Tag Archives: Book Festivals

Author Book Fairs – A Behind the Scenes Look

I love book fairs. I attend them not just as an author, but as a reader as well. There is nothing like getting to walk around a bookstore and meet the authors who write the books we love. They have their tables set up with their books and other give-aways on it; they talk to their fans, old and new.  There are talks from several different authors in several different genres. What’s not to love? Walk in, meet the authors, hear some interesting stories, buy a book or two and go home; simple as can be, right? Well, for the fans, yes.

There is a lot that goes into setting up an event like this. My friend and assistant Kathy Porter is the co-chair of the Author Fair I am attending next weekend. Through her, my eyes have been opened to the tremendous amount of work that goes into putting on an event such as this. I thought it was time to give Kathy and others who do this work their due and to let them know how much we appreciate them.

The event is being organized through the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society (GLAWS) and is being hosted by Barnes and Noble on July 23rd and 24th. Before anything else could be done to start planning, the first thing Kathy had to do was find a venue. She contacted Barnes and Noble; for this event she spoke with the Barnes and Noble in Marina Pacifica in Long Beach, California. She chose this venue because of the location and the openness of the meeting area which will allow enough room for all the fans we are hoping will join us.  Once Barnes and Noble agreed to host the event, GLAWS put out a call for authors.

There are certain qualifications for author participation in this event, and Kathy had the tough job of having to gently explain to several talented authors that they were not able to be featured.  In order to qualify for this event an author had to have books available through Baker &Taylor and also through Ingram, the books needed to be returnable and they needed to have enough books in the system to order (usually about 20 books). Out of the 41 authors who wished to participate, only 20 met the qualifications set by the store.

Kathy had to attend meetings with the bookstore to work out how many authors the store could support per day, the event room scheduling and seating as well as the food and drink to be available.  There were a lot of details to attend to such as where chairs should be placed, where microphones needed to be placed and which food and drinks would be free and which would be sold. The author schedule consisted of making sure each author was allotted 5-7 minutes in the event room to speak on his or her subject or to read an excerpt from his or her book(s). Along with that there was also the issue of author table placement in the store; each author’s table being placed according to genre and as close to the area in the store where his or her genre is housed as possible.

Once the authors had been chosen and informed of their ability to participate,  Kathy set out to help them learn how to set up their tables and sell their books; she also had to set expectations for mode of dress, manning the tables, what to bring and how to engage readers in conversation. She held a class for the authors to help get everyone comfortable with what was expected of them and how to best represent themselves and their work to their readers. She also needed to collect from each author their ISBN, title(s) of their work, their names or pen names, a biography, a head shot and a book description – all of which was used in the flyer she made to promote the event and the websites that are promoting the event. To see the websites click here: Greater Los Angeles Writers Society Author Fair and Barnes and Noble Event – GLAWS Author Fair.

Planning an event such as this is no small task and I just want to take this opportunity to thank Kathy, Gillian, others who plan events such as this. You should know how much the authors appreciate you and the opportunity you are giving us to meet and greet our fans and cultivate new fans and friends.  It takes months of hard work to pull off an event like this. Thank you for giving us your time and your skills.

~Darlene Quinn


Where, oh Where Are Our Readers? The search for the elusive audience

Being a writer isn’t a path most of us choose consciously; it’s just who we are. We are storytellers, researchers, teachers, searchers, learners and so much more. To some, writing is a way to impart wisdom learned from years of living. To some writing is a way of finding out who we are and where we belong. To some writing is a way to heal a past or deal with the present; to purge emotional pain or align our thought processes. Writing is so many different things to so many people; but there is one thing all writers have in common – we want readers.

Readers are the foundation of a writer’s life. They are the sky we are reaching for; the most important ingredient in our author stews. So where do we find them? Where are they hiding? How do we attract them to our work; get them to read our novel, story, poem, or article? Some of us start with our friends and family; some of us search out an agent or publisher to find readers for us; some of us look online to our connections on social sites. None of these strategies is wrong, but none of them are enough either. So what is a writer to do? Where are the elusive readers of our dreams?

Finding readers has a lot to do with our purpose for writing. Why did we write our novel, story, article or poem? Was it for a sense of self? Perhaps it was to see our names on the best seller list? Was it for the thrill of seeing our book on the library or bookstore shelf? Whatever the reason, without readers our blood, sweat and tears lies stagnant on the shelf. We write for a reason; we have a target audience in mind when we write. If we write for young adults, then our target audience is teenagers; if we write fantasy or science fiction, then that is our target audience. If we figure out who we are writing for and our reason for writing this particular story, then we can figure out where to find our readers.

