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With more people relying on the internet to discover a wide variety of subjects, products and resources, one rarely has a need to see a person or product face-to-face anymore. At least, that’s what the internet gurus continue to preach to the masses.

The reality is that people do need human contact and interaction on many levels. Book Festivals are one such interaction for die-hard readers. Yet, it appears that many of these events are not drawing as many people or vendors as they once did. Why is that?

After spending years participating as a vendor, author and as a creator of such events, it has become clear to me that people simply get bored of the same old routine. This applies to the big book festivals as well as the smaller ones. As with any event, people want something new and exciting, a reason for them to leave their homes, spend their money and get something they can’t get anywhere else.

Traditional Book festivals are created with authors who sit behind a table and try to get someone to buy their book, and in most cases, they halfheartedly try. Most book festivals are filled with local authors, who if they have done their job as a marketing person, have saturated their market to the point that there is nothing new or exciting about them. None of this gives people a reason or motivation to stop by and check out the book festival.

Even the book festivals that bring in the big names, are seeing a decrease in attendance and vendor participation. This is due to the high cost of producing such an event. Big named authors expect to be paid for their time, and their cost has to be trickled down to the vendor’s booth fees. These fees then become too hard for people to justify the expense. Small press and indie authors cannot sell enough books to warrant the high cost of participation. But these are the people who must participate at these events if they plan to make a name for themselves. Just doing Social Media or internet based campaigns is not enough.

How can you draw the crowds to an event and justify to the vendors the need to spend the money on a booth fee? This is a multi-point issue that all book festivals have to address in order to stay reverent to the consumers and vendors.

First, book festivals should look for new partners to team up with. For example, art festivals are a perfect combination to work with. Both draw on an audience that generally has money to spend, and is highly educated. They do not compete against each other for the dollar as one is usually priced much more than the other. However, they complement each other, which allows for each to promote and draw from their base, while giving the audience something new to enjoy.

Second, while indie authors and small press will not sell as many books as they would like to at any festival, they have little or no choice but to be present. It comes down to the basic core of marketing: letting people know you have a product, and then getting them to want to buy your product. If authors are not attending book festivals, then new readers will never know they exist. At the same time, they must work on their presentation at the table and not look like a bump on a log, bored to tears who doesn’t want to be there. That’s another article in its own right. They key factor is that an author will never know who they may meet at one of these events, which could then help propel them onto a new level of growth. Each consumer that walks up to their table should be considered as the ONE person, even if they are not.

Finding new avenues to engage people to attend book festivals is a key factor for attendance and participation of both readers and vendors. Working with other organizations can help save money, and draw new attendees to the event, which in effect benefits both organizations. The concept of ‘elitism’ needs to stop on both ends in order to keep their event alive and of value for the consumer. The consumer is already pulled in a hundred different directions, therefore, combining energy and resources gives them less directions to be pulled, and more value for their money, and especially their time. A win-win for everyone.

Third; sponsorships. While companies that make millions from authors continue to charge high fees, or rake in large amounts from the author’s work do not support book festivals to the full extent that they could or should. Amazon is a perfect example of this. They don’t have to, as the authors have given up their power to Amazon and they will continue to take money from authors. CreateSpace, Ingram and, Barnes & Noble participate only in large scale festivals, but do not participate in the more local bread and butter programs. Again, a lack of need to woo the author or the consumer keeps them away.

Book festivals need to find a way to get sponsors to cover the cost of the event so that indie authors pay little to nothing for their space, thus increasing their income potential, and ultimately making them happier to be at the events. Combining forces with other festivals helps rejuvenate each organization, which then creates better results for all parties involved. Teamwork on multiple levels that improve the quality of life for the consumer and vendors should be a key priority!

As the song says, the times they are a-changin’ and that certainly applies to book marketing trends. We read a lot about what’s working, how it’s working and why, but I see very few articles about what’s not working because I mean, don’t you want to know what to stop doing? I’ve found it’s best for my business to stay on top of the hottest marketing trends so I can make solid recommendations to indie authors. After countless client conversations, I’ve found some really common practices that you’ll be best to stay away from, as well as ideas for how you can improve existing book promotion efforts. Here’s my assessment on some of the strongest switches you can make in your game plan.

1. Generic Anything We live in a world that slams us with thousands of impersonal messages and ads to us each day. Each of us is beyond saturated with messages that are not on target, emails that don’t pique our interests, and phones that fill with thousands of generic missives, just waiting for us to respond. The thing is, we don’t. Attention – both getting it and keeping it – is the new currency and in order to do that, you have to personalize. Instead: Personalize Everything

Personalization, in anything, always takes longer and considerably more effort but in the end they can pay off in big ways. We’ve all gotten the emails that say “Dear Sir” if you’re a woman, or “Dear Madam” if you’re a guy. These emails always feel lazy and they very rarely get our attention. However, emails that are personalized (“Dear Penny”), or even start off by attempting to connect go a long way. For example, they might say something about a blog post you wrote that the sender enjoyed, or maybe you’ve connected on Facebook or Instagram and they loved your recent vacation pictures. Whatever it is and whatever you’re doing: don’t be generic. This works even in pitching – and especially if you’re pitching bloggers or the media. Make a comment on a recent story they did, or blog they posted. Just a small, thoughtful addition like that will make your pitch stand out amidst the thousands of other pitches they’ve gotten that week.

