Tips & Tricks: Book Fairs

2014-02-06 13.00.43In my time as a librarian, I have literally hosted so many book fairs that I’ve lost count. Ten? Twelve? More? I can’t remember.

What I do remember is the overwhelming panic of my first book fair. Although Scholastic  is (and I assume other companies are, too) pretty good at helping you figure out how to run the book fair, there are all kinds of things you have to figure out through trial and error (sometimes yours, sometimes other people’s). 

So, in the interest of not reinventing the wheel each time, here are some tips and tricks I have gleaned in my time doing book fairs. Most of these will apply to Scholastic book fairs, since those are all I have done, but I imagine you could do something similar even if you are running a book fair with another company.

1. Multi-level marketing

You can just lay the books out on tables, but the more attractive the displays are, the more books that you will sell. I like to take empty boxes and wrap them in colored paper to provide a multi-level display. This also allows you to display more merchandise for a given horizontal space. As you can see below, you can do multi-level displays on round tables, with one box in the center, or for rectangular tables, with a row of boxes down the back of the table.

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2.  Wish Lists!!!

Although it uses a lot of paper, print out the student wish lists and the classroom wish lists. Set up a schedule for the first two days of the book fair where teachers bring their classes in to make wish lists. Have parent or staff volunteers available to help with classes where the students are too young to write their own choices down. You will have some parents who will just send a check or cash to buy the books that might not otherwise have bought. Be sure to note if you are charging tax.

Encourage teachers to make a wish list; you will often have parents who want to buy at least one book for their child’s teacher. At the end of the fair, I buy one book from his or her wish list for each teacher who has not received one. I also recommend having a small stack of gift certificates at the register and just asking while you ring up their purchases if they would like to buy a gift certificate for their child’s teacher. They will usually say yes!

Once teachers have made their wish list, you can fill out book donation slips and put them on a display for parents to browse through. I like to try to make my wish list display go with the theme I am doing. Usually Scholastic has an easy printable to do this with, but this year they didn’t, so I took a few minutes with my word processing program and some clip art they provided and made my own. I’m attaching it to this post in case anyone  can use it; the theme is Book Fair Fiesta

Fiesta Envelopes

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3. Winners!

Kids love to win things. One of my standbys is to let students win a free poster if they enter their name in a drawing on Family Night. This gives their parents a reason to come on Family Night, and it builds excitement about your fair.

Something new I tried this year is a sucker pull. I had leftover fundraising lollipops that I wasn’t able to sell due to a change in fundraising policy, so I set them up as a prize drawing. Students donated 50 cents to pull a sucker, and the color on the sucker determined their prize, as seen in the picture below. I paid for the prizes out of my Scholastic Dollars credit. I didn’t make money on it, but it created excitement, and I was able to use the donated funds to buy books for classroom teachers.

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Some librarians do contests in classrooms before the book fair and have the top 3 from each classroom sent to the library for judging during the book fair.  Pretty much any contest you can do, the students will love!

4. Teachers like to win, too!

One of the things that I do to increase traffic to the book fair is to run a contest for teachers. On Family Night, I have a sign-in sheet for everyone who attends; they sign in for their child’s homeroom teacher. The 3 teachers who have the most people sign in for them win $100, $75, or $50 respectively. I pay for this out of the All for Books donations and/or out of my Scholastic Dollars. It takes a little away from what I’m able to purchase after the fair, but it pays big dividends in terms of bringing in traffic; I usually do a couple of thousand dollars from Family Night alone.

5. Work with others

Try to schedule your book fair at the same time as other on-campus events, especially if they will take place in the evening. I’ve partnered with fall festivals, STEM family nights, and other events, but the one that has worked the best in the past has been to hold the book fair the same week as Parent-Teacher conferences. The more convenient you make it for parents, the more likely they are to buy.

I hope some of these tips are helpful! Feel free to add your own book fair tips and tricks in the comments!!!

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Categories: Tips & Tricks | Tags: , , | 13 Comments

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13 thoughts on “Tips & Tricks: Book Fairs

  1. Kristi Hazelrigg

    Hey, Sarah! I will be running my 22nd Book Fair this week and next. I think I could do parts of it with my eyes closed. But I have done almost zero advertising for this one, so I’m not expecting much. I like the sign-in for teachers sheet and the sucker pull idea. How many of each color did you put in your sucker pull?

    • That’s a lot of book fairs!!! I didn’t specifically do a certain number of each color; I had my library assistants do the colors, so I handed them three blue markers, two red markers, and one each of the other colors; I myself colored one pink dot. After they were colored, we mixed them all up in a big pile and put them at random into the stands. I had a few more purples than I would really have preferred, but a lot of the students have been getting things than were less than what they won, so it’s all balancing out.

  2. Frances Maye

    With Scholastic, I just put out puts that I thought would sell. I also did not know that with Scholastic, I could request more variety of authors’ books. I have scheduled my next Book Fair to back to School Night. Love your ideas. Thanks!

    Does any one use a different company than Scholastic?

  3. Pingback: Tips & Tricks: Making a Fillable, Printable PDF Form | Sunk Treasure

  4. Cindy Lancaster

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience!

  5. I appreciate your thoughts about the fair. This is my third time but I’m still nervous.

    Last year I set out the teacher wish list display but it didn’t get a good response from shoppers. I had a parent tell me earlier this week that he would prefer to have the books already pulled and in a basket, that way he could just grab the teacher’s desired book, take it to the register, pay, fill out a donation book plate and be on his way. That’s more work for me, but easier for the shopper and, I imagine, more profitable too.

    • I have seen that some people do this…I’ve been hesitant to in the past, because I hated for the books to be out of the displays if they didn’t sell, but it may well be worth it. I usually end up pulling the book for the parent after they select the slip, anyway.

  6. courtney

    Thank you so much for posting this. This year is my second fair and all your tips are going to come in so handy. 🙂 thank you!!

  7. Doreen Page

    you might try USBORNE BOOKS as well. I have seen a great amount of improvement in all levels of reading. Also parents have been very pleased with the non-commercial set-up.

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