The first inaugural Inspire Book Fair has now come to a close, and I’m trying to think back and put into words how to sum up the past weekend. Before I get into the recap of the actual 3 days I attended in an upcoming post later this week, I wanted to share some general thoughts on the fair overall because it definitely had its share of ups and downs.
- The $15 ticket price: This was a great price for 3 days of access. I’m pleasantly surprised it was that low considering how expensive other events held at the convention centre usually are (ie. Fan Expo). The ticket price definitely softened the blow on many of the other things that weren’t so great
- The panels: There was a great schedule of panels on a variety of stages all around the floor, from children’s topics to culinary to other genres. It was a nice focus on not just the big ticket mainstage guests and topics but more local projects like the Forest of Reading program.
- The authors: It’s fantastic how many big name authors attended the fair, and with the fact that it wasn’t insanely busy, the fans that were there to see them had a chance to actually see them without spending an entire day in line waiting. Many were so gracious and able to spend some genuine time meeting and greeting their fans.
- The book friends: Every time there’s a bookish event, trust that fellow familiar faces will seek each other out somehow. It was such a fun time getting to hang out with our bookish friends for the weekend, put faces to names as well as meet new pals.
- The booths: Some of the booths were a definite wow-factor and I couldn’t write a Good/Bad/Ugly recap without mentioning the ones that really stood out in my mind. Simon & Schuster’s “decorated home” booth that won for best booth, Penguin Random House’s “plush carpets and vibrant screens” booth, Entangled Publishing’s with a generous amount of complimentary books and book signings, and Toronto Public Library’s with a fantastic demonstration of all their new innovative digital technology.
- The marketing & promotions: One of the main comments I heard from people I knew at the fair was that many hadn’t heard much advertising or promotion on the event until the week prior. Not many people even knew it was going on and while the quieter, calmer turnout was great for us attendees at not having to shove our way through (a la B.E.A. or Fan Expo), it was probably not the greatest for the exhibitors who invested a lot of money into their booths.
- Lack of local focus: While it’s great that the organizers wanted to make this first fair an “international” one, and welcoming out of town authors and bloggers to the fair, the general consensus among many of us was that there was little to no local focus. There was a significant lack of local Toronto-area authors and, from those I spoke to, not a single local blogger was contacted to even help promote and spread the word of the event. My personal opinion is that they may have tried to reach far and wide, neglecting the plethora of resources right in their own city as well.
- Lack of “specials”: Understanding that this is a fair for consumers, and not necessarily industry people (like BEA is), when I think of “book fair”, I picture tons and tons of booths selling books with great deals that we can find. This was unfortunately not the case. Unless the exhibitor/publisher was selling books themselves and offered their own discount, as in the case of Simon & Schuster, the main bookseller was Indigo and the only “discount” that was accepted would be one that you’d get from an iRewards card. Not even their 40% off bestsellers applied, with everyone repeating the same phrase of “to support the authors, we’re charging full cover price”.
- The Mainstage signing policy: I think with the release of their signing policy a mere week beforehand was a detriment to them in so many ways. It angered fans who already bought a ticket only to then find out that books they wanted signed from mainstage panelists would have to be purchased from the mainstage bookselling area and ONLY those books would be allowed to be signed. What’s frustrating is that if the fans were such huge fans of the author, they would have already purchased their book. Even if it wasn’t for back titles but their new release, as was the case from some of my friends who love Maggie Stiefvater, they normally would have already purchased her newest book but couldn’t because they had to buy it at the fair. Not only buying it at the fair but buying it ON that day of her signing. To some people’s dismay, they couldn’t even buy it on the Friday to start reading it before her Sunday signing. Thankfully many other publishers released their own in-booth signing schedule, which would allow fans to get (almost) anything signed.
A few other comments I heard around the fair, and saw online, was that there wasn’t a lot to do. Some attendees had gone through the whole fair in about 2 hours and if you weren’t there to see any panels or meet particular authors, there really wouldn’t be a whole lot to do – let alone attend for 3 days. I truly hope that the organizers take everyone’s feedback into account when planning next year’s. My worry is that the potential of the awesomeness this fair COULD be may not be able to come to fruition based on this first year’s challenges and people being turned off from future events.
Would I attend again next year? Possibly. It would depend on a number of factors including whether the ticket price was still low, and the programming and line-up of panels and authors.
What would you add to this list in any of the 3 categories? Did you attend at all this year? If yes, would you attend again next year?