Recap and marketing lessons from TFOB 2017
Although you’d be hard-pressed to prove it just yet, I am striving to post much more regularly this year. Yep – get ready for … well, if not an onslaught, at least a lot more posts than you’ve been seeing over the past 18 months. It’s time – and I’m ready. I’m learning lots every day, and want to share what I’m learning so you can be a be smarter author/marketer.
Toward the learning, I’ve spent the last three weekends in education mode – the first at the Arizona Authors’ Association “Crafting the Written Word” Conference. The following weekend found me in Tucson at the inaugural Tucson Self-Publishing Expo. And this past weekend, I made another jaunt down to Wildcat territory for the Tucson Festival of Books.
I’m starting chronologically backwards in my sharing because I promised some people I’d email them when I got this post up, so I want to get to that first.
I don’t know what kind of relationship you have with your phone, but mine is something of a casual friendship. I don’t have it on me 24/7 like a lot of people. I often have the ringer volume low or off. I’m just not as attached to Neari (you know, kind of like Siri) as some people are to their smartphones. Which is, no doubt, how I could get to the rest stop just outside Casa Grande, Ariz. before realizing I had left my phone at home in Phoenix. Ah, it took me back to the good old days when I prayed I would get there without any trouble and that my husband would see my phone on my dresser and not worry when I didn’t call or answer his texts throughout the day. (He didn’t.)
The worst part about not having my phone with me was not knowing the time – so I stopped at a truck stop and bought a very cute watch that I’ll probably never wear again. The second worst thing was being without my camera. Especially at an event like the TFOB, where there were plenty of things I wanted to remember with pictures. Thanks to the kindness of my friend Rita Goldner, award-winning author of ORANGUTAN: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy, who lent me her Canon Power Shot camera (remember the days when phones and cameras were two different devices?), I was able to capture images of the many booths and authors featured below.
Although they didn’t have a booth to themselves, Amylynn Bright and her sister Ava Bright (together, The Quill Sisters) had a gorgeous table in the Romance tent.
In the same tent, Anne Marie Becker also had a beautiful table. Someone taught those romance authors a thing about display design!
Best-selling author Cathy McDavid had a creative marketing idea – a blind date with a book. Anyone who bought one of her many cowboy romances would win a secret book – wrapped in plain tissue paper. Cathy says she can’t take credit for the idea – she borrowed it from someone else. It’s clever nonetheless.
Dr. Deborah Westbury had one of the most beautiful booth displays I saw at the entire event. She credited her friend (the blonde gal whose left arm is visible in the bottom left quadrant of the picture, behind the woman with her hand on the poster) with the design.
The first thing you saw upon approaching Elaine A. Powers’ booth were the lizard feet.
Known as the “lizard lady,” Powers writes children’s books about lizards and reptiles. Her display was eye-catching, though she did have the benefit of lots of open space next to her.
College pals (Go, Wildcats!) and authors Jay J. Falconer and M.L. Banner caught my attention with their cleverly worded banner title: AUTHORS OF DOOM, GLOOM AND BOOM! They had an excellent display, using the booth well to accommodate both authors’ books.
They also employed an interesting marketing idea, Lexy the sleuthy-looking mannequin, to entice buyers into a free book giveaway.
Lastly, M.L. Banner knows how to work a website. Whether or not you want to download his free books, visit his site to take a look at an excellent free membership enticement every author could learn from.
Fantasy author Jessica C. Feinberg knows her audience: dragon lovers. She designed her booth to capture their attention and imagination with cleverly worded signs and dragons in every corner. Even the dad accompanying these boys was entranced.
Jody Mackey also knows whose attention she’s looking to catch with her pink tulle, flowers, and all things little girls. Her Sally Loves… books are gorgeously designed – as is her fantastic website. I think that must have been the father of a daughter, don’t you?
Another stunning booth was Natalie Wright’s – complete with aliens and celestial-themed decos. She covered every corner of her booth – even making great use of the ceiling space!
Some booths used their exterior and interior wall space creatively to attract attention. The UA College of Behavioral Sciences put up a chalkboard (remember those?) that asked the question, “What would you title your story?” Bet they had a field day with those answers!
The Literacy Connects organization took advantage of the festival’s proximity to March Madness to create their own bracket, this one for iconic authors. Players chose their favorites, who were moved along through the brackets as the Festival continued.
And the Tucson Chapter of the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation put a clever twist on things by posting the signatures of famous authors on the exterior wall of their booth. Again, it helps to have an open exterior wall or extra booth space. Those authors/groups with smaller spaces had to become even more imaginative.
A big hit at last year’s LA Times Festival of Books was a “wheel of fortune” giveaway at one of the booths. And I mean BIG hit – every time I walked past that booth, people were waiting 20 deep to spin the wheel and win something – anything, it seemed. Well, the good news is that Tucson Electric Power copied the idea to great success this year at the TFOB. The bad news is that they weren’t the only one employing it, by far. I lost count after seeing a half-dozen different booths offering their own smaller, lesser versions of the WOF. Hint for next year: get a new idea.
Strangely for me, I only bought two books at the TFOB this year.
The first was from author Katherine Rambo, a book titled The World Came to Tucson, about the history of the world-famous Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. I got that for my rock-collecting mother-in-law.
The other book I bought was from author and baseball rock star, Ila Jane Borders. Making My Pitch is her memoir about becoming the first woman to play Major League Baseball, a fact that somehow didn’t make as many waves as it should have. Ila now has a baseball school for girls. I bought that one for my friend, Steve, who is both the most voracious reader and biggest baseball fan I know. But I can’t wait to read it first!
There were some bad booths, too. I took pictures, but I won’t share them here. Shaming people publicly never made anyone friends. It was hot this year in Tucson – and those with booths facing directly into the sun were at an unfair disadvantage. Nevertheless, if you commit to an event like a big book festival, make the most of it. Get a hat. Douse yourself in sun screen. Get a spray bottle and offer to wet down people as they walk past – that’ll get ’em to come on over to your booth. What you don’t do is hover in the shady corner like a vampire trying to avoid sunlight.
Get out from behind your table – or at least stand up and put your damned phone away! I wonder how many potential sales are lost at events because the vendor is sitting down or too busy on their phone to notice their booth visitor. You definitely need to find the happy medium between being overly solicitous and ignoring people – but it’s there.
At any rate, that’s my rundown. I’ll have another report at the end of April from the other side of the fence, as I and nine other authors from Phoenix Publishing and Book Promotion attempt to woo book-loving Los Angeleans at the 2017 LA Times Festival of Books. On the off chance you’ll be there, we’re in booth #025 in the Cardinal section. Want to join us – or know an author who wants to? We’ve got space for 2 more authors! Email LABookFestival@WriteMarketDesign.com for details.
In the meantime, keep doing great stuff! And watch for my avalanche, er plethora … OK, maybe increase, yes, an increase in posts in the coming weeks!
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