Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Selling Your Books at a Booth - Part 1

Please welcome our guest today, Belea T. Keeney. She is a native Floridian writer whose short stories have appeared in such varied venues as WordKnot, Sniplits, Boundoff, Florida Horror: Dark Tales from the Sunshine State, and Lycanthrope: The Beast Within. She has received two Artist Enhancement Grants from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, and works as an editor for Torquere Press, Samhain Publishing, and select private clients. Time away from the keyboard is spent in the riding ring trying to pick up the correct diagonal at the trot, collecting caladiums, and pondering the beauty of tigers. Visit her website at http://www.beleatkeeney.com/ or contact her at belea@beleatkeeney.com. And please come by and visit her at Book 'Em North Carolina on February 23, 2013 in Lumberton!

Selling Your Books at a Booth
Part I: Ten Tips for Success
by Belea T. Keeney
Selling books directly to readers via an event booth is a very personal, hands-on approach to marketing your titles. It can give you instant feedback on what readers are looking for, like, and buy. It can earn you some cash sales. And it lets potential readers meet and feel invested in you as a person as well as an author. After several years of selling books at a variety of events, I've developed some tips for making booth sales work for you:
1 - Evaluate your genre and market, then decide which events will be right for you and your book. For example, if you write Westerns, consider rodeos, Western horse shows, cattle drives, and cowboy reunions. If you've written a historical, think about Civil War festivals and re-enactments, meetings of the local historical society, and the like. If you written a nonfiction title, find out where people interested in your topic gather. A book about beekeeping could be sold at a beekeepers conference, gardening festivals, and home shows. In short, think outside the narrow box of I-must-sell-my-book-at-a-book-festival. That's not necessarily true.
Also, at a book festival you're competing with dozens of other authors. Sure, the attendees are readers, but do they necessarily read about your book topic? Consider the novelty factor when selling at niche market events. A book about cats may do better at a cat show than at a book festival. A romance about a dressage rider and thoroughbred racing owner may do better at a dressage show. Sometimes a narrowed, rifle approach to your audience works better than a general, shotgun method of targeting buyers.
2 - Start off with local and regional events. Most small towns and counties have a summer or fall festival of some sort. Read your local newspaper and get a feel for what types of events are coming up. Is the town's gardening club having its semi-annual sale? That may be a good place to sell your women's fiction title with a garden enthusiast as the main character. Does your county have a festival to commemorate the area's indigenous cooter turtle? Then a booth with your book about regional wildlife might fit in quite well.
If your book has a local slant, you might want to try a test-run at a local flea market. Booth rentals are usually very inexpensive, as low as $5 a day, and this will give you a feel for your local market's response to the book.
Web resources for finding festivals abound. Start with a general web search, and if that doesn't bring up something of interest, try http://www.festivals.com. This is a commercial resource that lists an amazing array of local, regional, state and national festivals of all types: literary, music, art & crafts, livestock, historical, and you can search by zip code, state, region, or interest. Or, if you'd rather focus on a book festival, start with the Library of Congress list of book fairs and other literary events, at http://www.loc.gov/loc/cfbook/bookfair.html.
3 - Start small and local to test the market and get a sense of cost vs. return. A local festival will have less expensive booth rental fees than a huge, national event. It will be easier for you to travel to, you may have local fans who will come out to support you, and it might be possible to get media coverage if you send out a press release with enough advance notice. Small, local festivals may have more of a hometown and easy-going vibe, while a huge, commercial festival will have a lot of hustle-and-bustle. Consider trying one or two local events as a test run before you commit to something that requires a lot of expense, long travel, or a bigger commitment than you can make. For example, many large festivals are Friday through Sunday, and some don't allow vendors to break down a booth early. Large events can charge from $200 to over $5000 for a booth, and that's not the best place to experiment. Start small, learn, and grow if results warrant expansion.
4 - Consider teaming up with another writer to share the expense and the work. The logistics of unpacking, setting up, running a booth all day, then re-packing can be daunting. Sharing the work is both fun and productive. For a local fest, almost any other local writer might be interested. For a larger, more genre-specific festival, try asking a writer with similar interests. For example, if you've decided to try working a flower show because your book is about a florist who solves mysteries, another writer with publications about flowers (even nonfiction) could help. Having someone to spell you while you eat lunch, hit the restroom, or just take a stroll around the event is a physical and mental relief. And it's fun to chat with another writer as the day progresses. You can help cross-sell your books, and hand out promotional items to customer who do buy from one of you.
5 - Register online or by mail.
Read any forms carefully, provide any needed information (many festivals wants an exact description of what you'll be selling), request tents, tables and chairs if needed, figure your vendor fee and make payment. Keep the confirmation email or receipt; you'll be taking it with you to the festival to set up.
6 - If you have multiple titles, plan which ones you want to take, and place orders with your publisher as needed.
Allow shipping time. If you're self-published then you know your discount. If you're traditionally published, most contracts call for the author to be able to buy copies for resale at a discount, typically 40% off the cover price. You may be able to purchase other titles as well with that discount. If you're going to a cat show and your publisher also publishes a series about a mystery-solving cat, it might be good business to take a few copies of another author's work. You can still promote your own work and make a few sales to enhance your cash flow at the same time.
7 - The week before the event, confirm your vendor status by contacting the festival organizers, write up your packing list, and recruit a helper. Items you'll want to take include: tables and chairs (if you're not renting them from the festival), a tablecloth, posters of your book cover, a banner with your name and book cover, promotional items such as bookmarks, postcards, pens, key chains, etc., business cards, brochures or chapbooks with a free except from your book, a change fund for cash sales, a nice pen to sign autographs with, and, of course, your books. Items that I've found make the day feel more comfortable include: a cooler with food and drinks, toilet paper and moist towelettes (many festivals are outdoors and have only portable toilets), a pillow for your back, insect repellent, a hat, and sunscreen.
8 - The day before the event, pack up your items using your list. A rolling suitcase or dolly can help with moving heavy books. Box up the other items and label them for easy unpacking. Unpack in set-up order: table, tablecloth, banner, books, then the rest. If you're not familiar with the locale, print off a map, and get exact directions on where to unload. Decide when you need to leave, set your alarm, and get a good night's sleep!
9 - At most events, a vendor unloading area is set up. This is where having a helper is important because you'll need to transport your items to the designated booth area, unpack them, then go park your vehicle. Even if you have to hire a local high-school or college student for an hour, doing this with an assistant is much easier than trying to do set-up by yourself. If you're sharing the booth with other authors, you can spell one another, and take turns lugging items back and forth.
10 - How many books can you sell? Zero to thirty has been my experience based on going to smallish festivals with attendance of less than 10,000. Of course, the larger the event and the more people attending, the more chances you have to make a sale. If you have multiple titles available, bring all of them. (A display with lots of colorful book covers can often garner attention in a way a single title can't.) If you only have one book, consider using your author discount to buy a few other titles from your publisher in the same genre. That way folks who don't want your cozy mystery about a quilter can still buy a romance about a quilter, and you'll still make some profit. If you're self-published, this is where teaming up with another author can benefit both of you. Be optimistic and take as many copies as you can comfortably haul, especially for a one-day event. You'll only have that one chance to make the sale so don't miss out by running out of books.
The reality is it's difficult to sell enough books to make a profit, especially if you're working a booth alone. But by selling books directly as a vendor at festivals, you'll have the chance to meet new readers, promote yourself to potential readers, make some cash sales, and have a lot of fun. Festivals are usually busy, noisy, high-energy, entertaining events so pick one in your area and give it a try! Part II will focus on working the booth once you're there.
If you have success stories of your own about selling at a festival or event, I'd love to hear them! Feel free to contact me.
More Information:
Selling Your Books at a Booth, Part II: Working the Booth, by Belea T. Keeney
Copyright © 2010 Belea T. Keeney

