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a program of The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation

My Indy Author Fair Experience – Handselling Books

Bethany K. Warner is the Director of Development for the Library Foundation. In addition to working directly with many donors, she manages much of the Foundation's fundraising efforts and helps to implement new strategies. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from Anderson University and a Master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield and earned her Certified Fundraising Executive certification in December 2012. She currently serves on the board of LYN House. Below, Bethany shares her experience at the Indy Author Fair “handselling” books by Indiana Authors Award winners and finalists, and the value of sharing your firsthand thoughts on a book.

Pulling off the Indy Author Fair and Award Dinner takes a lot of staff and volunteer help. For the past three years running, my steady assignment was the book sale table, outside the panel for the Indiana Authors Award winners and finalists.

The book table is just part of the whole goal of spreading the word about the Indiana Authors Award program. Many times, people would walk up to the table and start asking questions, all in the same vein – “what are these books about?”

Every year, I’ve made an effort to read at least one book by each of the winners and finalists and it’s served me well because I’ve hand-sold books to Author Fair attendees.

When one attendee picked up Adrian Matejka’s “The Big Smoke,” looking rather skeptical, I told him a book of poetry about boxing captivated me.

Another reader picked up Michael Shelden’s “Man in White,” a biography of Mark Twain. I hadn’t read that one specifically. But I did read his biography of Graham Greene, one of my favorite authors, and found it readable and interesting despite its somewhat intimidating length. The Mark Twain book, I was sure, was the same.

A mom or aunt wondered if “Letters from Skye” by Jessica Brockmole was acceptable for a teen reader. That’s a question I never want to decide for a friend or parent, but I was glad I could talk from experience about what content is in the book. As I recall, they bought it.

I remember in 2012 a young boy and his mom picking up a copy of “Ashfall” in Mike Mullin’s series and it was easy to see the kid was excited.

Sometimes the questions and recommendations led to sales. Sometimes not. Either way, more people heard about some of the amazing books.

Sometimes, working the book table produced empathetic agony, watching readers try to decide if they want to buy one, two or all of the books. That’s certainly been me before wandering around any book store from the Indy Library Store to the now-defunct brick-and-mortar Borders’ and wondering just how many books are too many to buy that day.

This year, we’ve turned the bookselling duties over to the folks at Indy Reads Books, but if you see me around the event, I might still try to hand-sell you my favorites from this year’s group of winners and finalists.