If we use social sites to reach readers, it is fairly easy to find our audience. Just look in the groups on Facebook alone and we can find people who have something in common with our story; someone who will enjoy what we have written and be interested in the information we want to impart. The hard part is making sure we don’t overstep the boundaries of friendship when we offer our work on these sites. The hard sell doesn’t work; pushing our work in readers’ faces is never a good idea. Our readers are our friends, or at least our future friends. We need to let them know we exist; we need to let them know our work exists; but after that it is in their hands. Readers make their own decisions as to what they want to read and which authors they want to offer their loyalty to. We have to respect that they have that choice.

Word of mouth is a very strong current. It can carry a novel on its tide and bring a wave of readers to our shores; but if we try to control the current, we may find that it is stronger than we think and can sweep our novel out into a vast sea of nothingness. With the advent of ePublishing, the sea is getting bigger and deeper and our novels are one of millions of novels floating around.  We can take two paths here; we can trust that the reader will be the fisherman and our novel will happen to get caught on their hooks and hauled aboard to be devoured; or we can be the fishermen, dangling our bait for hungry readers. One path is passive, the other is more aggressive. Some might say that equating our readers to hungry fish is demeaning; but truth be told, aren’t most readers looking for something in our books that will hook them? The first line of a novel is called a hook; why not use it?

We are all vying for readers; to get the attention of someone who will love our work so much they will recommend us to other readers.  Do we really want to be passive here? Dangle the bait; attract one reader and more will hopefully follow. We just need to make sure to use the right bait – good content. If the bait is hard to swallow, the fish won’t recommend it to other fish and our hooks will remain empty. If our bait is delicious and decadent, the fish will swim out to other fish and let them know where the best hook in the sea is.

Times have changed and it is no longer enough to just write a good story.  The days of staying home and writing and letting others take care of the marketing are over. We need to go out into the sea of readers and find our school of fish; let them know where the best bait in town is and dangle the hook in front of them.  Let them take the bait; then it’s up to them to decide if they want to share it or not. We can’t control the current, but we can tempt the fish.

Writers, where do you find readers and how do you hook them? Readers, what hooks you?

Tongue Tied and Twisted: How to get over the fear of public speaking

For most, it is a teenage nightmare. You feel your mouth go dry; your hands begin to shake. You wonder if you have something stuck in your teeth; your stomach begins to churn and you wonder if you are going to be sick, right here, right now. For some, it is exhilarating. The expectant looks turned in your direction; knowing that everyone there has come just for you. It’s public speaking and as an author, it’s something you will probably have to do at some point in your career.

A long, long time ago in a land, well, right here actually – writers wrote books. That’s what we did, that’s what we loved; after the book was finished and accepted by a publishing house we just went on to start our next brilliant piece of work and let the publishing house take care of our masterpiece. Those days are gone, my friends; we are past the day where an author’s only job was to write. Now, we travel; we talk about our books; we do book signings and readings. The days of sitting in solitude are gone; welcome to the era of the social author. We promote our novels on Facebook and Twitter; we connect with each other on Linked In and yes, we talk to each other. Of course it’s easy to talk about your writing when you are hiding behind a computer; what about when you have to get up in front of an audience and talk?

When I was in school and had to take a speech class, I would get tongue-tied. I would get so nervous that I wasn’t sure I could actually get up and do it without getting sick. I learned to get over that when I was working for Bullock’s Department Stores as a Corporate Trainer and had to get up and introduce people and talk. So how did I get over it? Well, when you are passionate about what you are speaking about, that makes all the difference in the world. When you have a purpose for getting up there and talking, when you know the people you are talking to are interested in what you have to say, it’s just not quite as frightening.  You look out at all those faces, waiting for you to be prolific and instead of shaking and forgetting what you wanted to say, the words just seem to start pouring out.  Now, I speak at events, I do radio interviews and television interviews; I’ve come a long way from that frightened teen who couldn’t find her tongue. It’s all about passion.

We bleed, sweat and pour our hearts into our novels. We research, we write and we rewrite until there is nothing left to add and so much we have taken away that we thought was crucial to our story. We breathe life into our plots and come to know our characters intimately. How can we NOT talk about our novel? When we were in school and had to get up and give a speech, it was most likely on a subject we weren’t sure about, something we may have had no interest in; we are sure about our novels and we are most definitely interested in the subject. The passion is there, the purpose is there and the audience is there because they are interested. It’s much easier to get up and talk when those three ingredients combine. The last ingredient I would suggest in this recipe is practice. Practice getting up and speaking in front of people. Join a Toastmaster’s group in your area. Go to a meeting as an observer and see if you can think of something to say when they give out a subject. You don’t have to speak the very first time if you don’t want to; just see what it’s about. It’s a great group and everyone is there for the same purpose; to learn how to speak, not to judge anyone else’s speech.