Friday, July 27, 2012

Choosing a Specific Genre

Our guest today is Michael A. Rothman, courtesy of Goddess Fish. He's a self-described Army brat and the first person in his family to be born in the United States. This heavily influenced his youth by instilling a love of reading and a burning curiosity about the world and all of the things within it. As an adult, his love of travel allowed him to explore many unimaginable locations. He participated in many adventures and documented them in what will be a series of books.
Some might put these books in the Fantasy genre, and he never had issues with this label. After all, the adventures were, without any doubt in his mind, fantastic. He simply quibbles with the label of “Fiction” that some might put on these tales. These tales should be viewed as historical records, more along the lines of a documentary.
He says he's learned one thing over the years. Magic is real. Keep exploring, and you too will find your magic.

Why I Chose to Write and Why I Chose This Specific Genre

The only things that stand in their way are the assassins hired to destroy them and the Demon Lord’s minion who holds a personal grudge and intends to witness the young boys’ deaths.
It seems like I always had bouncing around an idea about writing an Epic Fantasy tale for my boys when they were old enough to appreciate it. In my mind, I'd always liked the "Fish out of water" type of story, similar to Alice in Wonderland - but I wanted a modern and more realistic setting that illustrated what it would be like to have an entire family suddenly find themselves in a new world, and try to make it as "realistic" as possible regarding their reactions, how they adapted, and eventually triumphed in a world that was "out to get them".

However when I think about my earliest reading, one book probably influenced me more than any others.

The one classic that stands head and shoulders above them all was J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series. 

