put into it. Start a spreadsheet where you can track things like table fees, hotel costs, etc. Many of these are eligible expenses when filing your T-2125 form for reporting professional income.
Keep your receipts! You can use apps to help make expense tracking easy and accessible, including things like transportation on festival day, promotional materials, and even 50% of food costs. If you’re new to the business, check your local arts organizations or writers unions for information on filing taxes as an author. Do it before you even think you need to. Trust us.
When there are nearly 200,000 readers browsing the marketplace, you don’t have time for a longwinded explanation of each of your books! Take some time to develop or refresh your memory on 30-second pitches for each of your books. What genre are they? What’s your target audience? Can you compare them to other well-known titles?
Once you’ve got your material, roleplay a conversation or two with a friend until it feels natural—if you know in advance what you’re going to say about your work, you can relax and enjoy making connections with people!
The smartest exhibitors we’ve seen know how to make their tables pull double- and triple-duty for their business. Consider printing out some free swag for people to take away with them: postcards and bookmarks are both good options, as well as your business card. (Try to design swag that’s valuable on its own—pretty art, or a cute quote on the flip side—as you don’t want people to put them right in the recycling bin!) This is a great way to help people remember you long after the festival is over.
Another way to stay connected to interested festival goers is through your newsletter. Clear some space on your table for a clipboard with a sign-up sheet and collect email addresses throughout the day; the readers you meet today might become beta readers, or part of the street team for your next project!
Those are our top tips for ensuring a happy, successful event! Let us know on social media whether you have any sage advice to add to our list. Good luck with prep—we’ll see you in a few weeks!