As a small business, we’ve been very fortunate (so far) to have been able to weather the Covid-19 pandemic without horrific consequences. Like you, we’ve had to be light on our feet and roll with some unexpected challenges. But a quick solution eluded me in one area, and it is probably affecting many other indie publishers, as well: the evaporation of an important sales channel.
Trade shows were extremely crucial to our bottom line, not only for branding Foreword to a new community of readers, but they also provided the chance for face-to-face sales conversations and enabled our editors to see new books. My gut is saying that some physical industry meetups may never return, and for those that do, things will be very different.
So far, the virtual trade show exhibit experience is not really working for us. I’ve participated in a number of “shows” since things began getting cancelled in February, and I’ll admit the content side seems to be as good, or better, online than some of the physical events, but it does not seem to translate as well for virtual exhibitors.
If you have ideas or other suggestions to share that your company is finding success with, I’d love to hear from you. Here are eight steps we are taking as alternatives to exhibiting at trade shows in the foreseeable future:
Determine a new marketing budget. Clearly, the spend we had for trade shows will diminish, but should not disappear. Instead, it will be diverted to new approaches.
Confirm trade show goals that need to be addressed elsewhere. Drive brand awareness, accelerate sales, grow customer base, and achieve scale.
Develop our ideal customer profile even further. Outreach to librarians and booksellers as well as our indie press client base to find out how their worlds are changed and ask how we can better assist.
Reinvest in our digital “booth space.“ Take the time to improve our website and social media channels.
Find new opportunities that will provide similar ROI. Sponsorships of webinars, podcasts, and other live digital events. Possibly create our own event, or develop a digital presentation of what we had planned to showcase at the event.
Create new swag. Bags for collecting arcs and galleys are not perfect given the situation. We’ve added facemasks to our giveaway merch list that will be of more use to our customer base right now.
Challenge our sales team to use Zoom for customer outreach. Since we can’t see them in person, this is the next best chance for re-igniting conversations and investing in trusted relationships.
Never stop reimagining. One thing is certain, uncertainty is here to stay. We often get stuck in doing things the same way (i.e., particular trade shows year after year). In the future, we will try to look for the advantages uncertainty offers by trying new things and learning from them.
Enjoy your summer month ahead and stay safe.
Foreword Deadlines Worth Noting:
August 10th, September/October advertising reservations due: Particularly because your trade show sales channels have been cancelled this fall, ad space in our next issue will get your titles noticed by our librarians, booksellers, and avid reader audience—in their hands and on newsstands the last week of August. Contact Stacy or Victoria for more information on space availability.
August 30th, Frankfurt Book Fair Foreword Indie Press Collective: This fair is still on the calendar for October. The largest in Europe, and by far internationally this year, your books will be showcased through our partnership with The American Collective Stand. A Foreword header will identify them as key titles from indie presses and authors. Plus, participation means inclusion in our online catalogue. Register your title here.
September 15th, January/February issue submissions due: Our CozyUp! spotlight features home, health, craft, cooking, and wellness titles; we’ll also have Romance, Historical Fiction, and Writers of Color features in the issue. While we have someone in the office to receive mail each day and are accepting submissions as usual, we are encouraging people to submit their titles in digital form (PDFs preferred). Digital submissions can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to include your tip sheet!
September 30th, INDIES Book of the Year Awards discounted entry ends: We recognize the best from 2020, with the help of booksellers and librarians across the country. Even if your book is not yet published, but planned for 2020, you can take advantage of the early bird discount with registration before the end of the month. The final entry deadline is January 15, 2021.