The Hobbit – my first Fantasy book, and by far the one that set me on the road I’ve walked in this genre.  It established a variety of archetypes that I believe many authors since have followed whether purposefully or accidentally.  The concepts and behaviors introduced with the character races as stereotypes are certainly things that have influenced my view on writing. For instance a reader might find my elves somewhat stoic and serious and the dwarves a touch boisterous and hard-working. As it was the first book in the genre I read, it was the measuring stick by which all future books were compared against.
I think the thing that draws me to Fantasy is that the genre doesn’t really limit what you can do as long as you make it believable. Your setting could be on the Jelly world of Blignartz where everyone is made of Peanut Butter.  (Okay, maybe that one is a bit odd – but illustrates my point.)  Or your setting could draw from the now classic archetypes set by Tolkien and have some elves, dwarves, etc all thrown into an otherwise pastoral world called Trimoria.
It then is up to the author to add his or her own storyline and break any perceived rules if it seems right.
About the Book

The TOOLS OF PROPHECY is the second volume in an epic saga which describes a prophecy that has placed the Riverton brothers in the lead roles of a struggle to save their world from being overrun by unspeakable horrors. This destiny requires that they face off with the demons that nearly destroyed their world over five centuries ago.

In the first book, the population of wizards had been practically eradicated by the former tyrant. The Rivertons are now charged with creating an Academy of Magic, recruiting qualified students, and furthering their own training with secrets that have long been held by the reclusive elves.

Despite their youth, a mysterious spirit has engaged them in an epic struggle to gain mastery of their newfound skills, help raise and train two armies, and stay alive long enough for their final showdown with destiny.

EXCERPT ONE:  from the Prologue - we are introduced to a very temperamental Demon Lord

In this region of the Abyss, the temperatures always bordered on freezing. Even so, the air was thick with wet mist. Malphas stared up at his master, who sat high atop his throne of blackest stone. Singeing waves of heat seemed to emanate from the Demon Lord’s skin. The repentant demon would call out to him, but he did not wish to provoke more of his master’s ire. For the time, Lord Sammael simply stared into the distance, refusing to acknowledge his general’s presence.

Finally, after what seemed like a long wait, Sammael directed his attention to Malphas. “I have learned that a new wizard has entered Trimoria,” he said without speaking. His voice, inky and coarse, erupted as if from within Malphas’s head. “You will find out how such a thing was possible.”

Malphas strode to the throne and knelt at his lord’s feet. The black scales of his knees rasped against the stone floor. At twenty feet tall, the general usually towered over his minions, but kneeling before the immense black throne made him feel utterly insignificant. Where he would normally cause all who looked upon him to cower, General Malphas found himself cowering at the feet of his master.

“But, my lord,” Malphas said in his gravelly voice, “how can that be? I thought you arranged for the purging of those who followed Seder.”

The temperature in the cold, dank chamber climbed rapidly as the Demon Lord’s rage bubbled to the surface. Lesser demons in the vicinity burst into flame, disappearing into greasy puffs of acrid smoke.

“Don’t ever mention my brother’s name again,” Sammael commanded. “I will not hear it spoken by the likes of you.”

How to Contact the Author

Michael’s Website:  http://michaelarothman.com/
Follow Michael on Twitter:  http://twitter.com/MichaelARothman

Michael will be awarding a $50 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour.

Please follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Making the Most of a Writer's Conference

There are three times in which an author can make the most of a Writers Conference or Author Event.

I've teamed with one of this country's best book promoters, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, who will be participating in next year's Book 'Em North Carolina Writers Conference & Book Fair, to bring you a list of ways you can capitalize on your participation now, during the conference, and after the conference.

Carolyn will be coming all the way from California to participate in Book 'Em so we hope you'll stop by her table and say "hello" and welcome her to North Carolina!


If you'll click here, it will take you to Carolyn's blog, which was named one of Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites. This article is the first of three; this explains how to get the most media attention and advantages out of an author event even before the day it takes place.


The ways in which you can make the most out of your participation in an authors event continues here, with what you can do during the day of the event to make it highly successful for you.


Some people think when an event ends, so does their possibility of making it a success. But don't make the mistake of overlooking the important things you can do after the event! Follow this link to Carolyn's website to see what you can do after the event to ensure that you've made the most of it.

These articles were written by p.m.terrell, one of the co-founders of The Book 'Em Foundation (along with Waynesboro, Virginia Police Officer Mark Kearney) and the co-chair of Book 'Em North Carolina (along with Katie Huneycutt).

Our events are held on the last Saturday of each February in beautiful, sunny Lumberton, North Carolina. Check out www.bookemnc.org for all the details! Our Writers Conference & Book Fair raises money to increase literacy within our communities and reduce crime because when you buy a book, you stop a crook!