Sunday, September 28, 2014

How To Sell Books And Grow Your Writing Career- Exhibit At Art & Wine Festivals

If you're a writer and you want to get some attention for your books, there is simply no better way than exhibiting at a popular art & wine festival. Specialty book festivals like the L.A. Times Festival of Books or the Tucson Festival of Books are good, but you are competing for readers' attention with 650 other authors. Much better to be the only author at an Art & Wine Festival. Thousands of people attend these things, and the readers will notice you and remember you. 

This is the Mountain View Art & Wine Festival where I recently exhibited.
The crowd was huge, and people were buying books! 

Yes, it is expensive to get a tent ($200) and banner ($100) and pay the entry fee ($250). But I know authors who spent $6000 on a publicist and got a few radio interviews, a newspaper column, and no book sales that they could attribute to the expense. Are publicists bad? Of course not. Many are good, and many produce good results. But if you want serious results for nowhere near as many dollars, getting in front of readers at a festival can't be beat.

This is my display tent, a 10' X 10' EZup tent. You can get cheaper versions at Costco.

You will sell books at a festival. How many depends on many factors like whether or not you have professional covers, whether or not you smile and are friendly, whether or not you have just one book or an entire series, whether or not you have some free handouts like color postcards that advertise your books, whether or not your books are available cheap on Kindle. (While many people buy paper copies, many people also take my card and order them on Kindle. I know because I can see the bump in Kindle sales starting the very first night of the festival.)

You can get your books in front of more people at a popular festival than any other way.

The bottom line is that you will sell books because lots of people simply love to meet authors and support their books! (Yes, you will also notice that hundreds of people won't even notice your tent. Those are the people who don't read. But the addicted readers will absolutely stop and check you out.)

I have a 10-foot-long colored banner and a few smaller banners with review quotes.
I have a tablecloth on a cheap folding table from Costco,
and I put my books on wire stands that you can buy from Amazon.
I get cheap, over-sized postcards from Vistaprint with my book covers printed on them.
Hundreds of people take them. Often, they look my books up on Amazon and buy them for their Kindle

Will you make expenses and lots of money on top of that? Not at the beginning. I certainly didn't. But unlike paying for advertising or a publicist, at a festival you will absolutely find people who will buy and try your book/books. If your book isn't very exciting or professional, they won't spread the word. But if you have a top-quality book, your rep and cred will grow, and your career will expand. 

The thousands of dollars that you might otherwise spend on publicity will get you an entire season of weekend shows including hotel costs. Compared to investing in any other business, it costs very little to do a summer's worth of festivals and get yourself out there in front of hundreds of thousands of readers.

I've been selling books since 2001. From my experience I am confident about what are the best things you can do to jump-start your writing career.

First: Write some great books that make people email their friends and rave as soon as they turn the last page. If you don't do this, you will have a serious uphill battle. But if you do this, you've done the most important thing of all.

Second: Get out into the crowds and show people your books. And the single most effective way to do that is to exhibit at art & wine festivals. I've done them for years. My audience is now large enough that I could quit doing festivals and just focus on writing. But I won't because they are simply too effective at finding readers. 

Go for it. If you don't know how to scrape up the money, skip your annual vacation or eating out for a year. You put an enormous amount of time into writing your book. Now invest in your writing career. What have you got to lose?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Up, Up, And Away - Ballooning At Lake Tahoe

When I was a kid, the 5th Dimension had a huge hit with the Jimmy Webb song Up, Up, And Away. It was about hot air ballooning, and it fueled fantasies about what it would be like to go up in a balloon.

Years later, ballooning became popular, and you can now do it all over the country. 

But where might be the most beautiful place to go ballooning? Tahoe ain't a bad candidate...

The balloon takes off from a large boat.

You can hear the whoosh of the burner, which heats the air and makes the balloon rise up.

By controlling the altitude, the pilot can take advantage of the onshore and offshore breezes and go over the land or come back over the water.

When the pilot turns off the burner, the balloon is completely silent. Gradually, the air in the balloon cools, which makes it contract, and the balloon loses some of its buoyancy. The balloon slowly drops down toward the lake.

For thrills, the pilot brings the balloon right down to kiss the water. Then, with a blast of the burner, the balloon rises back up. Eventually, the pilot brings the balloon back down, and the mother-ship boat comes underneath it for landing.
If you are interested in one of life's great experiences, here's the link to our local ballooning company.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Lunch At Emerald Bay!

Most Tahoe locals have this experience. We go through our weeks working, working, working. And every time we see the mountains or lake we think that we never get enough time to enjoy this amazing place. We're sometimes envious of tourists who manage to take an entire block of time to experience Tahoe. (Of course, we could do that, too, but like most people, we usually go somewhere else on vacation.)

The problem in enjoying Tahoe is that we tend to think that, as with tourists, to really enjoy hiking or skiing or boating requires a day or six off, and how are we going to do that?

So it was a real gift when our friends Alice and Gary called us up and asked us to have lunch at Emerald Bay.

They weren't inviting us for something that required an entire day or more. Just lunch. Wow, what a concept.

So we made sandwiches and jumped into their speedboat. Tahoe is a big place, and many boaters talk about how long it takes to get across the water. But at 45 knots, you can get from the Tahoe Keys to Emerald Bay in just a few minutes.

Here, we're approaching the entrance to Emerald Bay.

Mt.  Tallac is behind us to the left.

Maggie's Peaks are up at the head of Emerald Bay. The gray triangle is the Rock Slide
where part of the mountain slid down to the bay back in 1955. 

Our hosts found a perfect cove to drop anchor.

The moment we pulled out our sandwiches, this girl showed up, hoping for a treat, which,
in accordance with best wildlife management science, we denied her. Sorry, girl!

When lunch was over, it was a fast trip to the South Shore and back to work!

Thanks to Gary and Alice for a world-class lunch!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Is This The Coolest School In Tahoe?

As kids get ready to head back to school, parents sometimes wonder if there is a better way to get them motivated, interested, or even - dare I say it? - excited about school.

Located in Kings Beach on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe is a school that I guarantee will do all of the above for your kids.

It's called the Tahoe Expedition Academy, and it's open to kids from preK through high school. TEA features all the best of many good schools, but it adds a fantastic range of experiential learning, especially through outdoor activities. 

TEA has small student-to-teacher ratios, and it gives those students many ways to learn through "doing." There isn't anything inherently wrong with sitting in a classroom listening and watching. But when your kid participates in fun activities that are designed to be instructional and not just playtime, their interest soars.

TEA addresses all aspects of your kid's learning experience, even including good nutrition. 

It isn't cheap, around $13,000 for annual tuition. This is always a major barrier for many kids who might benefit from a private school, especially one in a spectacular environment. However, TEA does have some scholarship money available. 

(I encourage parents without much financial means to think creatively regarding raising money for tuition. You may be able to get a low-cost loan. Better yet, you may be able to put together a fundraising presentation and approach potential donors. For example, I know people who would consider funding the education for a relative's child or a friend's child if only the family demonstrated the child's need, ambition, hunger for education etc. and combined it with obvious frugal habits. Few things dampen a potential patron's generosity like seeing the people asking for help eat out in restaurants, drive new cars, buy fancy clothes and spend money in non-frugal ways. In fact, simply foregoing these kinds of unnecessary expenditures might save more than enough to pay the tuition.)

Like any great experience, it requires some planning. The application deadline is May 1st for attendance the following fall. If you'd like to consider the Tahoe Expedition Academy for your child next year, you have eight months to make plans before you have to apply. (Although you may want to apply early.)

Click through to the TEA website and spend some time exploring.

Here is their TEA FAQ page.