Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Hot Time in the Desert – the Tucson Festival of Books 2017

It’s that time of the year again. The Tucson Festival of Books in the spring is a special event where readers, onlookers and kids can meet with outstanding authors and have a good time. This was the ninth annual festival with another record attendance for the two day event. This year was warmer than previous years and shady places to stand were at a premium.

Again, I got to see many of my Spotlight authors. This year started off talking with two of my favorites, Rebecca Dahlke @rpdahlke and D.R. Ransdell @dr_ransdell. At the end of the day I met up with J.A. Jance @JAJance who has just released ‘Man Overboard’. Her new release will be showcased on the HBS Author’s Spotlight soon. Judith is a Tucson-based bestselling author and a graduate of the University of Arizona.

This is my fifth Tucson Festival of Books and I had a mission. Again I took off my Mystery writer’s hat. I am here as a Blogger this weekend to find out how my fellow authors are handling direct marketing.

Like previous festivals, my goal is to talk to as many authors as I can, take a lot of pictures and to see how the authors are trying to market their books and themselves.

Author’s Goals

Like I have stated before, when an author attends an event like a book festival, they should have a set of goals before they start, like selling their books at the event AND/OR getting the reader/prospects to look further after they leave. If you sparked their interest, they will check your books out online. They may even tell someone else about meeting you.

A book festival requires a different approach than a regular book signing at a bookstore. This year there was less swag than normal but lots of fun. A lesson learned. Don’t have chocolate candy as a giveaway. Not in the desert anyway.

Observations – Sales Tools

This is what I observed while I made my way through the festival. Let’s start with the sales tools. I picked up a lot of literature and took a lot of pictures. The following is a good list of marketing items to consider for authors attending book events. I like to give credit to the top items in each category of sales item. This year there were so many good items in some of the groups I could not pick the top ones.

Business Cards

The cards ranged from 4-color quality cards with cover pictures to plain Vistaprint cards to none at all. This year the business cards had better contact information, including email addresses. Authors are starting to loosen up on the email info. This year there were many great author business cards. There were two that stood out with color and information.
     Natalie Wright @NatalieWright_ - H.A.L.F.
     D.R. Ransdell @dr_ransdell - Dizzy in Duranbo


All the bookmarks I reviewed had some way to contact the author. Most of the bookmarks were professionally done with covers, review snips and contact information. My choices were:
     Teresa Burrell @teresaburrell - The Advocates Homicides
     Carly Thomson @CarlyThomson3 - Truth Seekers


I saw several flyers on colored stock. This was something that I thought I would see more of. There is so much area (letter size) to get your message across. Besides, the cost factor is a plus. There were fewer flyers this year than in previous years. No picks on this item.

Books Covers

There were lots of books with great covers. The authors were more than willing to sign a purchased copy.

Post cards

Now we are getting into some great stuff. There were fewer post cards this year also. Most of the post cards had copies of the author’s book covers and collections. I did pick two in this category.
     Kathryn Lane - Waking Up In Medellin
     Jim Stevens @JimStevensWritr – The Richard Sherlock Whodunit Comic Mystery Series

Book Displays and Posters

The same great quality was displayed here, with lots of cover blowups. It was hard to pick one here too but this display stood out.
     Bill Markley @BillMarkley - Deadwood Dead Men

Top Author Booth

The booths were organized better this year with the numbering finally making sense. My booth pick had so many outstanding authors (about 15 at one sitting) I couldn’t list them all.

The Dreams Convention booth
Congrats to Kris Tualla @kristualla for putting together such a great group of authors.

Amigos and Ladies of the West booth
And to Doug Hocking @HockingDoug for a unique booth with authors dressed in Western attire to match their genre.

Best Presentation

The best presentation by an author this year was easy to pick. As always most of the authors had their pitch all ready for me. The top pick this year was from one of my Spotlight Authors.  Remember everyone is a prospect even a blogger roaming the festival.
     Kris Tualla @kristualla - Enemies & Traitors

Novelty Items

Not many tote bags this year but other items took their place. Like I have said before, give the festival goers something of value and your swag will not wind up in the trash can. I spent some time talking to the picks in this category,
     T.L. Smith @tlsmithbooks – Business Card with trinket (Shooting Stars and Bad Guys, All in a Day’s Work)
     Cathy McDavid @CathyMcDavid - Envelope opener


Like I have said before, I like confronting authors at the festival. There are a variety of presentations. Some had long pitches, some had none.

A book festival is an on-the-spot sales opportunity. It is a chance to sell yourself to prospects and readers. To me, the most effective pitch was the short, quick one. A long pitch surely loses some sales opportunities. If the pitch is long, it better be interesting.

A few of the authors qualified me. Less than last year. That is a key first step. They offered questions like this. Do you read Mysteries? Do you like Suspense? What type of books do you read?

They should be thinking about the person in front of them and react. Is he a buyer or prospect? Is he a tire-kicker? Is he someone that will promote me and by book, like a blogger?

Some authors jumped right into their sales pitch often wasting their time and mine. They start telling their book’s story before they find out the visitor is not buying or doesn’t read their genre. You just want to hang up but you can’t.

There were a lot of tire kickers according to the authors. These were people who were there for a good time but were not buyers. Lots of kids, which was great. They were there to ‘snag some swag’ as they say.

There were a lot of people and the authors needed to work the prospects. Talk to them. Socialize with everyone. Hand them a copy of a book or literature. Here take a look? You never know.

This Year’s Takeaway Ideas

 Idea 1
Finally, I am starting to see authors offering free or discounted ebooks to readers. This is great time to run a promo during the festival. Give the attendees a shot at it. If they like your work, they will buy your other books. If done properly, giveaways during the event could increase your Amazon rating.

Idea 2
Give your prospect/readers something of value. Something with your book title, your name and web address or twitter tag or email address.

Idea 3
Like last year, name tags/plates are still a problem. The authors did a great job displaying their books. A quick check of their displays, their name was easy to see.

Face time with a prospect is very important. Have a name plate made up and place it on the table in front of you. I wore my name tag: James Moushon - Mystery Writer – Blogger.

Give the attendees more than a name. Readers looking for Mysteries will stop. Others would move on. Qualify. Qualify. Qualify.

Finally, a Great Day in the Sun Comes to an End

Authors need to have a plan to get the most bang for their buck. You need to focus on what sells your books. Presentations. Marketing materials. Good covers. Qualifying prospects. Great copy. Forming Relationships.

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