David W. Brown has some advice for any magazine or press thinking of setting up a stall at the next AWP bookfair.
If you are Pank or Carrier Pigeon or The Review Review or Yellow Flag Press or Curbside Splendor Publishing, playing to four-figure audiences at best and hoping to attract new readers from a curious buying public (the final day of the conference allows lay Seattleites free admittance to the book fair), snazzy covers aren’t enough—your best bet is to have killer freebies at your table to attract eyeballs. Items I observed being given away include bookmarks; buttons; tea bags; pocket-sized notebooks; HiLiters; generic highlighters; pens; pens with generic highlighters at one end; Post-It-brand notepads; adhesive notepads (generic); stickers (some of which included such political statements as FREE CASCADIA and I STAND WITH PLANNED PARENTHOOD); luggage tags; postcards; pencils (but not with pencil sharpeners); pencils, sharpened; collapsible Frisbees (well, “throwing discs”); rulers; microfiber cloths; eyeglass cleaning cloths; a fortune teller miracle fish (which and this had to be explained to me, you hold in your hand, and depending on how the thin, translucent red fish bends, folds, twists, etc. in reaction to your body heat, perspiration, and/or chi, your fortune is revealed, or at least your mood, really. For the record, I am fickle); the kind of bite-sized candy you get at Halloween—not the cheap stuff but those little Starburst fruit chews, Twix, Snickers, Milky Way, etc.; refrigerator magnets; chocolate bars with book covers printed on the wrappers; bumper stickers; Olivia Newton John-style sweatbands (head); snake key chains in ultra-blue, ultra-green, ultra-orange, ultra-red, and ultra-pink; lead pencils; matchbooks; chewing gum (printed on label: chewing on life, faith & art); rubber bracelets (wide and black, that reminded me of the thick rubber-leather-hybrid bands that engage the roller in old Kirby-brand upright vacuum cleaners and are a general pain to replace); fake tattoos; cupcakes; fitted insulation pouches for 12-ounce beverage cans; licorice discs (which looked exactly, and I mean exactly, like black tar opium); wristbands (the kind they give you at concerts to denote an underage drinker); ingeniously-designed wristbands that double as flash drives; condoms; fortune cookies; oranges; lanyards; bottle openers; lip balm (in egg form and traditional Chap Stik form); coffee mugs; shots of MacNaughton Canadian whiskey (distributed in plastic, disposable Jell-O shot cups); tote bags; cigarettes (like, real cigarettes, both light and full-flavored, in the kind of large wooden presentation box that you'll see in black-and-white films); 2" toy rubber frogs, green; containers of various types of Greek and Lebanese cuisine (though no plates, and so I'm not sure if you were supposed to just eat the stuffed grape leaves with your fingers or what, and notably there was no hand sanitizer to be found in the vicinity); adjustable measuring tablespoons; tape measures with integrated bubble-level; pistachios (in plastic cups, though it was unclear whether you were supposed to take a handful of nuts, or whether you could just take a whole cup, or what); coasters; cookies (diced); Teddy Grahams in a large communal bowl; a chocolate cake (whole, with plates and a knife to just slice yourself a piece); chocolate rocks (which resembled the colorful, glossy rocks processed through a rock tumbler); squeeze balls; cereal bars (blueberry, chocolate chip chewy); and clothes pins (though I don't understand why). This list is inclusive.