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.
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
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.
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!!!