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?

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