Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Flower in the Desert – the Tucson Festival of Books 2016

I look forward every year to visiting the Tucson Festival of Books in the spring where I can meet up with many outstanding authors. This was the eighth annual festival with another record attendance for the two day event.

Again I got to see many of my Spotlight authors. This year I met up with Kris Tualla in her Dreams Convention.com booth and J.A. Jance who has just released ‘Clawback’ which was showcased on the HBS Author’s Spotlight. Judith is a Tucson-based bestselling author and a graduate of the University of Arizona.

So here I am again to have some fun in the sun. This is my fourth Tucson Festival of Books and I had a mission. I’m not wearing my Mystery writer’s hat today. I am here as a Blogger to find out how my fellow authors are handling direct marketing.

Like previous festivals, my goal 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.

Author’s Goals

Like I have stated before, when an author attends an event like a book festival, they should have a set of goals going in like selling their books 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.

Observations – Sales Tools

Let me share what I observed while I made my way through the festival. Let’s start with the sales tools. I picked up a lot of literature and took a lot of pictures. Here is a good list of marketing items to consider for authors attending book events. I like to give credit to the top item in each category of sales item. This year there were so many good items in some of the groups I did not pick the top one.

Business Cards

The cards ranged from 4-color quality cards with cover pictures to computer stickers on cardboard to none at all. This year the business cards had better contact information, including email addresses. Authors are starting to loosen up on the email info. This year we had a great show for author business cards with everyone winning.


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. Again, this year we had a great show for bookmarks with everyone winning.


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. There were more flyers this year, with most having great sales messages.

Books Covers

There were lots of books with great covers. The authors were more than willing to sign a purchased copy. The displaying of the books was marked improvement over last year.

Post cards

Now we are getting into some great stuff. There were more 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 copy. I do have a top pick in this category. This book was presented by Kerstin Block and her daughter with great post cards and a unique pen as giveaways.
Spencer Block – The Way of the Buffalo

Book Displays

The same great quality was displayed here, with lots of cover blowups. It was hard to pick one here too but this display stood out. (See Teresa’s display in this post’s banner.)
Teresa Burrell – The Advocate’s Geocache

Top Author Booth

The booths were organized better this year with the numbering finally making sense. My booth pick had so many outstanding authors (about 15 at one sitting) I couldn’t list them all. Congrats to Kris Tualla for putting together such a great group of authors.

Best Presentation

The best presentation by an author this year was different than you would expect. Most of the authors had their pitch all ready for me. The top pick this year was not in a booth but in the food court. Yes that is not a typo. Andrea Ibanez, after spending Saturday signing books, was canvassing the food court giving away books at her website (aibanez@mail.com). After a quick qualify, a short pitch, she closed me with a simple business card which had the instructions for getting in on her book sale. Remember everyone is a prospect.
Andrea Elena Ibanez – A Dowitcher’s Dirge, Carolina Trilogy

Sponsor Tote Bags
More tote bags this year it seemed. Like I have said before, give the festival goers something of value and your swag will not wind up in the trash can. I spent some time talking to the winner in this category, (Sherry Monahan, Thomas Cobb, Johnny Boggs, Jon Chandler)


Like I have said before, I like confronting authors at their sales point. Talk about Heinz-variety. Some had long pitches, some had none.

A book festival is an on-the-spot sales opportunity. It is a chance to sell yourself to prospects and readers. To me, the most effective pitch was the short, quick one. A long pitch surely loses some sales opportunities.

Most of the authors qualified me. That is a key first step. They offered questions like this. Do you read Mysteries? Do you like Suspense? What type of books do you read?

Some authors jumped right into their sales pitch often wasting their time and mine. I call this the Robo-Call approach. They start telling their book’s story before they find out the visitor is not buying or doesn’t read their genre. You just want to hang up but you can’t.

One author in a signing booth was reading a book. When I approached her, I had to draw her attention away from her reading. No sale here.

There was a variety of people at the festival. You had readers. You had families. Lots of kids stuff. The bookstores tents where filled.

And then you had tire kickers. These were people who were there for a good time but were not buyers. They were there to ‘snag some swag’ as they say. Note: Tire Kickers sometimes buy books and a good impression will last.

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
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. Giveaways during the event could increase your Amazon rating.

Idea 2
Give your prospect something of value. 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 3
Name plates are still a problem. This year a penciled name on a white sheet was the primary ID vehicle. One observation: The authors did a better job displaying their books. A quick check of their displays, their name was easier to see though it might help to display the genre your writing in.

Face time with a prospect is very important. Have a name plate made up and place it on the table in front of you. This year I wore a name tag: James Moushon - Mystery Writer – HBS Authors Spotlight Blog.

Give the attendees more than a name. Readers looking for Mysteries will stop. Others would move on. Qualify. Qualify. Qualify.

HBS Author Spotlight Crew
Authors who had been interviewed at our blog were well represented at this year’s festival.

Teresa Burrell @teresaburrell
Jenny Hilborne @JFHilborne
Doug Hocking @HockingDoug
J.A. Jance @JAJance

Sadly a Great Day Must Come to an End

Finally, 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, showcase your books or help sell more of your books.

Coming Soon



Meet a group of outstanding Mystery Authors. This is Arizona's First Home Grown Reader Con for Mystery Fans. It is billed as Death and Deception in the Desert.

Starting June 3rd 2016 at the Embassy Suites Paradise Valley/Scottsdale through June 4th, 2016.

The Convention begins with a Friday Night Book Signing on June 3rd, 6:30pm-8:00pm.

The ARIZONA MYSTERY CON is a two day event.

Day One is Friday Night Book Signing. Meet the authors, purchase their books at the on-site bookstore, and get an autographed copy in an informal and casual atmosphere. Have a glass of wine with your favorite authors between 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm. (open to the public)

Saturday, Day Two is the ARIZONA MYSTERY CON. It includes:
·         Arizona's First Home Grown Reader Con for Mystery Fans
·         Six Saturday sessions and panels in various genres of crime & mystery
·         Free goody bags for all attendees
·         Saturday lunch with featured authors
·         Tickets $39

This post’s banner includes 4 of the outstanding authors signed up for AZ MysteryCon 2016.
Kris Tualla @kristualla
Shelly Coriell @ShelleyCoriell

Please direct any questions you have to Kris Tualla at ktualla@gmail.com

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Take a look at my Author’s blog: HBS Author’s Spotlight

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