Fantasy fairs and such

Jeroen Steenbeeke  
Posted
Last weekend I attended Elfia, which is a fantasy fair that's held twice a year (at Haarzuilens early in the year, and at Arcen later in the year). This was my first time visiting the Arcen edition, which is generally a bit smaller than the early edition. Getting into the festival was business as usual: we already had tickets, so we could skip the ticket queue and walk right in.

Anyway, just after the entrance, to the right, was a big tent with several tables filled with stacks of books, and a dozen or so proud and happy-looking people trying to sell them: the author tent from Zilverspoor, a Dutch publisher of fantasy books. I didn't spend much time here I'm afraid, aside from asking Kim ten Tusscher (who is from the same town as me) if her books were available as e-books yet.

Either way, seeing the big tent (and several smaller ones scattered across the castle grounds) got me thinking again: shouldn't I be promoting my books on such a festival? It's a question I've considered before, and it's definitely something I'd like to do at some point. There are several things to consider here.

Rent
Renting a (small) stall at Elfia costs (assuming 2015 prices), somewhere around 300-400 euros per festival. This buys me a 2.7x2m stall with a 270x50cm table, without side covers. Included in this price are a parking ticket (which I hope is valid for both days), a wristband so I can access the grounds, and basically nothing else. I'll either need to bring my own chairs or rent them.

An additional fair I could consider is Castlefest, which is slightly cheaper than a single Elfia stand.

Merchandise
Having a stand is one thing. Having stuff to put on it is another. The goal of having a stand at these events is to increase my visibility and hopefully get people to buy my books. As such, I'll need a number of things:

  • A reasonable number of printed books. Assuming Elfia-sized stalls and A5-sized books (the standard for my books), I can have two rows that are 18 books wide. Supposing I stack each book 5-high that means I need to take 180 books along. My current stock is closer to 20, so I'd need to print 160 additional books if I wanted to fill the table and have some backups in case I sell a few
  • Promotional stuff: Bookmarks, business cards, that sort of stuff
  • E-book links: A bunch of sheets with QR codes perhaps?


Decoration
Having a stall with just a bunch of books could work, but you need something more to catch people's attention. A big banner or poster would be the absolute minimum with regards to decoration.

Minions
As much as I'd want to, I can't man the stand on my own, so I'd need to bring along at least one other person. I'm fairly certain I can get one or two people to volunteer for this, but this means that at the very least I need to make sure they're fed, have enough to eat and/or drink, and have a place to sleep (Elfia takes 2 days, Castlefest takes 3 days and an additional evening).

In addition to these basics, they'll also need access cards/bands, which means an additional 25-35 euro per "minion".

Expected results
So, the costs are quite clear to me, but what do I expect to get out of this? I've done some math on this before, and going to a festival like this will not yield a positive result money-wise unless I manage to sell hundreds of books, and I generally don't see many authors making lots of sales on these festivals, so monetary gain (especially with the added costs of food, gas, a hotel and the stand itself) is not a reasonable goal.

A much more attainable goal is simply to get my name out. Get people to take my bookmarks, get them to take business cards, have them sign up for the mailing list (either by having me note it down or by doing it by QR code). These are probably much more manageable, and might make me money in the long run.

Elfia and Castlefest are probably the biggest gatherings of fantasy enthusiasts in the whole country, and probably a good way to get seen by lots of them.

What do you think?
I'm interested to hear your opinions. Should I attend fairs such as Elfia or Castlefest as an exhibitor rather than a guest? Would you stop by my stand and have a chat, or are you only there for the mead and the good-looking cosplayers?