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Master Checklist for a Powerful Presence at Book Fairs by Debut Author Leigh Lewis and Pirate Queens: Dauntless Women Who Dared to Rule the High Seas Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Leigh Lewis here to share about her MG nonfiction fiction Pirate Queens: Dauntless Women Who Dared to Rule the High Seas. It sounds like a fascinating read.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Ariane Szu-Tu at National Geographic Kids has bought Pirate Queens: Dauntless Women Who Dared to Rule the High Seas by Leigh Lewis, a middle grade nonfiction title that combines verse poetry, illustrations, and nonfiction to explore important and often unheralded women throughout history who were powerful pirates in their own right. Publication is set for January 2022; Elizabeth Harding at Curtis Brown Ltd. handled the deal for world rights. Illustrations by Sara Gómez Wooley.

From Ching Shih, a Chinese pirate who presided over a fleet comprised of some 80,000 men (Blackbeard had 400!), to Anne Bonny who famously ran away from an arranged marriage to don trousers and brandish a pistol in the Bahamas, to Sayyida al Hurra, an Islamic queen who ruled the Western Mediterranean, this edgy illustrated book proves that since ancient times women have made their mark in all aspects of history—even pirate lore.

Reviewed by some of the world’s leading pirate experts and historians, Pirate Queens showcases six gutsy women who dared to rule the high seas.

Now here’s Leigh!

Master Checklist for a Powerful Presence at Book Fairs

Happy Valentine’s Day to those who celebrate and those who don’t! 

There were so many things I could have shared with you today, but the one thing I came back to, which I always seem to come back to, was a master list of some sort. If someone could please write and share the master list for life, you’d have a lot of thankful friends, with me in the front row. 

In the meantime, the following is a master list to help you kill it at book fairs. 

It will not help you with your inferiority complex spurred on by the immense talent and success of the other authors, or with second-guessing your choice of clothing (good thing you paid attention to the master list and brought a sweater to cover up that shirt!), or with overcoming the existential dread of having to speak to total strangers about yourself and your book for the next 6 hours. It will, however, ensure that you don’t have a dull booth. And allow you to have something pretty and impressive to post on social media and make your grandma proud (so probably Facebook). And also help pull said total strangers into your booth, possibly even to buy your book. IT’S A VALENTINE’S DAY MIRACLE! (Even if it’s any of the other 364 days of the week).

  Master Checklist for a Powerful Presence at Book Fairs

1.     Books (These may be pre-arranged to be there when you arrive, or you may need to bring them yourself, particularly if you are self-published.)

2.     Business cards

3.     *Business card holder 

4.     *Pens

5.     *Pen Holder 

6.     Nice pen(s) for you to sign your books. Keep these on you so they don’t walk away. Bring extras.

7.     *Display stand(s) for books

8.     *A sticker or a small note on the display book(s) which tells the price

9.     *Items to put other items on to make them taller so your display height is varied

10.  Swag 

11.  Bookmarks or postcards or flyers

12.  Cloth Tablecloth

13.  *Clips to adjust your tablecloth 

14.  Laptop or ipad. Show your book trailer on a loop

15.  *Chocolate or candy. (Never underestimate the pull of chocolate. See if you can tie into your book’s theme. Pirates=chocolate coins. Romance=Hershey kisses.)

16.  *A candy bowl or container 

17.  *A bowl or container to gather business cards 

18.  A sign-up sheet for those who don’t have business cards

19.  *A clipboard for the sign-up sheet 

20.  *Emergency kit: Scotch tape, duct tape, twine, a stapler, paper clips, scissors, post-it notes, blu tack. You likely won’t know your exact needs until you get there, so helps to be prepared. 

21.  A banner for behind your table or a poster on an easel or a retractable easel

22.  Standing poster(s) for your table

23.  *Water and snacks for yourself 

24.  A sweater

25.  Face masks (This was written during Covid times, but be sure to ask about the masking policy)

26.  Antibacterial gel. Lots of people, lots of hands. 

27.  A large bin with lid to carry your items easily

28.  A canopy if the book fair is outside. Practice setting it up beforehand!

29.  **A friend. This is definitely not always possible, but some people bring a friend/family member/assistant with them to handle sales, which frees them up to keep the conversation going with visitors. 

*Can be purchased at a dollar store. Dollar Tree had all of the starred items in stock.

**Definitely not for purchase at the dollar store.

Things to do or make or have made beforehand:

 -       Business Cards. For any of the paper goods or posters, compare prices of local printers. They are often less than half the price of online companies.

