Last Saturday I was at a book fair. I'd been invited, along with a variety of other local writers to come out to the Bull Run Library in Manassas Virginia, and market my wares to the public. As a newbie writer, I've never been on the other side of the table, so I reached out and got some suggestions from more experienced authors I know and to find out what I'd need beyond myself and copies of my books. I ended up with far more advise than I could use, but it gave me a start of what I'd need. A consideration I had to take in was how much to spend versus what could I expect in sales. If I figure five dollars per book sold, and expect to sell twenty books my promotional ceiling is 100 dollars. I'd break even, any more money spent would either be a loss or have to be recycled at another fair or convention.
I went cheap, had some fliers printed up and bought a stand for my books, and some candy. Total outlay, maybe 30 dollars. Selling six books did not seem like a stretch to me. I also hit Twitter and Facebook hard letting everyone know about the event. I even wore my lucky Poe and Lovecraft t-shirt.
When I arrived, I was able to get a table in line with the door, so the candy, my books and promo material would be readily visible. As I was early to the event, I chatted with a few other authors, some of whom really knew how to market at these kinds of events. They were all very polite and friendly, giving freely of their time and expertise. They told me about local author clubs and meeting places, and where I could go to get my book in a local independent bookstore.
Two o'clock arrived and I was ready. And I sat, and sat. There were maybe thirty visitors in the two hours, there was never a time when there were more people looking at books than there were authors. I had three possible sales, but for one reason or another my patter was not quite good enough to convince them to actually buy. Perhaps they went online and got the e-book. I was interviewed by the local free newspaper, and later sent her my media kit, but since she never sent me a link to the piece, I imagine other authors were featured instead.
Economically, it was a bust for me. Other authors fared likewise. I think one person was able to sell four books, she did the best. Those who did get a sale, sold one book. Most were like me, and sold nothing. The library apparently had done very little advertising, and it seemed most who came were patrons who wandered in. Tough to sell a book in the same location as where people are borrowing them for free.
At the same time it wasn't completely a waste of time. I did make some great contacts in the local community, I was invited to join a local author's group, and I now know where to take copies of my book and get them into a bookstore. I also know what things I need to bring to the next event I attend to help sell copies. A decent banner, and poster board both with images of my book are something I need to get if I plan on going to another event. The banner has to be something I can affix to a table, and the poster board small enough that it can sit on the table with me. It should also include some of the reviews I've gotten, so people can see at a glance that others have enjoyed my book. I need to practice on my selling technique. I need book marks or something small that lists where one can get copies of my book online. I need copies of my blurb, for people to read when they ask about my book, or have in memorized. In other words I have to invest some money, and hope that I can make it back at a later date.
These days being an author is a business and if you want to be successful you have to treat it as such. Investment in promotional materials is one of those things that has to be done, to help maximize success.
Guess I'll have to go to Office Max and a few other places, so that if I go to an event that has a lot of visitors, I look like a professional. With luck, next time, I'll have some sales.
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