Authors that are wanting to make a career out of their writing can’t stop at just writing a great book. I grant you, that is a humongous task. If one is going at this full tilt an author is also going to have to get a handle on marketing and PR to get their book into the reader’s hands. This is obviously an additional skill set that folks make whole careers out of, college degrees- the works.
So what’s an author to do? Some don’t seem to realize that it is in their hands and are oblivious, complain of non-existent sales, but do nothing to change things. Some hire others with these skills to help them. Various authors learn along the way what works for them and what doesn’t by trial and error (this avenue can take a lot of time and money). Observant writers will watch seasoned authors that are farther along in the game. Some will read books, websites or join clubs and organizations that help to educate authors. Sometimes if you are very observant you can garner a lot of information by noticing how you yourself react to an event or encounter.
I will highlight three components.
I attended the TN Valley Author Event on July 12th and spent four hours visiting with the authors there. I thought I would highlight some things about my experience. This is not by any means an exhaustive list of marketing techniques. I do hope this might shorten the learning curve for some writers and give them some ideas for next time. BTW, I had a blast and all the authors there were wonderful people!
The author list at the website indicated 82 authors were in attendance. The table map showed 83 tables. Some authors shared a table. Many authors had a support person with them: a relative, friend, models from their covers, or a street team member. So there were a lot of people. So how to you stand out in the crowd when the readers and bloggers go home? In fact, how do you up your odds that a reader will walk up to your table and talk with you? Clearly someone who has read your book and loved it will beat a path to your table. Hopefully, you are attending these type of events to gain new readers also. So what did I notice about my own experience?
I’m going to call the first factor Attitude. If I glanced over at a table and the person was sitting kind of slumped in a chair, looking bored, maybe even checking their cell phone? Did I want to approach them and start a conversation? Not when there were other tables that looked fun and inviting. You paid good money to be at this event in front of these readers… be present, SMILE! Look approachable. Even if you are bored… look like you are at the best party in town. People want to be around fun and interesting people. It is human nature. It did seem like this occurred more often when a person was by themselves. Maybe if they had a friend with them to talk to when there wasn’t anyone at their table the boredom would not have set in? Something to think about. But you don’t want to be chatting away with your friend making a reader think they would be interrupting you either.
Let’s talk about the table displays (or lack thereof). Would you rather walk into a hotel room that has all the necessities, or a room featured on the cover of a popular magazine? The necessities are copies of your books, sign with prices and that you take credit cards, promo material they can take with them, such as bookmarks. Ah, but what about a little personality, a little flair and color? Here are a couple of displays that I thought really added to the appeal of a table.
Colorful feathers and shot glasses gave visual interest at S.M. Donaldson’s table. The purple tablecloth also helped her stand out among the black ones. When I went to take a picture of the display, she made mention that a lot of readers were being drawn to the feathers
Terry Magger had a cute box to hold his promo cards. He had also fashioned some candles (nice feel to go with the mood of his books) with the different book covers on them. Think- collect them all?
This next visual aid was classy with that touch of juxtaposition. Red blood on white roses got some attention at Faith Marlow’s table. Romance, violence and mystery?
F. L. Jacob’s display that tied in nicely with her book covers that highlight shoes.
Tables are oblong horizontal surfaces. Books laying down on a flat surface aren’t very “active.” Anything that can add a little height will make your table look a little less monotonous. And a vertical book display is a little more engaging. In addition to these two samples, there were also several stands that hold up one book at a time. These were visually helpful also.
Amy Miles utilized a three tiered wire rack.
This last component I’m labelling Conversation Starters. Everyone there has a book. Readers coming up to your table are also wanting to say something interesting to interact with you. Help them along! I especially loved when the swag or objects decorating the table had a tie into the book. It gives both of you the chance to say something about the plot or storyline of your book. Here were some of the examples I saw of this happening.
Lexi Witcher includes a note telling the story of how the character Leopold, in her book gives this necklace to Dodie before her sixteenth birthday. The Lake of Dreams and a curse are mentioned. Intrigued?
Isabella Rae was serving up mini- cupcakes and informed me that the recipe was in one of her books. Might we associate delicious with her books?
This one, I have to say was quite different. There were a lot of folks that had the rubber bracelets at their tables in all sorts of different colors. But here, a handsome man could take you by the hand and tie a ribbon around your wrist. There were little handcuff charms on it. This tied in with the “Lock and Key” theme of the Officer Next Door. You can see the author Ranae Rose wearing one of the ribbon bracelets herself.
Stevie Cole had some wine bottles at her table. When I asked about them, she laughed and informed me that these were what she was drinking when she wrote her book. Simply charming!
Maggie Myers had a couple of things going for her. She had some packets of Kleenex and coffee cups. Several people remarked about the pleasant scent at the table (we were unsure if it was the Kleenex packets or what) but I thought that was utilizing another of our senses. I know there are people with allergies to perfumes but I thought it was nice. The coffee cup had some lasting swag value. There’s so much going on you don’t really read everything when you are there. Later when I reached my car I had a chance to read the sleeve there was another place for impact. When a guy notices things about your likes, and listens to you… yes, I agree that’s romantic.
The take away factor can be something to let you stand out. There are a lot of book marks. I suppose we could do another article on that now that Kindles and ereaders are catching ground.
Katie Ashley had some bottle top magnets that I could see being useful for folks after the event.
Lindsay Paige had bath balls with a tag that read “take a relaxing bath with Ryan and Gabe from You Before Me.
Hopefully seeing these components in action will give you some food for thought. I am looking forward to my next event, Imaginarium in September.
I asked several authors to hold up their book for a picture. I have to admit this is partially my fault as the beginner blogger/ photographer. I was focusing on framing the shot and not taking a blurry photo. Some covered up the title or author name with their hands. I didn’t notice this until I was home cropping the photos for the stories I was writing. Take a minute to see how you can hold your particular cover so that it is an advertisement in itself. You never know if a photo will get reposted on facebook or another social media site. Someone viewing it may be intrigued enough to do a search and purchase. Think of every picture someone takes of you as a billboard ad. Sarah Ashley Jones shows enthusiasm and energy. Maximize your brand!