Written by A Guest Author January 12th, 2023

How Writers Can Benefit From Attending Local Book Fairs and Comic Cons

 By Ellen Levitt        

I live in a city that plays host to lots of fun events that can also be beneficial to my writing career. There are free events such as book festivals and pricier gatherings such as Comic Con. Both types of events provide me with opportunities for schmoozing with magazine, website and book publishers. I also find topics to write about at both these types of settings.

Book festivals bring together various vendors with readers. For example, I’ve attended my local Brooklyn Book Festival several times. One year I contacted a few people and managed to be placed on a writers’ panel! I spoke about my most recently published book, along with another author (a retired professor). I also befriended the host of that panel, and we are now both members of a non-profit history group (which allows me to soft-advertise my books).

If you have written a book, try to get involved in your local or regional book festival. You can be a speaker, or do signings, partner up with other authors to pay for a display table, or see if your publisher is willing to get a table at the festival.

At the 2019 Brooklyn Book Festival, I found out that a particular author and professor was signing books at his publisher’s table. He had included two of my books in the bibliography of one of his titles, so I sought him out. I introduced myself to him and he was very nice; we had a hearty discussion on various topics, and he stopped by to visit the table of my non-profit group.

If you hear that a particular author you like will be present at a book festival or comic con, go up and introduce yourself. Be diplomatic and friendly, and maybe you can make valuable connections!

Book festivals such as the Brooklyn Book Festival also feature websites and magazines, typically in the marketplace sections of the festival. If you are a freelance writer, here you might find good opportunities to meet with editors. I have made a few connections that way. To be honest, I found some snooty publishers but others were pleasant and over the years I have gotten a few freelance magazine/website writing opportunities in this manner.

I went to another book festival recently, which took place at a local museum, where there was a library service in the marketplace section. I showed one of the reps copies of two of my books, and he seemed very interested in one of them (I watched him thumbing through it for a few minutes). I gave him my business card and I hope that he will remember to order more copies from my publisher!

It definitely pays to bring along your business cards to give to people at book festivals and comic cons. While some people just take them to be polite, others may remember you and order your book. It’s a chance worth taking.

Comic cons are also a fun place to meet publishers and also get story writing ideas. One year at New York Comic Con, I stopped by a pop culture table that was giving away free review copies of books. I took one, a graphic novel history of the Kent State University massacre, and I reviewed it for two different websites. Another time at Comic Con I picked up a reviewer copy book by a female science fiction novelist, and I used that book as part of an article I wrote for a culture website.

At this past year’s NYC Comic Con, I brought along a copy of an anthology that features a chapter I wrote. I showed it to five or six vendors in the main marketplace hall, and gave them copies of my business card as well. Two or three of the people with whom I met seemed eager to purchase copies of this book for their own purpose or for libraries they are connected to.

I have written blog pieces and articles about attending Comic Con and these were published by a few different websites. Comic Cons have become quite popular, and a variety of publications have realized that their readers enjoy articles (especially with photographs) about these colorful, creative events.

If you are a freelance writer or book author (or are a hopeful freelance writer or book author) these book festivals and comic cons can be very helpful and inspiring. Bring business cards, bring physical clips of your writing (just in case), bring a notepad and pen, bring your cell phone and the charger. Realize that these can be exhausting and competitive events, and you may or may not make an impression on the right publisher. But it’s worth trying. If you are bashful, you might want to plan out things to say, or roleplay in advance, so that you can be more glib and at ease on the spot. Even if you are outgoing, as I am, it is wise to think about how you want to present yourself and your books, credits and skills.

These are also very good sources for story ideas, blog post material, and you might get to meet an author (or two or three) who offers you some strong advice and inspiration. Book festivals and comic cons are also great places to learn how to market yourself, your books, and to get yourself noticed. Often you can find out in advance (on websites and social media) who will be represented, but you can also roam around and by chance find a few surprises. If you don’t live in an area that has a book festival or comic con, consider visiting one or more at some point. Be open minded, be upbeat, wear comfortable shoes (a must!) and good luck.

Bio: Ellen Levitt is a writer and teacher, and a lifelong resident of Brooklyn, New York. She is the author of The Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn, The Lost Synagogues of the Bronx and Queens, and The Lost Synagogues of Manhattan (www.avotaynu.com) and Walking Manhattan (www.wildernesspress.com) . She has also written many freelance articles and essays for online and in-print publications.


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