-       Bookmarks or postcards or flyers (though bookmarks can double as swag). Something that has information about your book, which visitors can take with them. You never know when a teacher or a librarian may come by and want to take something home and think about it. School visits, classroom set purchases, library purchases and more have come out of book fairs.

-       A banner or poster or retractable easel. Many options here, but something eye-catching that will be hung above everything else or sit to the side, up high. You’ll need to be flexible, depending on the layout, but it’s possible you could attach it to the wall, or a tree, or your canopy, or bring and use an easel. 

-       Standing poster(s) for your table. One or two allow you to convey the gist of your book to visitors if you are engaged in conversation with someone else. Print 8.5”x11” on regular paper, then cut out if you want them smaller, or need them to fit a picture frame for easier display.

-       A table banner (which hangs over the front of the table) promoting YOU (not just the book you are currently hocking). The rest of the booth, besides your business cards, will likely be book-focused. The table banner can be reused for years, regardless of which book(s) you are promoting.

-       A book trailer. This doesn’t have to be fancy. You can use a free app like Canva to create it. (This is definitely optional. If it causes you stress even thinking about it, skip it!)

-       Swag. Have something fun to give away. 

o   Could be something that features the cover of your book or one of your characters (A bookmark, sticker, a temporary tattoo) 

o   Or something that ties to your book (e.g.- a fortune-teller fish if your book is about a fortune teller). 

o   Consider having something for everyone who stops by (A bookmark or a sticker, or, say, if you wrote a book about the sea, a small bag of Goldfish) 

o   Or for everyone who buys a book (like an eyepatch for a pirate book, or a stress ball for a book on reducing stress). 

o   You don’t want to break the bank, so this is all optional, but you may find that buying in bulk online beforehand makes for very inexpensive swag. I purchased eye patches for $.08 each online. They took 2 months to arrive, but have been a huge hit. For swag such as stickers, pens, buttons, or temporary tattoos, check with online stores, which are often far cheaper than local stores.

-       Display stands for books. Purchase for cheap (2 for $1 at Dollar Tree), or make your own to fit your theme. For example, for a stabby fantasy book, make a stand from small swords.

-       A sign-up sheet for those who don’t have business cards

-       A sign to tape to a bowl or container to gather business cards which says, “Win a copy of [name of your book]!” or “Sign up for a free chapter of my next book!” or “Sign up for a free teacher’s guide"

-       Do a trial run with your table (and canopy, if the book fair is outside). At home, display everything as you intend to display it at the book fair. Once you are happy with the look, take a photo. Take a few. This will make everything run much more smoothly during setup on the day of. 

-       Heightening items. When you set up your trial run table at home, stand back and make sure things are at various heights. It’s hard to see everything if it’s all on the same level. If you need height, figure out what needs to be added to get it. Spray paint black cardboard boxes to elevate something. Or use a stack of books to gain height. Or get creative. If your book has, say, a truck driver in it, you could use a large, toy truck as a display item, and put your business cards and pens on top of it.

-       Decide what pen you will use to sign books, and practice to see if it bleeds and how much time it takes to dry. Metallic sharpies work great for dark pages. Here’s a link to an article about other options: https://techstarzone.com/the-best-pens-for-signing-books/


-       If you forgot something, it’s not the end of the world. 

-       All of the visitors are here to see you, so you’re with your people. 

-       Make friends with your neighbors. Writer friends are the best!

-       Engage with visitors. Talk about your book, your inspiration. Ask the visitor about themselves. You may end up connecting with other writers or teachers or librarians.

-       Put your phone away (except to take some photos. Remember to take some photos!)

-       Have fun! This is supposed to be fun! Wheeeeeeeeeeeee! (You can nap later.)

 Best of luck to you, and I hope to see you and your books and your stunningly gorgeous table at the next book fair!  

Leigh Lewis is a children’s writer whose middle-grade debut, Pirate Queens: Dauntless Women Who Dared to Rule the High Seas (National Geographic Kids), spotlights six fierce female pirates, telling each of their stories in verse. Leigh’s adventures on the high seas have enabled her to call many places home, including Turkey, Greece, England, Japan and Russia, and she eventually navigated her way back to her hometown of Columbus, Ohio. Leigh spends her time there dreaming up stories for kids of all ages, buoyed by an amazing crew—her Turkish delight of a husband and their three swashbuckling daughters. You can find her online at LeighLewisBooks.com, and @leighwriting on Twitter and Instagram. 


