Friday, March 20, 2015


I just came home from the Tucson Festival of Books — a two-day extravaganza of book stalls, sun, talks, and over 1000,000 people.  It is a fun event BUT being there doesn’t mean you raised consciousness of readers on your books or sold books. You have to work at it.

How do you “work” a book fair?
I’m certainly no expert but these tips might be helpful.
1) If you have a following already, publicize you’ll be at the book fair on your blog and website. If you don’t have a following and are worried burglars will read your website and visit your home while you’re away, you may decide to do less publicity.

Prepare handouts.  You can spend a lot of money on full color handouts on expensive heavy paper. They aren’t necessarily more effective sales tools than a colorful, well-designed ½ page flier or bookmark.

The print on your handouts should be large enough so that most can read it without their reading glasses.

Besides a photo of your cover and a short blurb, include info on where your books (paper and Kindle versions) can be purchased after the fair. Cite your website. I find many visitors at book fairs don’t want to take twenty pounds of books home and seem to be interested increasingly in Kindle books.

Carry a few handouts with you when you leave your booth. You never know when you might strike up a conversation with someone who’ll find your books interesting.

Try to interact with all passers-by and draw visitors into your booth. Those visitors, who look the most distracted, can turn into buyers after you ask them a question (What do you like to read?), if you show them something from your stock that fits their answer.

Don’t line up your tables as barricades. Place tables so you welcome people into your booth.

Rent a booth with other writers so you have a variety of books to sell. This means you and your colleagues will have to know a bit about each other’s books but it makes easier to take breaks. Besides, it more fun.

One woman told me she sold homemade beanbags along with her books at outdoor books fairs. The beanbags served to keep fliers and books in place and were cute and cheap.

Try to learn something new. You might learn a better way to display your books, see more effective handouts, or meet a potential publisher, proofreader, or illustrator. You might even find a book you like.

Remember, your success at a book fair can be judged in at several ways:
l The number of books you sold.
l What you learned. How much you enjoyed interacting with other writers and publishers.
l The increased number of your books sold afterwards (probably through Amazon) or increased hits on your website afterwards.

Good luck at you next book fair.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Publicizing Your Books: Using Psychology

Are these activities advertisements? Blogs and websites, reviews of others’ books, and talks on book-related topics.

According to Michael Turney, advertising and publicity are two very different communication tools, even though both employ the mass media as a vehicle for reaching large audiences… Advertising buys its way into the media… Publicity is presented by the media because it's "newsworthy." (Online Readings in Public Relations at ~turney/prclass/readings/ads.html).

So the activities listed at the start of this blog are not advertisements, but if done right and you’re lucky, they increase sales.

Can I use advertising tools to my advantage?
I thought if I understood the psychology of advertising, I might do a better job at publicizing my novels. I’m guessing (if you’re still reading), you might think so, too.

Emotional & bright visual
Experts agree #emotions sell products. About three-quarters of the time, researchers found surrounding a product with other things shoppers liked, sold products better than advertising the desirable traits of the product (Dempsey & Mitchell, Journal of Consumer Research [Dec 4, 2010] Vol. 37). I understand the concept as it applies to shoes and beer, but what about books?

Perhaps, it means as authors we should emphasize the humor, romance, and thrills in our novels. That’s why I named on medical mystery Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight rather than Death of a Diet Doctor. I thought the former title was more humorous and consumers like the words “lose weight” better than “diet.”

Humorous title
Experts think #ads should appeal to as many senses as possible. This makes sense to authors. We know book covers and websites (visual cues) are important. That's why I chose a brightly colored image for the cover of Ignore the Pain. I thought it would arouse emotion (shock) and was easy to remember, but I'm not sure readers found the photo as interesting as I did.

I think it is less clear how to provide sound, smell, and taste clues for novels. I’m wondering if I should serve brownies at my next book signing. They appeal to the sense of smell and taste and arouse favorable emotions in most of us. What do you think? Do you think any bookstore owner would allow it?

Don’t be discouraged if all your promotions don’t work. Experts estimate as much as seventy-five per cent of all advertisements aren’t effective ( interpretation of this information is: Try. Try again.

Nest week I’ll have more ideas gleaned from experts on the psychology of advertising.