Sunday, July 25, 2010
Marketing: Festivals and Fairs!
Last weekend, I took part in our local Victorian Festival weekend. Even as an inhibited marketer, fairs and festivals are a great way to get out there and meet readers. If there’s a group of you, that’s better yet.
I lucked out. Our Chamber of Commerce representative is very author supportive, and there are quite a few of us in the area, of different genres. She sent info out and a couple of us sent it along to other authors we knew, and there were soon between 8 and 10 signed up. We didn’t leave it as a booth only. We did a float.
Things were a bit scattered in the planning of our first ever local authors float, but the few of us who found our feet in this venture pulled it together well enough one of the other parade entries said we should win best float. We didn’t, but that wasn’t why we were there. We were making ourselves known.
I’m a bit of an obsessive type. Okay, maybe more than a bit. Either way, I didn’t just find a Victorian-like outfit to wear on the float, but I spent days ahead of time printing out copies of short stories and excerpts for the booth, along with creating the big posters that were to go on each side of the float to say who we were. And, while deciding what I could throw as advertisement for the brand new author booth during the parade, trying to stay with the “olden days” feel, an idea snapped into my brain.
You know, like those used in old makeshift entertainment days before Game Boys and iPods. We (and yes I’m old enough to have done it, also) used to grab old pieces of paper and shape them into airplanes. It’s funny how long this simple game could amuse us. The perfect thing for an old-time float, I figured. And what better to make them from than some old flyers I have sitting around here that haven’t been used.
Figure in the wind factor before considering throwing paper airplanes from a moving float, by all means, as at least one came back directly at us. Overall, though, they went over great! I threw one and kids down the line asked for their own.
Of course, this idea might be best for children’s books, but maybe some of their parents actually looked at what was written inside the planes. Either way, it mixed books with fun. That’s an attention getter. My idea of stapling cheap printer made business cards with my info and a plea to come see us at the author’s booth to pieces of wrapped candy worked less well. They were hard to throw out far enough. Never fear, I also had plenty of candy without the cards attached.
Another author on the float threw pencils, which I had considered and opted instead for the planes. Pencils are a good idea, especially if they have your name and website engraved on them.
So, the float was a lot of fun and attracted attention for the booth.
At the booth, things were much slower. A lot of people come to fairs just to browse and enjoy walking around being sociable. There didn’t appear to be very many buyers at any of the booths. (Although the guy creating metal birdhouse stake-holders and such did well, judging by how many walked away!)
Some of my fellow authors were disappointed at the lack of sales. I wasn’t. That’s not because mine were better, but because I didn’t expect a lot in the first place. We’re unknowns. Books are rather expensive these days. It’s a risk for buyers, most of whom now are economy-concerned.
What I mainly went there to do was to get my name out farther. That, I did. Armed with free stories and excerpts, plus pencils and bookmarks, I said hello to anyone who approached, gave them some time to look, then offered a writing sample to take with them. Of course, I do always maintain hope of good sales, and I always take many more books with me than I need, but hope is good as long as reality is mixed with it.
I did sell books. Even if the quantity was low, those are books I would not have sold if I hadn’t bothered to try. And how many of those who took the free reads will look me up at the local places I mentioned where they were available, or online, and buy there? I can’t know. I can know that I was out there spreading my name. I also met a lot of readers and had some nice conversations. I even managed to do it without the rapid pulse and red face that has normally come about with public appearances: a wonderful step up for the truly social phobic.
I have to mention how much of the fun of the weekend was simply hanging out with other authors and talking craft and ideas, along with anything else that came to mind. I hope it will be a continuing tradition.
So much of marketing is name recognition. I strongly believe that reviews, awards, and “best seller” status is much less important than someone seeing your name and recognizing it.
By the way, at this point, I’ve moved up to #19 on the Smashwords most viewed authors list and sales have grown. Something is still working.
Oh, and the sweater in the photo above to give myself a more Victorian look? It was on long enough for the photo. Sweaters, even light ones, are not meant for 90-some degree days and high humidity. I can’t imagine how the Victorian ladies and gentleman managed.