This past Saturday, I participated in the Collingswood Book Festival. Collingswood, NJ shuts its main street down for the day and hosts six blocks of authors, entertainment and food.
It was my third year participating and each year I take away something new. Last year, I sat next to an author who had done this many times before and so I learned from him. One of the most important things I learned was that I needed better signage. With so many authors vying for attention, you need something to draw people to you.
So this year, I came prepared. First, I created a banner from the banner image on my website (http://www.jenniferwilck.com). This gave me a large sign with my name on it, as well as an image to provide a “feel” for the type of author I am. I hung it from my table.
I’ve always had pictures of my book covers hanging up, but this year I had them printed as large posters. One I placed on an easel, the other two I hung from the poles of my tent. Each one faced a slightly different direction, so that no matter what direction you walked, you could see at least one book cover.
I watched for people’s reactions, and I have to say that the signage definitely caused people to notice. Everyone looked at my book covers, even if they didn’t stop. One woman stopped because she recognized one of them—she’d bought it the year or two before and this year stopped to buy another one!
Another thing I’ve learned is the importance of getting people to stop at your tent and engage in conversation. The best way to do this was with dog treats. I know, crazy, right? But everyone there brings their dogs to walk through the festival. Humans may not want candy (and chocolate melts in the hot sun), and children will grab it by the handfuls and run off, but everyone wants to give their dog a treat. There were several of us offering and dog owners were thrilled. I spoke to them, got to know them a bit, and sold books.
The last thing I learned this year was to use a bit of judgment. Like most authors, I have postcards, bookmarks and magnets that advertise my books. The author next to me ran around before the festival opened and handed them out to all the participants. Then she stood outside her tent and tried to hand them to everyone as they passed. Great idea, except there was one problem. Most of the people she handed them to were not her target reader and I’ll guarantee that 90% of her recipients threw them out, as most looked annoyed to have paper flung at them.
Being less extroverted than she, I waited and handed my materials out to people who stopped at my tent. Sure, I handed out significantly less material than she did. But I think my recipients were better targeted, as they were the ones who like romance.
There’s no sure way to know this stuff, since I’m unable to track future sales by person or by how they heard of me (I wish!). But each year I learn something new and each year I sell books to people I might not have sold to otherwise.
My biggest disappointment is that I don’t get to walk around and browse. But I’m looking forward to next year, and if you’re in the area, stop by!