There is a time of year that strikes fear into the hearts of many a Tibrarian. It is a time that, luckily, we only have to deal with once or twice a year, but it always made me break into a cold sweat and start reaching for the headache medicine. That dreaded event is…BOOK FAIR!
Book fairs can bring in a lot of needed revenue for your library and with many of you facing heavy budget cuts, they are sometimes a necessity. There are certainly positive aspects to book fairs, and I talk about some of them (mostly about how they can motivate and excite readers) on pages 117-119 of The Tibrarian Handbook. I must admit, however, that the actual running of the book fair did cause me a large amount of stress two times a year. The more times I did it, however, the easier it became. A recent email from a reader has inspired me to share with you a special three-part series on how to maintain your sanity during book fair:
Tip #1: Find an effective way to deal with reorders
In my opinion, the most stressful and complicated part of the book fair was dealing with reorders. As every good Tibrarian knows, there are always a few books in each fair that become the “must haves”. If you have a crystal ball, or really good intuition, you might be able to predict ahead of time what those books will be and order lots of copies before you even begin. I tried this and most often failed miserably! Even if I did choose the right books, I never ordered enough of them.
The easiest way to deal with this issue is simply NOT to reorder anything. If you follow this strategy, you will sell the books that the company sends you when the fair is delivered, and when those popular title sell out you will tell your shoppers that those books are no longer available. If you really want to maximize your profits, however, this is not the best strategy.
You can really increase your sales if you are willing to reorder the popular titles as needed. Most big book fair companies can get the reorders to you in a day or two, so your customers won’t have to wait long for the books they have chosen. The problem is, you have to deal with the logistics of taking these orders. The best way that I have found to do this is to be as organized as possible.
First, print off a bunch (one for each book on the fair) of little bookmark-sized slips that say “Last Copy” and place them securely in the back/bottom copy of each book before your fair begins–this is a great job for volunteers.
Next, create a form on which you can record all of the information about each reorder. A simple four-column chart will do, with columns for student’s name, student’s teacher, title of book, and price. Make multiple copies of the form and place them on a clipboard right next to your cash register. You should also print slips that say “I paid for a book at the book fair, but it has to be ordered. It will be delivered to my classroom when it arrives” (you could also include a place for the title and price of the book on the slip).
During the fair, when someone tries to buy a book with a “Last Copy” slip in it, tell that person that you will have to order the book for him/her. You can’t sell the last copy, or future buyers won’t know about that book. Record the buyer’s information on your form, ask the buyer to pay for the book, and give him/her a book order notice.
At the end of each day, place a reorder for the books that students ordered that day (don’t be afraid to order extras at that point; you can always return them with the fair if you don’t sell them). Once the books arrive, consult your list and deliver the books to the students (another good job for volunteers!).
Scholastic Book Fairs has a new feature that can also help you a lot with reorders (other companies may have this available as well, I only know about Scholastic because I am working with them for my daughter’s preschool book fair). With each fair, they create a website where people can order books online and the books are then delivered to the school and labeled by student. The books that are ordered are then added to your profit totals for that fair. This feature was not available last time I ran an elementary school book fair, but I think it would be an awesome way to deal with the reorder hassle. If someone brings you a book with a “Last Copy” slip inside, hand them a pre-printed form that says “The book that you wanted at the book fair ______________ (insert title and author) was sold out! You can order this book on our book fair website (list the URL) and it will be delivered to you at school in about a week.” In this way, you don’t have to keep track of all of the reorders, but you can still make more money. If any one has tried this, let me know how it worked out!