A writer’s guide to “tabling” at conferences

First and foremost, you must never, EVER turn the word “table” into a verb. Otherwise, see below. The entire concept of me going to a conference as a writer to shill my book is so utterly foreign. It’s not that I think it can’t sell books, it’s that I can’t imagine doing it. A festival, sure. But something like AWP? Just standing there begging people to come see you? Despite being invited several times to speak, I’ve never gone. Should I? I feel like it would suck the last few fucks I have to give out of me forever. Looking around at row upon row of books and publishers and writers standing there looking around desperately for a pair of eyes to look into. People wandering in circles looking for free merch. It would feel like trying to sell franchises at a warehouse conference in Etobicoke. Which I HAVE done. I never want to go there again.

There’s a fine art to selling books at a table during festivals and fairs. You’ve got to be engaging but not too pushy. You’ve got to have an eye-catching display but nothing too gimmicky. If you’re able to shed your introvert tendencies and assume an extrovert’s exuberance in public, you’ll find yourself enjoying fascinating exchanges with readers and authors around you as you autograph books and – quite likely – field invitations to appear at additional literary events.

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