Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Harvest Festival: Authors, What Are You Waiting For?

In the world of books, authors struggle to score a booksigning event. If they are lucky - there is a good crowd and the author is in good form - then he or she often sells just ten books. I know, because I've been there many, many times. Yes, I've had signings where I sold much more. I once sold 110 books at the Borders in Carson City. But I also once had a signing where I sold just one book. Ouch.

Then there is the world of festivals. No one goes to a festival to buy books. But thousands of people go, and some of them read books or have family and friends who are readers. Festival goers need presents for those on their gift list.

Here's the line waiting outside before the Sac Harvest Festival opened!
Unbelievable. The tickets aren't cheap, either.

The king of festivals may be the Harvest Festivals. There are nine of them and they are held in Northern and Southern California. They pack in the crowd. This year, I was able to fit in two of them, Sacramento and San Jose. I sold 174 books in Sacramento and 175 books in San Jose. Sweet. And during some of the past Harvest Festivals, I've done even better, as much as 193 books. And that doesn't count the hundreds of people who took my postcards and went home to (Hopefully!) download my books on their Kindle. 

Double sweet.

This is my booth. Nothing fancy.
A table, a banner, some signs, postcards, and books.
Because I was the only novelist (there was a woman with a cookbook),
every reader in the place stopped by. Some bought books.
Others pulled out their phones and got the Kindle version on the spot. 

Hey authors, I'm giving you the inside scoop, here. You simply won't find a better way to move books.

Is it expensive? Yes. Does it involve a big time commitment? Yes. Do you have to haul a lot of stuff to set up a booth and stock it with books? Yes. Is there any other way to sell more books in three days? Pretty much nope. And even though you won't make a profit in the beginning (Did you when you sold ten books at the bookstore? Or when you hired the publicist? Or when you placed that ad?), you will grow your audience, which will grow your career, which will eventually make you money.

Every aisle was crowded for most of three days.

Is there any other benefit to taking on such an exhibit? Yes. A decent number of people will go home and read the book they bought and then order all the rest of your backlist. (You do have a backlist, right? Or, if not, you are working on a backlist, right? Of course you are.) A decent number of people may be so charmed by your book's fantastic cover and your winning charisma that they decide to buy books for everyone on their gift list. Or include your book card with the Kindles they are buying for presents.

Want to read more? Here's another post about festivals.   And here is another.

P.S. Is there any reason you shouldn't exhibit your books at festivals?
Yes, if any of the following apply:
*You only have one or two books and no plans to quickly expand your offerings. 
*Your books aren't in a series or don't have some other obvious cohesion among them. i.e., when someone loves one of your books, they'll automatically buy the rest... if they're in a series. If no series, they won't assume they're going to like your other books.
*Your covers only look great to you.
*Your books have not yet gotten great reviews on Amazon (where everyone checks).
*You don't believe you can be charming, smiling, engaging, and positive.
*You don't have a compelling pitch that convinces readers that you have compelling books.

If you don't fit the exclusions above, go for it! You might find the experience to be the single best way to find new readers!


  1. Hi Todd. I just read your post on Molly Green's blog. Do you have a cover artist who you recommend? Thanks for your great article about writing and Indie publishing.

    1. Hi - My first response is below. I can't find your email address, but there is a contact link on Keith's website, so you won't have any problem.

      Good luck,


  2. Hi Roughwighting1,

    Thanks for your interest! Yes, my cover artist is Keith Carlson, a graphic artist in Portland, Oregon. He's a great artist and a great guy. He's very creative and easy to work with, too!
    Here's his website:
    I'll email you his email address.