Monday, March 17, 2014

Fun In The Sun – the Tucson Festival of Books 2014

I love this book festival: A weekend in Tucson, Arizona in the spring with the sun shining bright. You get to meet so many interesting authors. This was the sixth annual festival with the attendance over 120,000 for the two days. The TFOB is now the fourth largest book festival in the country.

I usually judge how big an event is by how far I have to walk after I park. This year I had to park two blocks farther than last year.

This year my goal was to talk to as many authors as I could, take some pictures and to see how the authors were trying to sell their books and themselves. Lots of authors. Lots of books. Lots of food.

There were over 300 booths. I was told that about 20% of the authors were in the Romance and Mystery genre.

One of the first booths I came upon had two of my Spotlight authors, R.P. Dahlke and Mystery writer Terry Ambrose. That was the start of a great day.

Author’s Goals

When an author attends an event like a book festival, they should have a set of goals going in like selling their book AND getting the reader/prospects to look further after they leave. If you sparked their interest, they will check your books out online. They may even tell someone else about meeting you.

A book festival requires a different approach than a regular book signing at a bookstore, to be sure.

Observations – Sales Tools

Let me share what I observed while I made my way through the throng, talking to the various authors. Let’s start with the sales tools. I picked up a lot of literature this year. I like to give credit to the top items in each category of sales items. This should be a good list of sale items to consider for authors attending book events.

Business Cards

The cards ranged from 4-color quality cards with cover pictures to computer stickers on cardboard to none at all. One author said he had none (In fact he had no sales lit at all). My top pick of all the cards I received was from:


Last year there were some bookmarks without contact information. This year everyone I reviewed had some way to contact the author. Most of the bookmarks were professionally done with covers, review snips and contact information. I had a tie in my little contest on this one:

Post cards

Great Post Cards this year. Most of the post cards had copies of the author’s book covers. All the authors who had them had done professional jobs. My top picks came out in a three way tie:
Terry Ambrose – Con Game (available in April)


I saw several flyers on colored stock. This was something that I thought I would see more of. There is so much area (letter size) to get your message across. Besides, the cost factor is a plus. My top pick here was:


There were lots of books with great covers. The authors were more than willing to sign a purchased copy. Two authors even gave me a signed copy of their book after I introduced myself. Thanks so much.

Book Displays

The same great quality was displayed here, also with cover blowups. It was hard to pick one here too. These stood out.

Promo eBooks

 Before the event, there were two authors that I was aware of that were running promos during the event. Both for 99 cents.
R.P. Dahlke – Murderous Beginnings Boxed Set - 5 complete mystery thrillers from 5 outstanding authors


I like confronting authors at their sales point. I talked to a lot of authors with mixed responses. Some had long pitches, some had none.

As you know, a book festival is more than a book signing. It is an on-the-spot sales opportunity. But more than that, it is a chance to sell youself. To me, the most effective pitch was the short, quick one. A long pitch surely lost some sales opportunities with that many readers in one area.

One of my observations was that most of the authors qualified me, unlike last year. They offered questions like this. Do you read Mysteries? Do you like Suspense? What type of books do you read?

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

There was a variety of people at the festival. You had readers. You know people that love to read. The bookstores tents where filled with them.

And then 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.

Like I have said before, there was a lot of foot traffic and the authors needed to work the prospects. Talk to them. Socialize with everyone. Hand them a copy of a book or literature. Here take a look? You never know.

My Takeaway Ideas

Idea 1
The trash cans are always a key to me about sales literature. Like last year they were filled with author’s literature and plastic bags.

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. How about a pad of paper, hotel type, with your book title, your name and contact information?

Idea 2
A book festival is a perfect place to offer free or discounted ebooks to reader. If you are going to run a promo during the festival, why not give the attendees a shot at it. If they like your work, they will buy your other books.

I think authors should approach events like this with a marketing plan like they do with a book launch or a blog tour. Have readers seeking you out rather than just stumbling onto you.

Idea 3
Name plates are still a problem but they are improving. An author shift change in a booth is always a busy time: swapping books, literature and name identification. This year a penciled name on a white sheet was the primary ID vehicle. 

Face time with a prospect is very important. Have a name plate made up and place it on the table beside you. Something like: Mystery Writer - James Moushon – the Jonathon Stone Mysteries.

Give your readers/prospects more than a name. Readers looking for Mysteries will stop. Others would move on. Qualify. Qualify. Qualify.

And Then the Beautiful Day Was Over

Here is a parting word for authors. You never know who you’ll meet at the show and what that relationship will mean to you. The passerby could be a buyer, a tire kicker or they just may be someone who will write an article about you for a magazine or the Internet.


Related Articles:

Your Book Launch: Marketing Methods and Ideas Used by Outstanding Authors – A Study
Getting Book Reviews: The Methods Award-Winning Authors Use – A Study

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  2. Dear James, thank you for mentioning my postcard, however, it is more than a postcard, it has a code for a free e-book. By the way, I was part of 2 boxed sets, the Murderous Beginnings and Mystery Spring Fling. The second one made the top 100 overall on last night so I am now officially a national bestselling author!!! Yes!

  3. Maria:

    Congrats. I wrote a post on 3/12/14 on Murderous Beginnings.