Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Guest Author: Christopher Ryan

12 Things I Learned at My First Book Fair

The thing about self-publishing is eventually you have to sell what you write. And while the digital book world continues to grow, I keep finding people who only want to read my book in print. As I have committed to the learning experience of being a self-publisher, this is an avenue I feel compelled to explore, and it has lead me to … the book fair.

My experience was at the Collingswood Book Festival 2012, an event held annually in Collingswood, NJ.

Full disclosure, my experience is a total of one book fair, so expertise? Not so much.

But I learned a lot of practical information from this initial foray and want to share these dozen lessons with you.

1) Carefully read what is being offered. I expected a few things to be provided, and what I had actually purchased with my very affordable $30 participation fee was a 10′ by 10′ space in the street. When I reread the agreement, it was all spelled out clearly. Any false expectations were my fault. So …

2) Bring a table, chair, and, if the event is outside, a booth tent. The latter has a metal frame that opens and collapses easily. Every other seller at the fair will have one, and the sun will shine brightly on you all day if you do not, or will send rain clouds to ruin your books. It was the former for me, and I didn’t even …

3) Bring sunblock. You. The sun. All day. Bring protection. And also bring…

4) Clear packaging tape. Use it to tape your signs up, your table cloth down, and to secure whatever else needs securing. It looks better than black electrical tape, trust me. How do I know? Don’t ask. While we are discussing necessary materials, also bring …

5) Pens, or some other kind of writing utensil, in case people want you to sign the books they buy. Hey, you hit the big time! Sort of. Which calls to mind another crucial requirement: bring…

6) Realistic expectations. Have enough copies of your work to be prepared for a robust day of literary commerce, but prepare yourself for … not so many sales. People don’t know you yet, and it is difficult for them to commit to a stranger’s book, especially if he is staring at them or she is giving the hard sell. Welcome them to check the book out, but also give them some room. I placed my books at the right end of the table (closest to them as they passed in the traffic flow) and sat a little left of center to provide a bit space without ignoring. I found a simple “good morning” to all was welcoming but not intimidating. Another good is idea is to …

7) Print up flyers about your book. I printed up a couple of articles on the book, which garnered some attention, but not nearly as much as printed versions of the Amazon.com reviews. Those left with potential customers at a three-to-one margin. And if you do offer flyers, bring something cool to hold them down. I used a piece of counter top left over from a bathroom remodeling. It garnered several compliments, which was nice, but not as crucial as remembering to bring…

8) A lunch box, with water, snacks, whatever you need to sustain yourself over several hours especially if you don’t ….

9) Bring a friend, partner, or fellow published author. This person will help staff the table, especially during bathroom breaks, can help handout flyers, attract potential buyers, and keep things going. But if you do partner up, and want to go see what else is going on, remember…

10) You are there to sell your book, not buy twenty other books from people. Lots of writers are also book junkies, so … Beware. Don’t spend more money than you make. Instead, use that leg stretching to …

11) See what the competition is doing, how their booths look compared to yours, and where the action is. You may find that your booth is not situated for optimum sales. Don’t beat yourself up, you didn’t know. And don’t blame them, you didn’t ask. What you should do when you book these events is request to be put as close to the main book sales action as possible.

12) Don’t freak out if one booth has an exceptionally long line. Investigate if you can. Most often you will discover the writer at that booth is actually a local celebrity like a goalie for the nearest NHL hockey team, or a reality TV star. These people are not your competition.


13) If you do run across your competition, someone in the same genre as you who is doing better business, don’t get mad, get educated. Assess what this person is doing. It may be as simple as she or he has eight books out and you have one. You know the solution there. It may be a bigger booth, advertising, cookie give always, who knows? Observe. Assess. Adapt.