So the public speaking recipe for success is: passion, purpose, interest and practice. Pour them all into the pot, give it a good stir and set your audience on fire.

Have you had a good experience with public speaking? Why don’t you tell us about it?

Marketing a Book Series

Today many authors write a book series rather than several stand-alone novels. For Darlene Quinn it is simply the nature of her Webs book series, dealing with the demise of our favorite department store through the lives of vital, enticing, multi-dimensional characters over several years. A book Series is a great way to build a base audience for your upcoming books. There are also some authors who started out with one book and realize they just aren’t finished with these characters so they decide extending it into a series.

One of the best ways to hook an audience is to let them know in advance another book is on the way.  As an avid reader there are times I dread the end of the book as it approaches, because I have become lost in a world of characters and plots that I am not ready to part with.  You know, that let down many of us face at the end  a good book. I can rejoice if the sleeve of the book mentions a sequel is imminent, or if I catch the author on a TV or radio show, where they usually will begin the promotion process, and let us know the next book will soon be available.

You may think the second book will be far easier to promote. Most, if not all, of the people who read your first book will be waiting to buy the second book – right? Well, yes and no. People are usually anxious for a sequel immediate after they finish your first book. We have established they like a great book that’s why they picked yours up, but people who read usually make sure they have a book on hand to read and your book will become a pleasant memory, placed in the back of their mind as a future reference.

So how do you usher your reader toward your next book? The hard way. By doing the same things you did the first time around. Book signings, book fairs and festivals, conventions, radio and TV shows, book clubs, and libraries. I know – you thought it would be easier this time. Well in actuality it will be – simply because promoting your first book was a grueling, but fun, learning experience. This time you know what was successful and those are the things you will concentrate on.

You will be back doing the hard task of making phone calls to book stores and arranging for meet & greets or book signings, but this time you will be speaking to familiar booksellers, who know you and your work. If some stores were not successful venues for you, you may want to skip them. Instead go back to your most successful bookstores, and try some new ones.

Many authors, like Darlene, are invited to speak at local community organizations, charity and business organizations, book clubs, and libraries. Darlene is on staff for the Southern California Writers Conference, and has spoken at Soroptimist Club, the Southern California Writers Association,  California Writers Club of Long Beach and Orange, Princess Cruise Lines, Long Beach Yacht Club – Ladies Day,  book clubs etc. Make it a point to contact all venues you have spoken at, and let them know you have a new book and new material to speak about. You will be surprised at how many of them will invite you back.

Marketing your next book will not be any different from marketing your first book. This time you have a track record and a history. You know what to do, who to contact, who to speak to, which places are the best and what places you may want to pass on this time around. If possible you can enlist the help of a friend, family member, or and like Darlene, an Administrative Assistant. But these contacts are an essential part of your marketing plan. Don’t leave it to chance, if you don’t have help, you must make the calls.

Darlene’s second book in her Webs series, Twisted Webs will be available on September 1, 2010. So we have been ramping up the promotions and her awesome PR firm EMSI has been actively marketing her book well ahead of the release date. I’m am ready to schedule the next book tour and Darlene’s publisher Emerald Books has created a mesmerizing book trailer for Twisted Webs.  

It takes a team to help you market a book, some teams are limited to just you, the author, but you can make just as big a splash in the market. Do your phone calls, schedule events, speaking engagements and book signings, and book fairs. Treat your book with the respect it deserves by working as hard to market it as you did to write it.

The sequel Twisted Webs hasn’t hit the market yet, however Darlene is already working on her prequel in the Webs Series, Irreversible Webs.

Darlene and I wish you success!

~Kathy Porter

Book Fairs, Festivals and Conventions; What Authors Should Expect

So you bought a booth, or table at a book convention, festival or fair, or perhaps you are sharing space with other authors who are also hopeful to sell lots of books. This is just one of the many ways authors are able to get there books in front of readers. But your wondering – does it have value? Is it worth the cost? They the cost of one of these events can range in price from as little as $100.00 to over $2,000.00 for larger events. What do I do to promote myself there?

The cold hard facts are that you may not sell enough books to cover the cost of your booth, or even your portion of a shared booth. However the exposure your book receives could be priceless. Keep in mind when you are at a book festival or fair you are in the midst of hundreds of other book authors also selling books. The most famous and popular draw the crowds and then wonder around looking for interesting books – maybe yours. So how do you stand out from the crowd?

