Saturday, March 17, 2018

Spring in the Desert – Tucson Festival of Books 2018

Spring is here and it’s time for the Tucson Festival of Books, 2018 style. This is a very special event where readers, onlookers and kids can meet with outstanding authors and have a good time. This was the tenth annual festival with another record attendance for the two day event.

Again, I got to see many of my Spotlight authors. This year started off talking with two of my favorites, C. Michael Bennis presenting his new release, Ralph's Place II (coming soon) and Sharon Skinner showing off her new release, Collars and Curses. 

Some of my old friends were there including Jeffrey J. Mariotte and Marsheila Rockwell from the Dreams Convention Group, the Amigos and Ladies of the West and the Murder, We Wrote writers and some new friends in the Mostly Books booth and the Brick Cave Books booth.

This is my sixth Tucson Festival of Books and again I had a mission. I am at the festival as a Blogger this weekend to find out how my fellow authors are handling direct marketing. I leave my Mystery writer’s hat at home.

As always, my goal is to talk to as many authors as I can, take a lot of pictures and to see how the authors are trying to market their books and themselves.

It was a nice, overcast weekend with a hint of rain in the air. I even considered taking an umbrella. Then I remembered what my papa told me one time. “Only a fool or a tourist would say it was going to rain here.” In the desert anyway.

Author’s Goals

An author should have a set of goals when they attend a book festival. Here are some of the goals that comes to mind.
1.      Sell your books directly to the attendees. Have that sales pitch ready.
2.      Get the reader/prospects to look further after they leave the festival. If you sparked their interest, they will check your books out online.
3.      Make an impression and maybe the reader/prospects will tell someone else about meeting you.

A book festival requires a different approach than a regular book signing at a bookstore. The fun continues at the Tucson Festival of Books. Lots of swag. Great entertainment. Wonderful weather.

As usually, I give the best materials a shout out for being the best of the best.

Observations – Sales Tools

Business Cards
There were lots of 4-color quality cards with cover pictures and much better contact information, including email addresses and internet links. This year there were many great author business cards. There were two that stood out with pictures, color and information.

Deena Remiel @deenaremiel – Book: Trinty
Jenn Windrow @jenmwindrow - Book: Pricked by Thorns

Almost all the bookmarks I reviewed had great presentations. Most of the bookmarks were high quality, done with covers pictures and contact information. In years past that was a problem. I saw several marks highlighting book series. A couple had 3D barcodes. My choices were:

Anna Questerly @AnnaQuesterly - Book: Basic Alchemy with Essential Oils / The Alchemist's Guild
Elise M. Stone @EliseMStone – Book: Double Pink Murder

Post cards
Cards are indeed getting better every year. They offer more space to have more and better information. Most of the post cards had copies of the author’s book covers and series. I did pick two in this category.

C. Michael Bennis @CMBennis - Book: Ralph's Place II – Spotlight Interview
Jim Stevens @JimStevensWritr - Book: The Case of the Dearly Departed – Spotlight Interview

Large Variety of Promotional materials
This year I added a new category. I asked for swag and boy did I get some. Teresa reached into her bag of swag and the items kept coming. She started with a paper hat on a stick highlighting a series, followed by several bookmarks, a pen and topped by a glass cleaning towel and a small bottle of hand sanitizer.

Teresa Burrell @teresaburrell – Book: The Advocate’s Illusion – Spotlight Interview

Best Presentation

The best presentation by an author this year was easy to pick again. Remember everyone is a prospect even a blogger roaming the festival.

Gail Ann Gibbs @gailanngibbs – Book: Sketches in the Air and They Called Me Dragon
She had a quick prospect presentation but her promotional materials were well organized including a bookmark, 2 postcards and festival special (all clipped together).

This Year’s Takeaway Ideas
Idea 1
Several authors were offering free or discounted ebooks to readers. Some were even giving free, autographed paper books. If done properly, giveaways during the event could increase your Amazon rating.

Idea 2
The authors did a great job displaying their books. A quick check of their displays, their name was easy to see. They still need to display their genre somewhere. If I’m a mystery reader, I probably waste my time at a Sci-Fi booth. Then again I might get a prospect interested in a new genre.

Idea 3
Most of the authors were wearing show name tags on strings. They were very difficult to read as they flopped around in the wind. Use a clip or something, please.

Name tags/plates are still a problem. There were not many name plates at all. Have a name plate made up and place it on the table in front of you. I wore my name tag: James Moushon - Mystery Writer – Blogger.

Finally, a Great Time in the Desert Comes to an End

Authors need to have a plan to get the most bang for their buck. You need to focus on what sells your books:
Have marketing materials with great cover pics and contact information.
Qualify your prospects quickly and then give them a short, quality presentation.

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