Thursday, August 13, 2015

Participating in a Book Festival

As a relatively new, self-published author I am always looking for ways to get my books in front of potential readers.  I am diligent about promoting online through various social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest & Google+) but at times my sales still lag.  Self-published authors rarely have the ability to do large scale marketing campaigns to reach their audience, but participating in a book fair or festival is a great way to find new readers. 
I had a wonderful time participating in the Payson Book Festival last month.  The event was really well organized, and the attendance at the event was fabulous.  They only invited local Arizona authors and for a small entrance fee, authors were given space at a table either inside or outside.  The event organizers did a fantastic job of promoting the event, including having a website with info about each author, as well as a social media campaign and support from the local newspaper. 

I really enjoyed my trip up to the cool pines of Payson to escape the summer heat in Phoenix, and I did manage to make several book sales during the event.  I also met some wonderful fellow authors and made some great professional connections within the publishing world. 

Book festivals can be intimidating for some authors.  You do have to be confident about your work in order to effectively present it to others.   It is also important to evaluate the cost/benefit of the event.  While I did make enough sales to cover my entrance fee, I did not earn the total amount I spent on gas and the hotel.  As I said, for me it was a great ‘excuse to get away’ and although I did incur some personal expense, I felt the experience was well worth it in terms of the overall experience; the contacts that I made and the increased visibility for my books. 

If you do participate in a book festival here are some important tips:
·      Make an interesting display.  You will need a tablecloth and preferably some book stands to display the books you are selling.  (You can get some very cheaply on Amazon). 
As people walk by your table you want to entice them to stay and look at your work.  I did find a wonderful table decoration that works really well for my books, a plush uterus doll.  It is a great attention-getter.  Find something that works for you. 
·      Prepare your sales pitch or ‘elevator speech’.  In other words be able to explain why your book is special in just a few words, being able to condense your book blurb and share it orally.
·      Be professional about payment.  Make sure to have a professional looking moneybag and bring change to the festival.  I make a point to use a special ‘event’ price for my books, and I have chosen $5 for my shorter books and $10 for my longer work.  This makes it extremely easy to make change for customers.  I also use a Square reader with my phone to accept credit card payments.  It works great and best of all – it is FREE, but you do pay a small service fee on transactions.
·      Have additional promotional material ready.  I have business cards made for each of my books.  Many readers may not want a hard copy, but will take a card or bookmark with your book info and then download it later.  You can order very inexpensive business cards through Vista Print ( )
·      Don’t forget to bring some pens – many readers will want you to sign your autograph or even pen a personal message.  You might want to give some though to a standard message that works well for you. 

Book festivals may not be for everyone, but I really enjoy talking to people about my books, and for an author there is no greater joy than to see someone buy your book.  Book festivals will help with your book sales – both immediate and a bump in online sales after the event, and best of all they are fun.  I can’t wait to return to Payson next year, and hopefully I can participate in a few more festivals as well. 

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