Monday, March 16, 2015

Desert Delight – The Tucson Festival of Books 2015

Another Tucson Festival of Books with thousands of book enthusiasts and outstanding authors gathered in the sun this last weekend. This was the seventh annual festival with the estimated attendance over 130,000 and 250 authors. The TFOB is now the third largest book festival in the country.

I got to see many of my friends and Spotlight authors and make some new friends. This year I met up with J.A. Jance. Judith’s interview and book releases/promos have been featured many times on my HBS Author’s Spotlight Blog.

Judith is a Tucson-based bestselling author and a graduate of the University of Arizona (Festival host). She has been very instrumental in the success of this book event. Her novel ‘Cold Betrayal’ was released this week and showcased on the HBS Author’s Spotlight. It is her 50th full-length mystery.

So let’s have some fun in the sun. This is my third Festival and I have a mission.

My mission is to talk to as many authors as I can, take some pictures and to see how the authors are trying to market their books and themselves. I did my homework this year. My ‘must see list’ had over 50 booths.

The first booth I came to had one of my Spotlight authors, Rebecca Dahlke. She was joined by D. R. Ransdell and Lala Corriere.

Author’s Goals

A Book festival presents a unique selling situation. In this event, you have thousands of people with lots of authors trying to gain their attention. You must have a set of goals and a game plan right up front. Here is a short list of possible goals.

  1. Sell your book on-sight – requires a sale process in place
  2. Talk with the readers/prospects and have something to say
  3. Spark their interest enough to check your books out on-line
  4. Arouse visitor interest enough to tell someone else about meeting you
  5. Many more….

A book festival definitely requires a different approach than a regular book signing at a bookstore.

Observations – Sales Tools

I am always interested in an Author’s sales literature. To many authors, this is a major expense. They must do it right. And each year there is always something new.

I like to give credit to the top items in each category of sales items. Here is a list of my criteria I use to judge if the author is getting enough bang for their buck.

Good features

Clear Author’s Name
Contact information
Cover - 4 color-process
Stars and brief review clips
Use front and back of media

Bad criteria

Bad color contrast
Same copy on both sides
Blank backside

New item
I am starting to see more matrix barcodes on literature to accommodate our electronic age.

Matrix (2D) barcodes – more data for the space

Business Cards

The business cards ranged from 4-color quality cards with cover pictures to stock business cards to none at all. My top picks of all the cards I reviewed were:

Alan Black - Empty Space
Shelley Young - Plain Dealing


Most of the bookmarks met my basic criteria although some were difficult to read. Most of the bookmarks were professionally done with covers, review snips and contact information. I had several in my little bookmark contest that stood out.

Sharon HamiltonSeal’s Promise
Morgan Kearns - Hard Break 
Lynn RushCryostrom

Post cards

The authors this year had their act together with this sales piece. Most of the post cards had copies of the author’s book covers. All the authors who had them had professional jobs done. My top picks for this item are:
Rhys BowenThe Edge of Dreams
Robin Mahle - Law of Five   (Spotlight Interview)
D.R. RansdellMariachi Murder

Book Displays

The same great quality was displayed here, many with cover blowups. It was hard to pick this category. These stood out.

Terry Ambrose - Big Island Blues   (Spotlight Interview)
Sabrina DevonshireCzech Mate
Leslie Kohler - Disposable Lives
Camelia Miron Skiba - Me Tarzan-You Jane

This year I added some new Spotlight award categories.

CD award

Kris had a CD prepared with excerpts from her novels and some other information. Look for more of this in the future as digital works continue to expand.

Kris Tualla - Loving the Norseman

Button award

Erin had a nice 4-color button with a cover with her name and web address.

Erin QuinnThree Fates of Ryan Love

Group Hug

Western Writers of America’s booth featured four authors dressed in unique western outfits fitting their genre to a tee. The booth banner announced the Three Amigos and a Lady.

Doug Hocking - Mystery of Chaco Canyon
Bill Markley - Deadwood Dead Men
Miles Swarthout - The Last Shootist

Unique Stories
Well here I am making my rounds and checking my author planning list. As I approached the next author table, I did a double take. I had two female writers next on my list. I must have surely made a mistake. Standing there were two males talking to visitors. After a quick list check I approached the table. The two authors were away and their husbands where manning the store. A note for authors: Have a backup plan.

