“If librarians were honest, they would say, No one spends time here without being changed.“Joseph Mills
Public libraries have always been more than just keepers of knowledge and havens from the cold.
Growing up in segregated St. Louis, MO in the 1950’s, I could always count on my neighborhood library as a place where I was welcomed and encouraged. It was a place of wonder and joy where I could browse freely, and leave with as many dreams as my arms could hold.
Joseph Mills, pictured just below, was not in attendance at any Indie Author Day celebration to my knowledge, but his belief in the transforming power of libraries was shared by all the independent authors across the nation who participated in this historic day on October 8, 2016. (Do yourself a favor and read the full poem, “If Librarians Were Honest,” in his 2012 book Sending Christmas Cards to Huck and Hamlet.)
Self-published authors, now preferring indie (independent) authors, have worked hard during the last few decades to turn out high quality books that will reach the hearts of new readers and win space on the coveted shelves of the public library. The first Indie Author Day is the result of the work of strong local community groups, active online groups, and dedicated industry support groups online and across the globe.
Now providing equal access to all includes indie authors, as the American Library Association rolls out its multi-year public awareness campaign: Libraries Transform.
It’s my pleasure to share the responses of a few of my fellow authors who participated in Indie Author Day across the nation. I asked them to share what worked well, what they would do differently next time, what inspiration they’d offer other authors, and what suggestions they would offer the libraries for a more successful celebration.
The libraries where authors participated is listed under their photo. All of the book titles and book covers are clickable, so you can purchase any book of your choice.
How to Write Heartfelt Letters to Treasure
As to my own sales, I sold one book (“80 Common Layout Errors”), and that was to a non-author who knew someone who could use it. All that beautiful “gratitude” and “letter writing” themed display, plus telling people inspirational stories about writing letters and how our son presented us with that letter and how truly moving that was and still is—and still nobody bought anything related to letter writing, although one person asked if my main book was available on Amazon. (I responded that it was, but it wouldn’t be signed or inscribed by the author, and it would probably end up costing, after shipping, about the same as what I was selling my book for that day. It didn’t seem to sway her.)
On the other hand, I did distribute a lot of how-to bookmarks, which I’m happy about; and my fellow author, Judy Brizendine, took about 10 to share with friends also.
I received a lot of compliments about my “Be Gratitude” shirt. I also received several positive comments about the good approach I had in splitting the main book into themed guides, to help appeal to prospective buyers who might otherwise feel intimidated by a half-inch thick reference book. And I received a couple of compliments about how nice the display looked, and one of those shared that she liked the branding that clearly came across.
To increase book sales, next time I will focus on benefits rather than features.
Matthew Arnold Stern
Mastering Table Topics
A few things I learned:
1. Have a credit card reader (such as Square and PayPal). You can miss out on sales if you don’t take credit cards.
2. Do as much of your own advance promotion to encourage readers to see you.
3. Network with other writers. Build connections and learn from each other.
4. Bring candy.
Ever Faithful to His Lead
First of all, I found myself hoping that other indie authors were having as much fun as I was! We had a panel discussion of five local authors to discuss writing and our journeys to publication.
What to do differently?
Our librarian was very responsive to participating and several of us met with her a few times to orient her to the event and get her support. I think for next year, we should have a committee dedicated to the marketing aspect, maybe do a radio interview to discuss what it is and why it is so important.
Many people were away for Columbus Day weekend so we only had a few people in the audience. Even though the number was small, they were enthusiastic and asked a lot of questions. Our librarian advertised in the local newspaper and on the library FB page. We could be more aggressive about it next year now that we’ve been inaugurated.
We did not have the official Indie Author posters or other display materials which I think might have sparked some interest in the event ahead of time and during the event.
Overall, it was a success and will serve as a template for next year’s event. Our libraries are our community treasures and supporting Indie Author Day helps preserve that treasure while facilitating collaboration between libraries and indie authors. A win-win for all!
Theep and Thorpe: Adventures in Space
I sold and signed six books and had a blast networking with other indie authors. It was a lovely surprise when another author of novels for young readers, Patti Palermo, purchased my book, Theep and Thorpe: Adventures in Space. The other books were purchased by friends who found out about the event from my email blast, Facebook posts, or event fliers prepared by the library.
I found it helpful to publicize the event in advance. It was also helpful to have a sign up sheet to add people to my email list, a table sign, candy, bookmarks, and business cards to give to interested parties.
The Square device was available to accept credit card payments, but everyone paid cash for the books purchased. I also had $100 in tens and fives to make change if necessary.
My beautiful assistant, Leticia Montiel, was extremely helpful in setting up the display on my table and assisting with sales and photo ops.
My author friend, Heather Rivera, shared her tablecloth with me at our table. Next time, I will bring my own tablecloth. In addition, I wish I had taken more pictures.
It was kind of the library to provide water and snacks for writers and assistants as well as lovely name tagswith our names and book cover photos. The organizers were approachable and enthusiastic.
The best of all these benefits is the thrill of having my book available for check-out at the library, fulfilling one of my goals as a published indie author.
Shirley George Frazier
Marketing Strategies for the Home-based Business
Adding colorful tote bags with complementary tissue paper acted as a beacon to my exhibit table.
I noticed that other authors brought pens, buttons, and photographs to display and give away on their tables.
Networking was extraordinary between all invited authors, and that activity let us learn which types of marketing were key to each other’s success.
