Book Expo America (BEA) is the largest trade show the book business hosts. It is a general book show that includes secular and Christian titles. Famous people (and not so famous people) come to BEA to sign their latest titles.
The International Christian Retail Show (ICRS), held later this month, is a similar trade show to BEA, except that it is a niche show just for the Christian market. As such, it is smaller than BEA.
If you have never attended either BEA or ICRS, watch this recent video shot at BEA this year to get a small glimpse of what a book trade show is like.
Many authors I talk to balk as giving out free books at a trade show. Yet, you will see from this video that it is the usual form of business at such shows. While not every author at BEA gives away free books, giving away something to promote a book is usual and customary. You will see in this video that instead of giving away free copies of her new cookbook, Paula Dean gave away signed copies of a recipe from her new book.
Remember, good marketing usually costs money, but if you want to do it well and save money, that takes great creativity.