Since April, I’ve had a booth and been pushing my books at CalgaryExpo (~97,000 people), EdmontonExpo (~40,000 people) and SaskExpo (~10,000 people). The experience has been amazing, but more importantly, it has allowed me to get invaluable feedback and understand much better how to market my book.
I’ve provided some insight into what I’ve learned through bits and pieces, but decided that I needed to really put this together. Here are the key points I get into:
Part 1 – 1. Know how you’re customer will see you and your book
Weeks before I was at CalgaryExpo in April, I mocked up my table in my kitchen. I put everything out, stood back from it, thought about things and came up with something that I liked. The most important piece of the puzzle was yet to come.
I set up my booth at CalgaryExpo and looked at it. It looked good, especially compared with some of the other booths around. Over the four days of the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, I learned several things about my booth:
1. Needs better focus. While it was a nice idea to be donating money to Kids Cancer Care with every sale, it was confusing to people. At the very least, it was a distraction. Part of the mission for my publishing company, ADZO Publishing, is to donate 10% of our annual profits to charity.
2. Needs less clutter. Having the original yellow hood that we used for that original cover was also a nice idea, but that idea was several years ahead of its time. It needs to be an established brand in order for people to want to have a photo with it, or even ask questions about it.
3. Lose the art. The original artwork that was done by Karine Charlebois, and we included in the 2nd edition of book 1 at the very back, was great but it didn’t align with the “mature readers” interests or appeal. Also, it acted as almost a competing product.
4. Needs better messaging. If you didn’t see the banner on the left, because maybe you were coming from the right, there was nothing to tell you what the booth was abuot. Also, even with the banner, there was nothing that literally said “STEAMPUNK” or “LOCAL AUTHOR” or anything that could help the potential customer figure out whether or not they wanted to engage.
a. Books up and visible upon approach, more inviting.
b. Books on the edge of the table were turned outwards to increase visibility and extend “reach” of table.
c. Banner across the back and on a diagonal with “Emergent Steampunk” making it easy to see, and easy to read.
d. Sign below tabletop that reads “Young Adult layered for the mature reader. 4/5 stars.”
The sign was a last minute lesson learned from SaskExpo a week before. This quick sign had a significant impact, pulling people over to talk to me because they were “a mature reader.”
The last thing I did, and isn’t shown here, is that I decided shortly after CalgaryExpo that I would dress up in my Steampunk gear (like you see me on Twitter) to emphasize the genre, the brand and my level of passion for my books. I became yet another piece of the messaging.
The Best Piece of Advice
Improving the booth is important, and helped me create a great experience for someone coming up to have a look at the book or hear my pitch, but the greatest bit of advise came from Warren of 1999 Collectibles. He had a booth opposite me at CalgaryExpo. He told me he never sits down, that he’s always up, always engaging people. I watched him and immediately copied what he did for collectibles, for my books.
On the first day of EdmontonExpo, I got to see the difference of this approach in an extremely dramatic fashion. The author beside my booth, and her two assistants, had spent the entire time sitting behind their table, sometimes texting whereas I didn’t sit for more than a minute in the several hours it was open. I sold 42 books, whereas they sold 4. Why? Is Steampunk really that much more appealing that vampire romance? Ah, no. Everything comes down to engaging people.
How they see you
Whether you’re at a signing or an event, or simply encountering people at a Meetup, you have to think about how they are going to interact with you, and what you need to have. You need to have your pitch and your business card at the very least. Your business card needs to have your call to action or the URLs you provide be 1 click away from where they can buy your book or get sample chapters.
Ultimately, you can’t just look at the world as a writer looking at a lake of potential readers and hoping that one of them will swim up to you. You have to think and look at yourself from the perspective of a reader who sees an ocean of potential writers and books.