The first thing you have to do is take off your writers hat. Today you are a marketer and to sell your book(s) you have to think like one. Think of several reasons a potential reader should buy your book. I know what your thinking – that is much easier for ‘how to’ and ‘self help’ books. But fiction books have the same ‘reason to buy’ potential. For example: does your book have a blurb from a well-know author? Is your background story based on real event that are prevalent today? Do you have a story that deals with a particular hardship, ethnicity, past or recent or future event, readers can identify with? Or are you in a niche genre like science fiction or fantasy? Are there characters or animals you can make eye catching visuals i.e. poster, Tee Shirts, 3D sculptures? All these things can be utilized to create a customers ‘need to buy’.

Your booth should to be neat and eye catching, featuring your book(s) in an enticing way. Now that doesn’t mean you can sit at your table inside your booth expecting your visuals to do the work for you. You have to get up and out of your both and engage people whose sense are overstimulated by the huge volume of wonderful and new books and other items on display. This means as they go past your booth it will hold their attention for only a few seconds. By standing in front of your booth with a bookmark or flyer to hand to them with a smile on your face and a one-liner to pique their interest in your book.

Here are some examples of what you can say – good and bad.

Bad: “Would you like a bookmark? ” – This question could generate an easy ‘No thank you’ and you have missed and opportunity to talk about your book.

Bad: “Can I tell you about my book?” – Never asked a question they can answer with ‘no’.

Good: “‘Webs of Power is a cross between” The Devil wears Prada” and Wall Street” and place the bookmark in their hand with a smile. As they reach for the bookmark you have a second moment of opportunity. “‘Webs of Power” is a character driven novel about the demise of our favorite stores in the ’80’s and how three corporate women struggled to survive.” — You have caught their attention and have a great opportunity at this point to get to your booth and get a book into their hands.

Think of one line introduction for your book that will entice a potential reader to want to hear more. Again, I know that it is easer for a self help book, but all books have potential platforms. Think about what your book relates to and deliver your one liner to a potential reader with a generous smile and a show of confidence. Be engaging, even if your conversation with a passerby begins with small talk – you have to drive the conversation back to your book. Bottom line is you have to believe in your book and its potential.

Attitude is everything at an event. If you are thirsty, over heated or cool, hungry, tired, or distracted your chances of selling are slim. So be prepared with an ample supply of water and snacks, a packed launch, layered clothing so you can adjust your comfort. Make sure you are well rested and prepared with to sell. Have a mirror and comb handy and most of all smile.

Get to know your neighbors in the surrounding booths. These people will most likely show up at many of the events you will attend to promote your book. You can be great assets to each other for referrals. Let’s not overlook those of you who are alone in the booth for the day – your booth neighbors can give you the few moments you need for a restroom break.

Okay authors here is the hardest thing you will do at book selling events – asked for the order! So you need a closing line right? Please don’t use words like ‘sell’ or ‘buy’. “Would you like to buy a copy for yourself or as a gift?” is asking for a ‘no’. Instead try, “Who should I sign a copy to?” – I like this one because it’s not a question they can answer with ‘no’. So it’s a better closing line. Or after telling someone about your book and their interest is obvious – “How would you like to pay for your copy? I take cash, checks or credit cards.” Or my favorite – “What’s your name so I can personalize your copy?”. Do you see how you need to take the emphasis off buying and selling to ‘how do you want it signed’ or what currency they want to use. Using the assumptive sale sells books. Your biggest mistake would be not to ask. You are not an author today you are a marketer and books are your product so you can’t wait for them to ask for a copy – though some will. But you can sell far more books by using the closing lines I just taught you.

As you can see the success of your convention, festival, book fair etc., depends on one major factor – YOU and how prepared you are to sell. Practice your one liner, your smile and know how to complete the sale. For your cash sales have plenty of change available. Don’t wait till the day of your event to find out how your new credit card processor works. Know what the local taxes are and make sure you have a sales tax permit either a permanent one for your state or a temporary one for out of state cities. These are very easy to obtain over the internet.

Finally talk to everyone. You never know who may come by your booth. Remember that today you are a marketer here to sell books. You may or may not cover your cost. But with a confident attitude your book exposure can result in future sale and more. In today’s publishing world your book sales depend largely on your marketing ability and how aggressive you are about getting the word out about your book. Festivals, conventions and fairs are potential gold mines. So make some posters out of your book cover, get bookmarks and flyers, have business cards, an enticing one-liner about your book, confidence a firm handshake, and a smile. I believe your are ready so get to yourself a booth, be prepared to sell, and most of all have fun.

“How would you like your copy of Darlene Quinn’s new sequel “Twisted Webs” to be signed?”

