The benefits of doing book festivals

In 2017, the published authors of the Muse Crew decided to dabble in some self-promotion and participate in book events.  We started by asking our local librarians and searching on the internet to determine which events had the most potential for positive results. We also looked for events whose charges would be the most cost effective for us. We made a list and applied for the events as soon as their registration processes started.

Out of our group, there were four of us that participated regularly, and we ended up with a list of seven events from June to November, ranging in costs from $0.00 to $150.00 per space. Most were specifically book events, while some had other things to see and do, such as craft shows, festivals and food events.

We found that the best way to tackle in-person events was to share the burden of cost, set-up, and customer interaction, which we managed pretty effectively. We purchased a banner and matching table cloth that represented the group, decided on common display elements, and decorated each quarter of the space based on our individual book offerings. If members weren’t available to participate at a particular event, the members who were there represented them and were prepared to take a credit card sales by listing the other author’s books in their square accounts. A supply of everyone’s books were at each event, even if the author was unavailable.

I have found that participating in the events was well worth it even if I didn’t sell a book, and especially when entered into as a group. Here’s why:

Help with set-up: I have been doing events like these, for various products, off and on my entire adult life. I can tell you from experience they are a lot of work. There is a lot of preparation that goes into designing a functional and mobile display. Depending on the venue, there could be quite a distance between where you park and your booth space so it is always helpful to have more than one set of hands to help with the work, or at the very least a wagon. Be sure to do a trial run of what your table will look like prior to your first event, and have other members of the group present. That way, everyone in the group will know how the set-up works and will be able to create a consistent and professional looking display, no matter who is able to participate with the event.

It lowers the cost:  This was important for each of us. We are all just starting out and don’t have huge book sales or budgets to offset the expense of doing costly events. We are also aware of how many books we need to sell to meet the “break even” point, which did sway our decision on some of the more expensive book shows. Being able to split the cost four ways for the season of events allowed us to participate in more shows than would have been possible individually.

You have someone to talk to about the craft: This by far was my favorite reason for doing these events with my writing group, since we were able to chat all day about the issues we were having with our WIPs (works in progress). Our bi-monthly meetings are invaluable to dissect and receive feedback on a particular scene, but time doesn’t always warrant a deep dive into plot structure or character development. Being at an event for 6 to 8 hours allowed for a lot of down time between customers to work out issues I was having on book 3 in my Power of Four series. A special thanks goes out to Madelyn March for helping me navigate the finer points of elemental magick and guiding me toward creating believable back stories for all my baddies. I had a blast at the Kerrytown Bookfest!

Networking: Extremely important! Can’t stress this enough! Writers, you need to get out of your house and get out there with other writers! There are so many talented people out in the world to connect to, most of which have at least one thing in common with you… their love of writing! I was able to connect with many talented and gifted writers who were happy to mentor me in the things I felt I needed help with. They directed me to online writing resources, offered to do author interviews on their blogs, and provided direction on conferences and events that would be most beneficial to me when building my author business. I would like to send a special shout out to Melissa Keir, S.J. Lomas, and Sylvia Hubbard, who each, in their own way, pointed me in the right direction at the just right time in my journey.

Some must haves for book events:

  • Eye-catching display (Make sure your book pops! And dress to match!)
  • Cash/Change (Singles were important, and if appropriate don’t forget the sales tax!)
  • A Square (Invaluable to take Credit Card Sales!)
  • Promotional Materials (Business Cards, Bookmarks, Flyers, etc.)
  • Positive Attitude (and don’t forget to SMILE and ENGAGE!)

These events were not always money makers for me, in fact, there were times that I didn’t sell one book. I suppose Fantasy Romance isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, although I find that thought impossible to consider. But even if my sales were low, I came out of each of these events with one more idea, one more contact, even one more challenge that I was able to overcome.  One of these events even led to a speaking engagement, which was an awesome and nerve-wracking experience. It offered me the opportunity to level-up in my professionalism as an author, practice my public speaking skill-set, and now I am more empowered to meet the next challenge head on! These lessons, about writing, business, and even myself, are invaluable to me. They are giving me the building blocks I need to make tweaks in my business model and, at the end of the day, sell more books. These experiences also put me in the best position to connect to readers who are interested in hearing about the stories I have to tell. There couldn’t be anything more important than that in my mind, it is what writing is all about for me.

 

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