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Marketing From a Village

31 July 2014

From author Gwen Bristol:

This past month the local writer’s group I’m a member of held its own book-fair at one of the local parks.

For the first hour, I went, mingled with my fellow writers and watched the band and food vendors set up for the weekly Fridays on Vine concert. Everyone seemed excited, hopeful that the concert and the sign welcoming the public to come meet local authors would bring a stream of locals through the pavilion.

No one said it aloud, but we all watched people gathering on the grass and at the picnic tables as if we might know some of them. As if they might see us, come running in (with their friends, of course) and buy books.

Only a handful of visitors trickled through while I was there, and I don’t think more than a few books got sold, but I still consider the night a success.

. . . .

I overheard one author say to another, “I don’t know. Sometimes I think we’re all just buying books from each other.”

That may be true. I came home with stacks of bookmarks and two books from my fellow authors, but here’s the deal:

To succeed, self-published authors and traditionally-published authors with little or no marketing budget must be united.

We need to sell the works of other authors as well as our own writings. We need to pass out those bookmarks to every potential reader we meet.

In a world where Talkers and Sneezers make ideas like great books go viral, we need to form tweet teams and street teams that will actually pound the pavement occasionally.

We need a village, and we need to sell to the villages we live in.

Link to the rest at Gwen Bristol

Here’s a link to Gwen Bristol’s books

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7 Comments to “Marketing From a Village”

  1. I went to a book signing at B&N several years ago. We (authors) were each given a table piled with our books. I think there were five or six authors present. Not one of us sold a book, but plenty of people stopped by to ask how they could get a book published.

  2. Lydia M. Sheridan

    I decided a while back that the price for my time and hard-earned knowledge of publishing is $50 an hour. That usually shuts them up fast.

  3. Well, a few of us Indies have formed a small collective to see how we can help each other, and writers at large. One of our members commented on Gwen’s blog linked here, and that had links to our guest posts on the experience- on Joe Konrath’s blog, and Susan Kaye Quinn’s. We’ve had mostly good success in the village marketing approach, and are working toward even better experiences. We’re planting a lot of seeds for the future, while doing a lot in the present. Maybe not for everyone, but could really help some. We invite discussion on the approach.

  4. In-person appearances are rarely cost-effective, even if you pay nothing for the space or appearance.

    Yes, your time DOES have a cost: you may not be writing a check to pay for your time, but you’re not CASHING the checks you could have been earning with that time, either.

    When do they work?
    — When the group is paying you for your time.
    — When your audience is primarily composed of your target readers, defined as narrowly and completely as possible AND the group is at least several hundred strong AND you’re the primary attraction.
    — When you’re doing it for fun, and you know darn good and well that you’re losing money by doing it and don’t care.

    In every class I teach, there’s at least one enthusiastic proponent of Small Press (or Self-Publishing) Book Fairs. The assumption seems to be that if we just all get together, we’ll pull a bigger audience, and sell enough to make it worthwhile. The fallacy lies in the fact that the audience isn’t for self-published books, it’s for the type of content.

    So, yes, go to BEA or a major trade fair, if you want to build industry buzz. Yes, go to a science fiction or comic convention, if that’s your audience. But skip the local book fairs. They’re not worth your time.

  5. We should use the WIBBOW test for local author fairs, of course, but our group has had success with these. Maybe we’ve just been lucky- we connect with new people at every one. And that often leads to many new avenues. As they say, do what works for you.

    For our recent one, as an example, I had 4 on-site print book sales. Not worth it, some would say. But I also got several ebook and audio buyers, a TV show contact, a library appearance, did book trades with cool new writers (who will review if they like it), and a couple more offers for convention appearances.

    And we learned a lot more about promotion and marketing by talking with other writers and readers and seeing what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes the investment can save you time and money, and we’re always learning.

  6. Dale: good point.

    Most of the micro publishers I know have not had that sort of experience, but there may be a difference in which fairs and which cities they’re in, as well as luck.

    I enjoy talking with other people in the book business at every one of these events. I learn something from them, always. But I’ve found that I can do that more cost-effectively in the Yahoo Groups, and Linked In Groups, and at the IBPA publishing university or regional publishing groups’ seminar series, than at the fairs.

  7. At a recent book fair, I found that most people were willing to chat but few wanted to buy my book. However, almost everyone signed up for a newsletter promising announcements of my upcoming releases and writing samples in the form of flash fiction. Now I have a raft of people who are willing to give me a chance to win them over with my writing.

    What do the rest of you think about attending book fairs in order to find potential fans?

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