Sunday, August 5, 2012
A Case for Book Festivals
You know, you would think that it being summer that there would be a plethora of events where one could sell their book. However, sadly, at least in the Northeast, that doesn't seem to be the case. I haven't had any significant events since May. While I love the opportunity to get out there and promoting my work, this downtime is the perfect time to write. No school, so I'm not busy teaching all day, and no festivals or fairs where I would be welcome as a vendor or an author, so I have been pounding away at the keyboard, finishing the first draft what will eventually become the fourth novel in my High School Heroes series. For you writers out there, you know how it feels to be able to sit down at your computer uninterrupted for a few hours and come out of it with an additional 4,000 - 5,000 words into your manuscript.
That being said, I'm gearing up for the fall where I will have several events, and the launch of the third book in my High School Heroes series, not to mention the birth of my son, which should happen somewhere around Thanksgiving. So, a busy fall lays ahead.
So, besides online, there are plenty of places where an author can sell his or her book in the fall, which seems to be (at least for me) the busiest season for book promotion.
There are a plethora of Book Fairs and Festivals that an author can attend, either as a vendor (which is what they call you if you pay for a table) or as a featured author. The featured author spots can be tough to get at some of these shows, because as you can well imagine, they only have a certain amount of spots and a lot of competition to fill them. What I will usually do is apply to get a featured author position (of which I have only gotten at 2 festivals thus far) and then as soon as I find out if I got the spot or not, I will grab a vendor table.
Now, not all book festivals are created equally. I have quite literally been to some book festivals where I could count on my fingers the amount of people who stopped by my table. On that same note, I have also been to book festivals where it was so busy that I couldn't sit in my seat I had so many people coming to my table. Needless to say, the very low attending ones, I have not returned to. But the point is, what you need to do is research.
Before you book an event (especially if you are going to have to do some traveling for that event) find out what the projected at the festival. I have found that the people who run the festival will be more than happy to give you all the details you ask for.
Once you find out whether the attendance at the festival is worth your time, then you have to figure out whether or not the cost is worth it. You have to take into account travel expenses, as well as the potential cost of the table. For example, the Collingswood Book Festival is held in Collingswood, NJ, about a 2 - 2 1/2 hour drive from my home in Maryland. It makes a very nice day trip for my wife and I since it is only a 1 day festival. Plus the table at this book festival is also only $25 (they don't have featured authors at this particular festival). So, because it is relatively near my home, and because the table is cheap, I have a good chance of at least making my money back, which I have in the two years I have gone so far. On the flip side, there is the South Carolina Book Festival, which the last time I looked cost $300+ for the table (if you are not selected as a featured author). Plus that would be a 7 - 8 hour drive, plus it is a multi-day festival, so I would need to get a hotel as well for at least 1 night. Add all that up and there is very little chance of me making my money back.
And that leads me to another point. Now, the Collingwood Book Festival boasts that they have approximately 6,000 people walk through the festival each year, so assuming that every one of them walks passed your table, that means you have 6,000 potential customers. However, the South Carolina Book Festival also says they have 6,000 people attending their festival. So, the question is now, why would I pay all that money to get my book in front of the same amount of people. However, there are festivals that can get as many as 10,000 people, so getting my work out in front of about 60% more people might be worth the extra expense.
Lastly, you have to consider your reason for going to these festivals. I will admit that for some of them, I am there to make money, which is ultimately our goal in this business. However, for others, especially those that I know I have no chance of reclaiming the funds to which I have spent, I am simply there to promote. I have found that though I cannot sell my ebooks at these festivals (at least, I haven't figured out a logical way yet) after I attend one of these festivals and get my book in some people's faces, my sales go up about 10%. This isn't a very big amount, however anything that can my book in more people's hands is a worthwhile endeavor. So, as I said, consider what your goal is at the festivals.
Below you will find a link for a list of good book festivals compiled by BookTV.org. This is a list of reputable book festivals. The list (as of the time I am writing this) has only about a dozen festivals on it. The list will update again as the Spring 2013 Book Festivals dates are set. Take a look at some of them, and if you're not ready to go as an author, check out one in your area and see what they're all about.
The one thing I can promise is that you will have a lot of fun, especially when that first customer comes and starts asking you intelligent questions about your book.
BookTV.org - List of Book Festivals