I hope these lessons help should you consider participating in a book fair. Is it a cost-effective endeavor? I broke even financially, but experienced making sales (very fun), learned a lot about how something like this works, met and learned from other self-publishers, and made a key contact I hope will pay off soon. As a result, I count this as a profitable experience, if not a get rich quick strategy. For someone who tends to stay home and write, this was a big step forward. Whether it proves to be a steady component of my business remains to be seen.

Christopher Ryan is author of City of Woe, available digitally everywhere, and in print at Amazon.com. For more info, click here.

by Christopher Ryan

File Size: 438 KB
Print Length: 359 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1475159234
Publisher: Seamus and Nunzio Productions, LLC; 1 edition (November 30, 2011)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Amazon Link

About the book:

What if Paul Farrington, a veteran fixer for a shady corporation, found himself targeted for elimination just as he was trying to finance his daughter's Ivy League education? How far would he go to provide for his family and keep them safe?
What if detectives Frank Mallory and Alberto "Gunner" Gennaro were forced to play catch up with a killer who may or may not be a demon and who leaves trails of Dantesque murders, each one occurring further south in Manhattan and deeper into his version of The Inferno?
How could these situations be connected?
How long can the detectives stick to strict police procedural facts when confronted with increasingly bizarre events, especially once they begin invading Mallory's private life? And how does he find a balance between his rejection of the case's alleged demonic elements and his strong desire to believe his dying father's visions of long dead relatives beckoning him to heaven? When must a detective reconsider what exists outside man's law?        
These are the dominant concerns of City of Woe, a novel combining Ryan's personal
experiences, knowledge of the family business (the NYPD), an understanding of literary classics and a love for classic rock and roll. Running 327 double-spaced manuscript pages, readers have noted obvious references to Dante's The Inferno, subtle nods to Joyce's Dubliners and Ulysses and the influences of Elmore Leonard, Walter Mosley, and Richard Price.

About the author:

I've been living with Mallory for a long time. In college, I wrote a novel treatment featuring him as an FBI Special Agent. Only one word from that manuscript survives: Mallory.

After college, I was an award-winning reporter for eight years, covering The Bronx during the crack wars of the late 1980's and early 90's. It got so bad we ran body counts on our front page's teaser box -- usually something like "12 Dead, 23 wounded" -- every week. And the victims were mostly kids 14 to 18 years old. I started feeling guilty, like I was making a living off the dead and wounded. I began thinking I wasn't doing enough, and nearly joined my family's business - the NYPD. My father, brother, and cousin were all cops. Maybe that was my calling.

Nope. On a bet I took a teaching job "just until the next Police Academy class starts." That's what I thought I was doing. No one tells you about the Teaching Bug and how it can hook you like a drug. Suddenly I was surrounded by live kids --living, breathing, laughing, thinking kids-- as opposed to the corpses and corner boys I had been writing about. Let's just say that when the NYPD came calling, my dance card was full.

But all those dead and wounded kids still haunted me, and I believe Mallory evolved from the experience. These days, he's a detective in the NYPD. At least once of us made it onto The Job.

Eventually I wound up teaching seniors at Hackensack High School, and the curriculum included Dante's Inferno. Over the years, it all began to merge; my old writing life, the body counts, my world view, and annual discussions with my Hackensack students about good and evil, heaven and hell, and Dante's epic vision. Sometimes the students dove in, sometimes Dante's ornate language became an obstacle, and I started wishing for a way to lead modern readers to Dante's work and ideas.

At least that's how it started.

CITY OF WOE ended up being a distant echo of his work, perhaps a study or imagining of how that subject matter might be handled in today's world. I knew the language would have to be accessable, and the pace would have to move, have to entertain, have to thrill. No epic poem here; a modern tribute would have to appeal to as many people as possible. I hope this does.

From there Mallory, and the incorrigible Gunner, took over.  This is a detective story first, a suspense thriller with a supernatural twist next. The details of the case are dealt with from a cop's matter of fact perspective. What actually happens, well, that's for you to decide....


Anonymous said...

Great tips! Thanks for sharing.

Related Posts with Thumbnails