Why should authors participate in book festivals?
by Bill Ramsey
If a book is to sell, the author needs to effectively promote it. The question is how and where to do it. Do you hit the road and make individual appearances at book stores and libraries? Even a well recognized author may find ten people in the audience and sell only a couple of books. Some of those attending an individual signing may know the author's work and have already read it. They come to simply meet in person.
The disappointed author may have driven many miles and spent money on food and a motel. The host of the book-signing event offers all the usual excuses. "We don't know why people did not show up. We had a poster on the bulletin board for weeks and told lots of people about your coming."
There is an alternative to individual book-signing tours. Major book festivals where many authors gather are that alternative. Usually hosted by a non-profit group, this is their only event each year. The volunteer organizers work diligently to create, promote and conduct a program that will draw hundreds of interested visitors. After a few years, the event becomes one that is anticipated by the readers in the region. Many travel considerable distances to hear presentations from authors they know and those they seek to know.
Should an author participate in a book festival and share the large stage with dozens of other authors? Perhaps a shared stage is better than a tiny, empty one. Authors at a major book festival will meet more than readers. Editors, reviewers, publishers and other authors make it an enriching experience. Authors can attend presentations on a variety of things they need to learn like marketing, e-books trends and the effective use of industry professionals. Also, with hundreds of readers in attendance, more copies of one's book may be sold.
We would like to share one important caveat. Even at a book festival, an author may not sell as many copies as they would like. Here are some ways to improve your festival sale results. Make your table interesting with a small poster, business cards, some photos and other items that visually draw people in and begin to let them know you and what you write about. Engage the visitors as they walk past your signing table. Have a compelling twenty second answer to the most common question asked by festival visitors. "What is your book about?"
Here is a word of caution for those that may see a book festival as a panacea for selling books. With a difficult economy, some visitors will buy no books at the festival. They have candidly told us why in their event evaluation forms. Some explain they came to meet authors of books they had already bought and read. Others say they come to get to know the authors and then "buy the new or used printed book online because it is cheaper." Some will later buy a copy for their e-reader. Still others share one copy of a book with many friends or borrow it from the library. Not signing and selling lots of books on the day of the festival does not suggest that it was a waste of the author's time. Books are often "sold" at the festival that may not be purchased until later.
All the best from your friends at the 4th annual Blue Ridge Bookfest coming May 18 and 19, 2012 to the Blue Ridge Community College campus in Flat Rock/ Hendersonville, North Carolina. Visit our website www.BlueRIdgeBookfest.org and sign-up for our content rich newsletter while there.
Note: Sorry but our 2012 program schedule is completely full. We are already accepting consideration requests from authors for the May 18, 19 2013 event. Please click on the "Contact Us" tab on our website.