Thanks for sharing all your advice, Leigh.

Giveaway Details

Leigh has generously offered a hardback of Pirate Queens: Dauntless Women Who Dared to Rule the High Seas for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by February 26th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Wednesday, February 16th I’m participating in the Wish Big Giveaway Hop

Monday, February 21st I have an agent spotlight interview with Paige Terlip and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, March 2nd I have an interview with debut author Humayan Khan and a giveaway of his contemporary Wrong Side of the Court

Monday, March 7th I have an agent spotlight interview with Chelsea Eberly and a query critique giveaway

Tuesday, March 8th I’m participating in the Let’s Get Lucky Giveaway Hop

Hope to see you on Wednesday!



Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great tips from someone who knows! I'll have to keep a copy of this. Thanks to you both. :)

Donna K. Weaver said...

What a great list! And that cover is creepy. lol It definitely gets your attention!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Excellent check list!
That would be sad if you did have to purchase a friend at the Dollar Store.

Computer Tutor said...

What a great list for book fairs. I used to man booths for companies I worked for and I should have had that list, then. It's excellent.

Patricia T. said...

That is some list! Very helpful for authors! Your cover certainly will draw the right readers!

Sue Heavenrich said...

A Master List, indeed! Everyone wants something to take with them after visiting a book fair.

Danielle H. said...

Thank you for the helpful list and tips for events like this. I can't wait to read your book, especially after reading more about Ching Shih. Congratulations on your debut! I follow Natalie on Twitter and shared: https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/676184997594595328/master-checklist-for-a-powerful-prescence-at-book

Liz A. said...

Definitely something to bookmark in case I ever need this. Great tips. I'm sure it feels so overwhelming to prepare for your first event.

Greg Pattridge said...

I never would have thought of #9, but it sure would bring more attention to your table. No giveaway for me as my stack of books to read has reached an all-time high. Thanks for sharing your list on MMGM and best of luck with your book.

Valinora Troy said...

Fabulous list! I just have to find the book fair now! Sadly not eligible for the giveaway. However I've read other reviews and I believe Grace O'Malley features in it so I will watch out for it!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Leigh, those are wonderful tips. I went to my last book event and forgot to update my swiper for credit cards. What a mess. A test run is always necessary!!

traveler said...

A very helpful list. Thanks for your delightful feature.

Brenda said...

What a detailed and very helpful list. Have a lovely week Natalie!

DebP said...

Very handy list to have. Obviously born of experience.

Eileen said...

Great checklist! I plan to save it -- some day I'll have use for it (still editing & querying).
I have a woman pirate in my family tree - can't wait to read your book just because it sounds great, but also because I'm curious to see if my ancestor is included. (-:

Tara said...

I love this list! Saving for future use. Thank you! (tsexton725@gmail.com)

Carol Baldwin said...

And I follow you! Carol Baldwin

Sandra Cox said...

The book sounds great. I always love to hear about powerful women.
'Lo, Natalie;)

tetewa said...

Nice cover, enjoyed the list!

LoriAdamsBooks said...

This book would've been a valuable research tool when writing my MG children's pirate adventure!! Avalina Jones and the Eye of the Storm would be a GREAT fiction book to compliment this non-fiction title. My book is about children who are Heirs to the most notorious pirates in history and live on schoolships that travel the globe. So glad to see the female pirates getting their due recognition!!

satkins said...

This is some list you have put together-I am a list person also

Rosi said...

Very good advice here. Thanks for that. The book looks pretty interesting. Thanks for the post.

Janet, said...

Sounds like a great book. And thanks for all the tips. I'm gonna run them off and keep them. Congratulations on your book!

Tonja Drecker said...

Awesome tips and congrats on the release! (no giveaway for me, this time)

jennyramaley@gmail.com said...

Thanks for these helpful tips! Best of luck at all your book events.

Angie Quantrell said...

Excellent list! Thanks so much, Leigh! LOVE it!

I follow by email and I tweeted this post, Natalie.
angelecolline at yahoo dot come

Nancy P said...

Looks & sounds fantastic. Following.

Chrys Fey said...

Fabulous post. I could’ve used this before my first event. I did research, of course, but learned more with experience. I got a lot of ideas after my first book signing.

John Smith said...

We would enjoy this book so much! We love dauntless women, and this sounds like exactly the sort of history we all need to read!

jsmith[delete brackets]3may[delete brackets]2011

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Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.