Friday, April 26, 2013

Book Marketing, Trojan Style - LA Festival of Books 2013

It was a beautiful spring weekend in Los Angeles and it was time for the 18th Annual LA Festival Books sponsored by the LA Times. This weekend there would be over 150 thousand in attendance.

The football field at USC was covered with tented booths and the adjoining buildings were filled with various panels, seminars and readings. The sideshow even included Carol Burnet doing her Tarzan call. If you missed it, here is a link to a YouTube version.

For authors and everyone else involved this is a really, really big deal. Everyone loves a parade and readers love a Book Festival.

It is time to give your pitch

So you’re an author seating or standing (mostly standing) in a booth, greeting prospective customers. You have a great red cover on your book, begging for attention.

The first thing that comes to your mind is “have I remembered everything”. You’ll find out soon enough.

You can forget almost anything but you need to bring a plan. You know, a goal of what you want to accomplish and how to get there.

Most authors have a set of common goals. They want to sell books, gain exposure, meet people and have fun. You are meeting readers and potential customers.


One thing you realize before you get started is this is an expensive proposition. So you must be prepared to get the most ‘bang for your buck’.

At the minimum you need sales materials. If the prospect shows an interest, he has to leave with something.

It would be nice if it was an autographed book.

I suggest something of value like a pen with your information on it. Something that they won’t put in the trash can at the end of the aisle.

With all authors vying for attention, they must have something of yours that will refresh their memory later.

You need a sales pitch. Like Terry Ambrose told me at the Tucson Festival of Books last month, “[Long ago I] learned the importance of the hook. Depending upon the reader, the author has on average 10-15 seconds to describe their book and get the reader interested. I have three different opening lines that I'll use depending on the question I get from the potential reader.”

Get your radar going. Qualify your guest and give them your best pitch.

Writer’s Groups

Writer’s groups seem to have it figured out. First of all, most of them are genre-oriented. That immediately qualifies your visitor.

They share cost, help fellow authors and carry the atmosphere of the genre because everyone is talking about the same type of book, like a Mystery.

I thought it would be interesting if I could single out a group and get their observation on the festival.

This time around, I connected with the Murder, We Wrote writers group.

I thought it would be fun to ask the members of a group about their experiences at the show and pass that on. I solicited Terry Ambrose’s help and here is what we came up with. (Author credits at the end of this post.)

Making connections at a Book Festival is one of the things we discussed with the group. Here is their take.


Mystery writer Teresa Burrell had this to say:Two different attendees approached me to do speaking events this fall, both for legal organizations.”

Mystery Author and Humor columnist Gayle Carline continued the thought:
“Sometimes I meet people who are interested in speakers, and I never turn down a speaking engagement. This year, I was interviewed on two different radio stations. You never know where that kind of publicity will lead.”

Mystery and Psychological Author Jenny Hilborne said, “I met the Vice President of Advertising for the LA Times. She purchased my latest release, STONE COLD, a thriller set in Oxfordshire, England. As a fellow Brit, I'm hoping she will enjoy it and maybe include a review in the LA Times.”

Mystery writer Terry Ambrose had a good connection also. I met a lady who does a radio show with a significant audience and hope to get an interview on her show. I also may have lined up a slot on the program for the Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference. I have my fingers crossed on both!”

Now those are the type of connections you want. If those come through they can be worth more than selling dozens of books at the show.

Writer’s Group Event

Synergy is one of the major components in a Writer’s group. You can just fill it.

Gayle Carline had this to say about her group. “I love being with this crew of writers.”
I can fill her motivation, can’t you? Most authors who are not rockstars in the industry need help with the costs in a large event like this.

Mystery Author Pam Ripling had a comment on Costs.
“… authors lose the opportunity to meet and market to one of the biggest gatherings of readers in America. Costs of exhibiting solo are also prohibitive for most independent authors, so it makes sense to share resources in a cooperative fashion. Murder, We Wrote is just such a co-op.

And on Sharing Space, she said,The MWW authors also come home with inspiration, ideas and knowledge they didn’t possess when they arrived.”