2. Print Ads An author recently told me they were holding off doing any marketing until their ad ran in the New York Times. He had bought a $5,000 ad in the book section and was eager to see how it worked. Turns out, it didn’t work at all. Print ads, unless you’ve already got a platform, are best to avoid. And even if you do have a platform, it’s still sketchy unless you’re Nora Roberts or someone equally well-known. Instead, try ebook ads

Ads, like the kind you buy to promote your eBook, work well, but I am beginning to see the effect of these fading – you actually have to do more ads now to get the same amount of bounce. Thankfully most eBook ads are cheap, so you can still do a lot of them and spend far less $5,000.

3. Generic Blog Tours It’s a sad truth that you used to be able to host a blog tour and see the momentum for your book kick in almost immediately. That’s not really the case anymore. Blog tours that are more generic in nature are a complete waste of your time and money. Instead, try Genre-based Blog Tours

Blog tours that are focused on your book topic, specifically, and are far more effective and a better use of your time and money. They tend to be more work, but they are absolutely worth it in the long-run. Even if that means getting your book featured on 10 blogs, instead of 100 (which some tour companies offer) your focus should be much more to the niche blogs. This is not just because you want to stay away from generalized topics, but because the audience for most ‘general’ blogs is lower and less focused than for the niche ones.

4. Press releases Unless you’re well-known or have something major to announce, you’re far better off saving your time and money on a press release and spreading the word via social media and your mailing list. But before you announce anything – even your new book, ask yourself why anyone would care. Yes I know, you wrote a book and that, in and of itself, is a grand achievement. But no one, perhaps beyond your immediate family and friends, may care enough to click over and buy it. So save your big announcements, and big drum rolls, for something that really matters. Instead, try a newsletter.

According to Experian,“Transactional emails have 8x more opens and clicks than any other type of email, and can generate 6x more revenue.” Why do I love a newsletter so much? Because with all of the noise on social media, you really want to have a way to get in front of your readers with specials, promotions, or new information on your topic! And speaking of newsletters, I always recommend that your website features a way for your visitors to sign up. A newsletter is a great tool even if you don’t plan on using it for a while.

5. Expecting Social Media to Sell Books There was a time when you could actually sell a lot of books on Facebook without having to buy any ads. Amazing, isn’t it? Well that’s not the case anymore. In fact, that’s not the case for any social site, even Pinterest which has a history of being a good buying haven. Instead, Use Social Media for Exposure

Social media should be looked at as exposure and even then, you’ve got to be careful how much time you throw into your social media because not all exposure is created equally. I always like to say that you don’t have to be everywhere, just everywhere that matters. What I mean by this is that you don’t need to be on every social media sites, but you should be on at least one that has a strong tie to your industry. Then, make the time to create personal connections with your followers. Much like the generic blog tours and generic anything I addressed earlier on in this piece, the more personal you can get with your social media, the stronger your connections will be – even without buying ads.

6. Bad Blogging We always hear: you need to blog. So many of us (myself included) would just blog for the sake of blogging. There’s a lot of content out there, and much of it isn’t really worth our time. I mean, let’s face it, it’s got to be really good for us to want to spend time reading it, right? Instead, Practice Good Blogging Skills

This sounds perhaps obvious, but it’s SO true! Put out really solid content even if that means reducing the times per month that you blog. I used to blog four and five times a week, but the stuff I put out wasn’t always great. Now I blog just one time a week and I like to think that it’s stronger, better content. Less is more, especially when it comes to content. Not only will your readers appreciate it, but Google loves superb content and will send you more traffic for one great piece, than five so-so blog posts that are only interesting to you, and maybe your cat.

7. Promoting YOUR Book I know, I’m a book marketing person and I’ve got some nerve telling you it’s passé to promote your book, right? Realistically, no one but your mom (and maybe your cat) cares that you wrote a book. But this is one of those marketing trends you’ve got to watch out for! Instead, Promote THEIR Book

By this I mean, focus on what this great book offers readers. What can the book do for THEM? Even years ago I was telling authors to never market your book, always market what your book can do for your readers and that’s true now more than ever. That’s ultimately what readers care about. So promote the benefits, promote how it’ll make the reader feel, what they will learn or how wildly they will be entertained. That’s the key when it comes to creating a sales pitch that will actually sell!

In the end, while the marketing trends I’ve identified as no longer working don’t necessarily hurt (except in the case of the $5,000 NY Times ad that was painful to the author’s pocketbook), they’re not the strongest options available. We’re all incredibly busy, so why spend valuable book promotion time on efforts with the least amount of pay off? Stay flexible, be prepared for what you KNOW to be ever-changing, and focus on the most efficient use of your marketing time and budget.

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Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME), is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book social media marketing, book marketing, and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most leading-edge book marketing campaigns.

 

For years, we have been working hard getting the public and school libraries to learn about us and the many Texas Authors that work with us.  As you know it is not an easy process, but bit by bit we are slowly getting into them for book signings, and other programs.

We now want to help you increase your opportunity by offering you a simple and cost effective way to let them know about you.  We have an email list of over 2,400 library contacts and are now opening up ad space in an email blast to those contacts.

Authors who participated with us this year at the Library Conference have already been a part of an email blast as a reminder to the librarians, and now you have a chance to reach out to them as well.

Here is the cost breakdown:

$25 – A picture of your book, and basic information (Cost, ISBN, Genre Listings), plus a short synopsis.  Our web link for purchase.

$50.00 – The same as above, but instead of our web link for purchase, it would be a link you select (your website, amazon, etc.)

$75 – Custom Ad – this is an ad that you make and submit for us to include in our email blast.

About

Texas Authors, Inc. is a nonprofit organization designed to help Texas Authors learn how to better sell and market their books.

We work closely with our partners DEAR Texas, Inc., and Texas Authors Institute of History, Inc., both nonprofits that have created additional programs and events for Authors.