Sunday, July 25, 2010

Marketing: Festivals and Fairs!

LK Hunsaker- Victorian Days 2010
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.

Paper airplanes.

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.


Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Loraine,
Sounds wonderful. I can remember the paper planes too, we used tomake them in class at school then when the teacher's back was turned aimed them at him. The flaot sounds like a good idea. You have got a great philosphy, have fun there and if you sell a book, well it is a bonus. Wish they would have something like this where I live.



Celia Yeary said...

LORAINE--I'm so glad I didn't pass this up. You? The quiet author, who is a bit of an introvert, riding on a float in a costume? I cannot imagine. Good for you. This is the first time I've ever heard of authors promoting by riding on a float. I bet this has never happened. The paper airplanes were a stroke of genius. Congratulations on your sales. Celia

LK Hunsaker said...

Margaret, LOL! Well, the first one I threw was at the beginning where a police officer was standing to make sure no one tried to drive through, and he said, "That's littering." Oops. ;-)

Can you start something like that? Any other authors in your area? I would guess there are.

LK Hunsaker said...

Celia, amazing, isn't it? Just proves you can if you think you can. ;-) But also, I'm getting pretty comfortable in my new town.

Thank you!

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi LK,
Sounds like a fun day, with or without a lot of sales. And you did get your name out there which I need to bite the bullet and do more of too. LOL The paper planes were a new idea and a way of recycling. Can't imagine wearing long dresses and petticoats and sweaters in the 90 degree heat, though.
Congrats on your ranking at SW.
Way to go!!!

Linda Acaster said...

We've just had a carnival in my town - tho I was away this year and missed it - but it attracts lots of people. I've never 'seen' how to use it to my advantage, but the idea of getting my name out with free excerpts is good. How long were these free reads? As in how many pages - the physical thing to hand out?


Francesca Prescott said...

What a lovely idea, and what a wonderful experience this must have been. I can SO relate to worrying about your racing pulse and the state/colour of your cheeks because in times of stress my entire body turns bright red, so it just goes to show how right this must have felt for you. I'm proud of you :)

Love the paper planes idea, too!
xx Francesca

Danielle Thorne said...

Loraine, thanks for sharing this experience. Great ideas--and I'm glad you had a good time. That's really important, too! I never thought of doing fairs or festivals before--I'll have to add that to my list of smart ideas.

Savanna Kougar said...

LK, that is such a winner of an idea, everything you did, even if it all didn't work as well as hoped! Makes me wish I could have joined in. And, yes, I remember paper airplanes. Boys, I knew spent lots of time perfecting theirs to fly faster and better.

I used to attend the Renn faire because I just adored being in that atmosphere. Now, I'm too far away.
One time I worked a hat booth. I even got over myself enough to go out and plop hats on people and interact with them in a wonderful way. I never knew I had it in me.
Oh, and we would design hat wear on the spot for customers. What creative fun that was.

Maybe, it's the whole atmosphere of a faire... something is freed in us.

StephB said...

Loraine, thanks so much for sharing this experience. I think just being out there and socializing is important. It gets your name out there locally. I'm glad you had this opportunity. Thanks for sharing. You've got some nice ideas.


LK Hunsaker said...

Rebecca, it was fun! Well, most of it. ;-) It looks like you're doing well getting your name out there, from what I've seen. It does take forever or it feels like forever. And thank you!

Linda, the short stories I used were roughly 1,000-2,000 words each, and I formatted them on half-fold pages. One used one page, printed front and back, no cover, and the other used two sheets folded together, with cover. For the excerpt, I had a title page with all of the info, then parts of the first two chapters to get a glimpse of both main characters, 4 pages in all. If you can go together on a booth with someone else, all the better, both for attracting interest and because there's generally a fee.

LK Hunsaker said...

Francesca, yes, I'm sure that was part of it, that it felt right, and also having such wonderful authors there with me!

Danielle, thank you, and if you do one, I hope you'll blog about it. :-)

LK Hunsaker said...

Savanna, it would have been nice for you to join in. :-) It probably was the fair atmosphere, also, and maybe just because when you're so passionate about something, you just go with your passion and ignore other things. ;-)

Steph, that's been my recent focus - my local area. Nice that I have willing assistance from my community!

Linda Banche said...

Good for you, LK. If you try, you may fail, but you may succeed, too. You did get your name out there, and that's what counts.

Andra M. said...

What fun! I'm sure sharing the float with other authors helped the introvert within spread out a little more.

And congrats on the #19 ranking!

Did you get pictures of the float?