Teresa Burrell had this to say about one of her takeaways. “What I enjoy the most is seeing the same readers come back year after year to buy the next book in my series.”

Author Gayle Carline echoed that. “[This was] the opportunity to meet people.”

Learning Experience

One of the areas that we don’t read much about is the opportunity that a Festival affords authors to learn more about the other aspects of authorship besides writing their novel.

Mystery Writer Paul Marks had this to say about the experience.And since we all write different sub-genres of mystery it was good to have a booth where almost anyone interested in mystery could find something to enjoy. And it was good to see how the other writers work and promote their work.”

Watch and observe other authors. This can be a learning experience that can help build your audience.

Making the Sale

Terry Ambrose commented on group sales.All during the event, we were able to ask reader’s questions and then have the most appropriate author(s) talk to that person.”

Mystery Author Jim Stevens said this about closing the sale. “Finding that one phrase that 'clinches the sale' can be worth its weight in printed paper. I also met some TV and film people that bought my book; sure hope they like it.”

There were many authors and writing groups like Murder, We Wrote sharing their booth with writers.


  1. Qualify your visitors. Adjust your pitch. Make the sale.
  2. Group/Team efforts like Murder, We Wrote can be like a tag team match. Work together to make the sale.
  3. Try to make a connection. You can only do that if you quality your visitor. You never know who will visit your booth.
  4. Hand them something of value to refresh their memory later.
  5. This should be a learning experience. Soak it all in.
Final Thought
If you participate in Amazon’s KDP program or have giveaways to promote your books and your brand, consider giving away free ebooks at a festival.

You display your book with that great cover. You give the prospect your pitch. Then you close by handing them a flyer or other sales media with directions on where the free ebook can be downloaded.

Your focus is on building your brand and increasing your Amazon ranking and get some reviews.

Remember you are one on one with a reader. You are not fighting with hundreds of free book offers online. It is just a different focus.

Related Articles:

Free Books: Give it away. Just give it away.
Book Marketing, Desert Style: Tucson Festival of Books – 2013
Crime Fiction Collective


Terry Ambrose - Mysteries with character

The Snitch - Contests, recipes, and tips to stay ahead of the con
Photo Finish - A killer. A con. Island secrets uncovered.
License to Lie - Never trust a soul...even your own.

Facebook: suspense.writer
Twitter: @suspense_writer

Teresa Burrell

The Advocate Series

Gayle Carline
Humor Columnist, Mystery Author

Jenny Hilborne
Author of mysteries and psychological thrillers

Madness and Murder, No Alibi, Hide and Seek, Stone Cold
It's a twisted world we live in....

Paul Marks

Pam Ripling (Also writing as Anne Carter)

Visit me at Beacon Street Books

Jim Stevens

Follow me:

Or EMAIL at:
View my website: James Moushon – Mystery Writer
Or visit my blog: The eBook Author Corner
Take a look at my Author’s blog: HBS Author’s Spotlight
And the HBS Mystery Readers’s Circle

Check out the Jonathon Stone Mystery Novels:
Call Off The Dogs

Or newly released
Black Mountain Secrets


  1. Thanks for another great post, James! We at the Murder, We Wrote booth did indeed have goals, expectations, and lots of fun!

  2. Thank you, James, for posting about our group at the event. The LA Book Festival is fun for us every year. As well as the pleasure of meeting our readers, we look forward to seeing each other.

  3. thanks Terry and Jenny. it was fun putting it together. Terry made a good partner on this because he did most of the work. i wish i could have been there. i hope you connect on the radio and LA times gigs.


  4. Thanks, James, for a great piece on the LA Times Book Fest and including the Murder, We Wrote crew as part of it. It's reassuring to attend an event where people still enjoy books and the written word. -- Paul D. Marks

  5. Thank you, James! What a great article on how to have the best chance at success at any festival or convention where an author gets to meet potential readers.

  6. Thanks Cafe and Gayle for your comments. Your group and others like it are taking the right approach in getting in front of the reader. Sorry for the delay on this.