Saturday, April 16, 2011

Book festivals: preparation and promotion

          By the time this scheduled article appears, I'll be at the North Texas Book Festival in Denton with six other authors from 4RV Publishing: Jacque Graham, Horton Deakins, Galand Nuchols, Wayne Harris-Wyrick, Harry Gilleland (all the way from Lousiana), and Caeleigh (Kelly) McKinna.

          Hopefully, everyone within driving distance of the Visual Arts Center in Denton, Texas will come by and see us.

          Since I'll be at a book festival and have finished part of the hard work preparing to attend (8 hours with Jacque and me working our backs into agony), I thought I'd share some of what I've learned about participating in book festivals.

            Book festivals have at least three results or consequences: sales, promotion, and networking. Of course we all want sales after the effort of preparing and participating in a book festival, but many times sales depend on the amount and quality of preparation. Let’s examine the preparation required for a book festival (on the part of participants, not the hosts – which a longer article) and the promotion value (which would include sales) of participation.

            First, preparation begins long before the book festival itself.
  1. Find book festival that meet your need. Needs might include type of books included in the festival, distance involved from home to festival, organization of festival, how well promoted the festival is, etc.
  2. Register before deadline.
  3. Begin to accumulate items to take to festival: books, table coverings, book holders, posters (if desired), candy and dishes if having candy for visitors, price list(s), tally sheet and money box with change, sales tax permit (if you have one), bookmarks and business cards and other material for handouts. Also have more than one dependable pen for signings.
  4. You might have a drawing for some “prize.” Giving away a copy of your book isn’t the best because people won’t buy, thinking they might win. Slips for drawings is one way to accumulate email list additions.
  5. Make hotel reservation if needed.
  6. If competition for best books, enter if desired before deadline.
The week before the festival, pack and load your vehicle. Choose what you’ll wear for the festival.
Professional or office professional is good. Sloppy or grungy isn’t chic if you want to be taken seriously. Remember, famous people can get by with things we morals can’t.

            Arrive early to set up the day of the festival. Nothing is more confusing than to arrive at the last minute and try to have your table or booth set up before the public arrives. Not only do last minute or late participants fluster themselves, but also the hosts, other participants, and the public, which expect to find everything ready for them when they arrive. Cover your table or tables and set up book displays, materials, and candy dishes. Depending on the number of books and titles you take, give yourself at least two hours or more to have your table or booth ready.

            Have a trash sack or container behind your table and keep your area clean.

            Visiting other tables and authors at a festival is polite and helps with networking, but leaving your table unmanned causes potential customers to go elsewhere. Be sure you wander when there is little activity, and then watch for people to pass your table. If possible, have someone to stay at your table and signal you when you’re needed.

            Unless it’s an emergency or everyone has left, don’t leave before the time set to close the doors. Then quickly and efficiently pack up your books and materials. Leave your area clean.

            If the book festival is in your state, don’t forget to prepare sales tax reports and amounts.

            Now, promotion: What’s the value of participating in book festivals? Why are festivals a good way to promote oneself and books?

            First, the public can meet you as well as purchase your book or books.

            Second, more profit per book is possible at festivals than through any other method of selling (excluding book signings, which are practically the same type of promotion). Please realize, though, that sometimes many sales are made and sometimes, few. One never knows.

            Third, you have a chance to learn from others, see what works for them, discover other ways to promote yourself.

            Fourth, librarians and teachers have an opportunity to visit with you about appearing in their library or school.

            Attending book festivals requires much work, and if you are taking books for other people, such as I as a publisher do, it’s exhausting hard work. However, the promotion value is usually worth the preparation.


  1. This is great advice,not only for the larger book festivals but for smaller signings at locations other than bookstores. Hard work always generates positive results. When a publisher is willing to go as far and work as hard as 4RV does, it benefits all the authors and illustrators. If you are asked to help in some your best to support your publisher *:)

  2. I hope you had a great day. Now, rest and relax. (Wish I could have been there.)

  3. One author did a great job -- all his books sold. One author sold 3, one sold 1, the rest of us met a log of nice people. *grin*

    The number of public attending wasn't considerably smaller than two years ado. I don't think even 100 people came to the festival, probably much fewer.

    I did get to meet Harry Gilleland, though, finally.

  4. I would love to get involved with something like this, albeit I don't think I'm ready to try it all by myself just yet.