We had no idea what to expect when we attended this year’s L.A. Festival of Books. As the ever so enthusiastic intellectuals we (Daniel at Blackbird and I) can sometimes be, we researched blogs from attendees from years past. We tried to gain wisdom and insight as well as learn from their mistakes. Some numbers–and we do love our numbers–came back that on average an independent or self-published author sold three books a day and gave away about three hundred promotional items over two days. That came as a surprise since over 200,00 people attend, but we also learned that big named authors were the reason many people flocked to the event and us indies were more of a “filler space” as one blogger wrote about the 2012 event.
With that in mind, Blackbird LSD, whom I partnered with for the event, and I decided this was more of a marketing/publicity event for us “space fillers.” So be it. We would be the best damn space fillers the L.A. Times Festival of Books had ever seen! And we showed up equipped with all the supplies one would need to do this: stickers, book markers, flyers, pens, buttons, notepads, a book giveaway and our ace in the hole: Jorja! Jorja, my five year old wonder who still has no problem proudly declaring above the masses, “sign up for you book giveaway and take some stickers!” Oh yeah, the crowd could not refuse her calls.
Where we were only able to get a handful of emails the 1st day, she got acquired over 50 in just a few hours. Where people walked passed us and refused flyers and stickers, she was able to give out hundreds. And the good thing about five year olds: THEY NEVER GET TIRED! All she asked for was a bunny . . . we’ll see.
Blackbird represented three books in total: Imminent Danger and How to Fly Straight Into It (Michelle Proulx), Be Still (me), and Treachery at Martinique Isle (Rachel Cherie). Day one was slow, but we sold a few of my books, which helped because the author was on site to sign. We sold a few of the other two books, but nothing to write home about. If three books a day is a success, then we had a slow start. But, we handed out hundreds of flyers and met so many great people.
Day two started with a bang: Be Still was flying off the table and Michelle and Rachel’s books were also selling. Then we hit a slump. We put the 5 yr old back on the front lines and more people stopped in. Daniel, of Blackbird, was being bombarded with questions, so that was a major plus. Emma, our intern was really chatting up the books to anyone who looked interested, and it was becoming evident that we might just have to buy Jorja her bunny.
It was getting late, and while I share custody with my daughter, it was time to get her back to dad. I was gone a little over an hour, but I came back to find Daniel and Emma tearing down the booth as the event had come to an end. They were cheerful and said they sold more books while I was gone. Hooray!
What lessons did we take from the L.A. Festival of Books? Simple. Be prepared! Have a checklist so you don’t forget to bring the tablecloth. Always have water on supply. Have a rotation of helpers, because talking with people really drains your energy. If possible, have an enthusiast and cute five year old to bring in the crowd. People love stickers and buttons! People love a giveaway. Be organized, if you have tons of materials it is best to have some kind of drawer system to easily find your supplies. Want people to stop at your booth? make sure there is always someone at your booth. A crowd draws in a crowd, because quite frankly we all stop to see the train wreck and we all stop to see why there is a crowd. There should be two people in front of the booth to hand out material, don’t expect them to come to you. One person to chat up the books, if not the author. One person to manage the money and keep the stock up. If you don’t like heat, make sure your tent is not facing the sun all day. And do not get lost in the center of the crowd. This is a big one. We were on the outskirts, surrounded by a timeshare, a carpet sales team, a hypnotist, and purses. We thought that was all bad until we walked around. If you are surrounded by books, you are just one in the crowd and lost in the crowd, but be surrounded by non-books in a non-crowded section, and you’re the only book on the block!
By the standards of averages were we a success? 3 books a day is a success according to some bloggers, who stated it wasn’t worth the money. I say, unless you are a big name it isn’t all about the sales, but about the exposure. Did we successfully expose all three books? Heck yeah! Over one thousand book marks, flyers and stickers were handed out and 60 names were added to our email list. Success! The numbers have increased on our Facebook and Twitters sites: Success! As for book sales: 20 books were sold all together. We have to sit and count the books to see exactly who sold what, but do the math and it equals on average to each book selling at least 3 a day: SUCCESS!
Tania L Ramos, Author who Loved her First BIG Book Show