If your goal is to be a writer who does their own creative work for a living and not just article ghostwriting forever, then going to book fairs and trade shows is an activity that must become a regular part of your writing repertoire. But wait a second, you may be thinking, your writing heroes like Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and Sylvia Plath never attended book fairs and trade shows, at least not on a regular basis. Why should you?
For one, those literary legends wrote before there was as saturated a publishing industry as there is today. Sure there were a wide variety of books in the 19th and 20th centuries, but the competition for writing was much less steep and not as much literary wilderness had been explored at that time. Today, there are books on just about everything in both the fiction and non-fiction worlds, as well as the rise of digital publishing, which is filling an already crowded marketplace even more.
In other words, knowing the business of the publishing and writing world is almost as important for a writer to know and practice as slaving away on their allotted five to 10 pages per day. While you won’t necessarily need the literary world prowess of an agent or book editor, the book fairs and trade shows will help let you know what else is out there in a swift few hours of wandering, gazing, listening and chatting with people who spend their entire lives immersed in it. You might also make some incredibly helpful, great connections as well.
Check out some of the most important book fairs and trade shows in the publishing world, listed below.
Book Expo America – If you can afford the trip to New York City at the beginning of June, then this is a must for every writer looking to forge their way into the publishing world. All the big editors and publishing companies will usually be there and it’s kind of the main event for the industry each year, setting the table for what is coming up next.
Printers Row Lit Fest – If you are still hungry for a trade show and book festival after the big Book Expo in New York, head over to Chicago for the Printers Row Literary Festival. There are more than 125,000 people here on average and will give you a more personal look at the publishing marketplace.
American Library Association Annual Conference – This conference and trade show is arguably the best place to make contacts with editors and publishers if you have a manuscript ready to go. It’s not the madness of New York’s book expo, but still has the names and serious attention of those within the publishing industry.
These are just a few of the big ones to start off with and they are all at the beginning of the summer. However, there are a number of other book fairs and trade shows around the country that an aspiring writer should look to attend, both for educating themselves about the industry and making important connections to make their writing dream into a literal—pun intended—reality.
E.K. is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.