Leslie Jones - Night Hush
Shelley CoriellThe Broken

Another story: A great thing to see. Natalie had her kids in her booth. What a great experience for them. 

Natalie Wright - H.A.L.F.: The Deep Beneath


Like I have said before, I like confronting authors at their sales.

A book festival is an on-the-spot sales opportunity. An author gets to sell himself. To me, the most effective pitch was the short, quick one, after qualifying the prospect.

Some authors saw a live one and jumped right into their sales pitch.

Most of the authors qualified me this year. They offered questions like this. Do you read Mysteries? Do you like Suspense? What type of books do you read? They even knew what a blogger was this year.

There was a large variety of people at the festival again this year.

You had readers. You know people that love to read. The bookstores tents were over flowing with them.

You had tire kickers. These were people who were there for a good time but were not buyers. Note: Tire Kickers sometimes buy books and a good impression will last, if you give them something to remember you, like good sales literature. “Check me out on-line” would be good parting words.

Authors needed to work the prospects. Talk to them. Hand them a copy of your literature. “Here take a look.” You never know.

With this many people walking by; the authors that do nothing at the point-of-sale will get the same thing in return.

My Takeaway Ideas

Idea 1
I always check the trash cans for sales literature. Again like last year they were filled with author’s literature and plastic bags. They didn’t get the message.

Give your prospect something of value. Something they won’t throw away. Not expensive stuff. Maybe a pin with your book title, your name and web address or twitter tag. This year I saw collectables, dog tags, light bulbs, bracelets and tote bags to list a few. All the items had a way to contact the author after they left the event.

Idea 2
Like I have said before, a book festival is a perfect place to offer free or discounted ebooks to readers. I had several authors mention they were running a promo. (This could use some signage or some literature to hand the visitor.)

Idea 3
J.A. Jance made the Tucson Festival of Books part of her book launch for ‘Cold Betrayal’. She released here book on 3/10/2015 and four days later she was selling and autographing copies at the festival. Maybe an idea for the next festival or another event.

Idea 4
Name plates are still a problem. This year a penciled name on a white sheet was the primary ID vehicle again. 

Face time with a prospect is very important. Have a name plate made up and placed on the table beside you. Something like: Mystery Writer - James Moushon – the Jonathon Stone Mysteries.
(Same idea as last year. Notice the visitor qualifying by listing the genre.)

A Book Lover’s Dream

Another beautiful day in Tucson. Lots of Sun. Lots of Food. Lots of Writers. Lots of Readers. Lots of Fun.

To authors: ‘Qualify’ is the key in your sales effort at the festival.

Remember, the person who approaches you may be a reader/buyer or a tire kicker or maybe someone who will write an article about you for their Internet blog.

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  1. HI James, as always, a pleasure to see you at our Tucson Chapter of Sisters in Crime booth at TUFB, and thanks for the picture of us gals. It was a fun, but exhausting event!

    1. Hi, James. Wow! Thanks! I am tickled pink by this reward! Thank you so much. It means a lot. I'm not taking it for granted. I have told friends and my clients of your diligence and coverage of the TFOB. Lots of good stuff you mentioned. I am sending as many as I can to this link to learn what's successful when attending a book festival. Love it! Thanks again! !!

    2. Thanks Rebecca. Let me know when you have a new release.

  2. I am not an author, but as a librarian who has attended many conventions where authors are presenting their books in a booth setting, I loved your ideas and agreed with all of them! Just having some authors I love represented along with these ideas, makes me want to check out the smart people who used them.

  3. Hi James, it was a pleasure to see you! I'm delighted you had a chance to stop by and thanks for the mention! Terry

    1. Thanks Terry. Keep up the great writing. I hope you had a great show.

  4. Hi James, I didn't make the festival this year, but we met in 2014 and you liked my postcards with the free book coupon. And even now, I'm late to the show..however I have a new release coming up June 25th from Gemma Halliday Publishing, book #3 of the Lella York's series. Guess what? Takes place in Arizona. Murder Under The Desert Moon. Then in July my #5 Mina's adventure is due out, can I entice you to mention at least one of the books???? Can I? If you can't I won't hold it against you. Mille grazie, ciao