~Kathy Porter

Peparing for Promotional Events

Unless you have written a book intended only for family and friends, you must develop a marketing plan. To be commercially successful this is required. Writing is a craft~A book is a product and requires promotion aimed at connecting you with your readers and potential readers. Bookstore talks or book signings, speaking at book clubs, book festivals, and writers conferences, etc. Bookstores are one of the most popular, especially for launching new books. If you are a new author, bookstores are a great venue to introduce you and your book to readers. But what do you need to make an event successful?

The typical bookstore Meet and Greet (known as an author signing) places you at the front of the store where shoppers are most likely to see you. Usually, you will make the arrangement for either a M &G’s or group discussion with the Communities Relations Manager (CRM) @ B&N Events or Sales Manger @ Borders or Store Manager. They schedule the date and time, and order a supply of your books to sell. Bookstore normally do a minimum of advanced promotion. Some fliers in the store, maybe a poster in the window, and if you’re lucky a few local newspapers will be notified. Events in book stores must usually be scheduled at least three months in advance.

Every author should include promotions aimed at putting them face-to-face with their readers and potential readers. Bookstore Meet and Greets (author signings), speaking at book clubs, book festivals, and writers conferences, etc. Bookstores are one of the most popular, especially for launching new books. If you are a new author, bookstores are a great venue to introduce you and your book to readers.

But what do you need to make an event successful? The typical bookstore Meet and Greet places you at the front of the store where shoppers are the most likely to see you. Usually, you will make the arrangement for M &G’s or talks with the CRM (Communities Relations Manager @ B&N) (Events Mangers @ Borders) or Store Manager. They schedule the date and time, and order a supply of your books to sell. Bookstore normally do a minimum of advanced promotion. Some fliers in the store, maybe a poster in the window, and if you’re lucky a few local newspapers will be notified.
What can you do to boost sales? When Darlene started promotional book talks and Meet and Greets (author signings) she contacted local newspapers. Your small local newspapers are a bevy of free or very inexpensive advertizing. Getting a free interview and your picture in the local newspaper prior to your event will draw more people into the store than the newspaper calendar posting the bookstore placed for you. Also bring along a large poster of your book cover to place on your display table or bring a tripod to display it on. Have plenty of handouts for your potential book buyers such as bookmarks, postcards, pens with your book title and website, etc.

Book festivals, conferences, authors associations, and writers groups are also great places to promote your book. These types of events have programming staff who will guide you through the process of getting your booth or table. Some have fees involved, and at most festivals you will schedule your event a few months in advance. The event promoters usually have a large email lists of potential buyers and will do email blasts, newspaper, direct mail promotions, and sometimes radio and TV ads aimed at drawing in crowds. Your name and picture will appear along with an article about your book and sometimes an author bio. You can gain greater exposure if you become a speaker at these events. As a speaker, your name, book, time, place, and the title of your talk will appear in the speaker’s list–prominently placed in the event program, encouraging potential readers and readers who are already fans to come and meet you and listen to you talk.

How should you prepare? At these large crowd events, it is important you are prepared with plenty of books to sell and one or more methods for your book buyers to pay. These are all day events, or at least several hours. Since food venders may not be conveniently located, you will need to have some snacks and water with you. Have plenty of handout materials and freebies, like bookmarks, pens, and maybe a bowl of candy for your buyers and browsers.

Publishers today are looking for authors that not only have excellent book’s, but are able to get in front of people at writers conferences, book clubs, etc. It is important that you are well spoken and can deliver a good speech now and then.

If you don’t like to or are afraid to speak in front of an audience, what do I do? This will take some action on your part, if you want to become a successful author. Although Darlene has always been able to speak publicly she joined “Toastmasters International” to improve her speaking skills. Toastmaster is a great way to learn how to speak, how to organize your speech, and how to deliver your speech. The cost is to join is minimal and is a great investment in your future, and the future of your book. Darlene highly recommends that you join!

Darlene is in demand as a speaker now, not just for writers conferences, and book club, but she is requested as a guest on both radio and television on regular basis. Each time she is seen on TV, or heard on the radio, her book “Webs of Power” is exposed to anywhere from several thousand to several million potential book buyers.

As a new author, I recommend that you follow Darlene’s lead and start calling bookstores to schedule Meet and Meets (book signings) and author talks. (Until you are well know, you should set up talks only in your home town where you are able to attract friends and family), attend writer’s conferences, contact book clubs, and start selling your books at book festivals. Join Toastmaster International so you are confident and prepared to speak at various events, and promote your book. Darlene and I wish you the best!

~Kathy Porter