The one thing I could not control was the number of patrons attending the event. Even though I contacted local newspapers numerous times, those publications are not obligated to promote the event, and I doubt they did. Library traffic was very light, and it may also have been hampered by rain. Still, I believe the event was meant to bring the authors (12 of us) together for a “meet and greet” and extended relationship for those of us who reach out each other.
I managed to squeeze in two events, and they were a little bit different from each other.
I liked the Alhambra event a bit better, partly because the authors had an opportunity to speak and they treated the authors very respectfully. More on that later.
What I can do to improve: My display could use back-end height with pictures. But, I thought my display looked better than some of the others.
What really works for me…to be able to speak about my book. Also, one thing a little different I did was to have a PowerPoint presentation running to draw people’s attention.
Comments about the events:
Anaheim: Didn’t like that the event was in the basement, and there was poor signage pointing out the event that day.
I felt the event was confusing…was it geared only towards authors? Or the public to get to know local authors? It felt like an event that was geared only towards authors. Anyone from the public who walked in were greeted with the streaming event discussing topics of interest to self-publishers. I also felt that streaming feed went a little bit too long.
That said, the good news is I sold two books after the streaming feed. And, the library has the book on their shelf!
Alhambra: They did not do the streaming event. Instead, they did a live panel of authors. They asked the authors questions, the questions varied depending on which panel it was. I was on a panel titled “The Writing Process”, so a moderator asked the question and all the authors on that panel got a turn to answer. An example question was along the lines of “Do you know how your story is going to end from the start?” At the end, the audience got a chance to ask a few questions. Each panel lasted about an hour, with a twenty minute break in between so attendees had a chance to go around and talk to authors and look at their book.
They had a separate room off of the main room for authors that had a spread of food – which was nice. And they gave each author a swag bag with some cool stuff. My table space at Alhambra was bigger as well. The room where it was held was on the first/main floor of the library, which was nice, but signage was poor here as well. Alhambra had several volunteers with badges working the event to keep things running smoothly and help reduce confusion.
Despite all these good points, I only sold one book, but had several people take a card saying they were going to look it up online. Alhambra did not take a book to have on the shelf at the library. I think the turnout was slightly higher compared to Anaheim.
Sheri Fink, The Little Seahorse
Here’s my advice for authors:
1. Promote your upcoming appearance on your website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram so your Fans will know where to come see you. Tag the library/venue in your posts so they can share it again.
2. Bring bookmarks that Fans can take home with them including a photo of you, your book cover(s), and where to find you online (including your website, Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram accounts)
3. Always seek to add value by speaking on a panel, answering questions during your signing, taking photos with Fans, etc.
4. Support other authors by getting to know them, connecting with them and supporting them on social media, and buying their books for yourself or as gifts
5. Accept credit cards as well as cash by getting a Square payment device that transforms your phone into a credit card reader (www.SquareUp.com)
6. Make the experience of meeting you special for each Fan. Valuing your readers and having fun is far more important than book sales.
Sheri Fink, Inspirational Speaker, #1 Best-selling, Award-winning Author, and President of “The Whimsical World of Sheri Fink” Brand (www.SheriFink.com)
Social Media Accounts:
Flora Morris Brown
Color Your Life Happy: Create Your Unique Path and Claim the Joy You Deserve
I was very excited to participate in the first Indie Author Day with 25 local authors. It was fun to go around and meet as many as I could before the event began and wish them well.
There is no formula to guarantee sales. I was pleased to have sold 8 books by the end of the day, but having participated in many book fairs and events over the years, this doesn’t always happen for a non-celebrity. There have been other events where I didn’t sell a single book. When attendees have lots of choices, they are very selective about how they spend their money.
Here are some things I think helped boost sales:
- Made my table highly visible with balloons and books elevated on a display rack.
- Got a good night’s sleep so I was energetic and able to engage with every attendee who came to my table.
- Stood in front of the table instead of behind it .
- Greeted every one who came close to my table and put a book in their hands as I regaled them with stories from the book.
- Invited a friend (Thanks Mayra Cortez) to assist me by taking care of the payments, freeing me to talk to attendees and autograph books.
- Accepted credit cards using the PayPal reader.
- Gave everyone who came by something. If they strolled by without stopping to learn about my book, they got a buttercream mint. Those who engaged in conversation about my book, got a microwave popcorn packet with a customized wrapper. Those sho bought a book got all of that and a customized gift bag.
Here are tips for my fellow authors:
- Show gratitude to the library for hosting the event.
- Come prepared to network with and encourage your fellow authors.
- Give attendees with your contact information since some people may want to buy ebooks later or to just think before they buy.
- Suggest your book as a gift, not just a purchase for the buyer.
- Weeks before the event, promote your appearance and the event among your social media fans; put flyers in the places you patronize: coffee shop, restaurant, gym, church, etc.
Here are some things the library did that were great:
1. Graciously agreed to host this inaugural event. They were the only library in Orange County that did.
2. Welcomed us warmly with bags of treats and water to sustain us through the event.
3. Asked for our feedback so they can plan for next year.
What could have gone better?
- Hold the event on the street level of the library, making it easier for folks to find it.
- Present a program where authors can engage with the audience as panelists or speakers rather than run the live streaming program which seemed directed at indie authors rather than readers.
- Allow authors a full hour to set up so there is also time to greet each other before the event begins.
- Encourage local vendors in your area to contribute something of value to the swag bag.
- Invite local media.
- Hire a photographer to chronicle the event.
Did you attend Indie Author Day in your town? Describe your experience in Speak Your Mind.