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Edward Hancock II

Thrills, Chills and Spiritual Ordeals!‚Äč

The Imperfect Blog

How to choose your events

Posted by EHancock2 on July 2, 2018 at 12:10 AM

Fair Warning! This entire concept just came to me in a flash of what I hope to be brilliance, but I haven't planned anything out. As with most of my blogs, I keep the ideas fresh, raw and unfiltered.  I hope the message is as helpful to you as the idea is logical to me.

People often ask me how do I choose what events to do and which to avoid. The answer is mostly trial and error, but  it's also a matter of knowing myself, my books and my audience.

Now, if you've known me or read my blog for any length of time, you know I don't believe in limiting my audience to some meaningless demographic meant to prove to some random agent that I have a viable marketing plan when really I'm just hoping they'll sign my book. No, I'm not talking about marketing in that sense. I'm talking about knowing where to find your readers.

You do that in one of two ways. (And occasionally in each of these two.) You either go the places that appeal to your personality, interests and hobbies or you go see and do the things you've never tried or never cared for. More than likely, if you're talking about marketing books you like, you're going to be going to places and experiencing events you will enjoy. That enjoyment will almost invariably translate to sales. (Not always, but it sure helps when people see you having a good time.)

Usually, when marketing books, people will advise you to go places that tie in to your books. If your books involve a skydiver, go to a skydiving school and sell books. Only problem? they're not there to buy books. They're there to skydive. So you might sell a few. You might not. There's no guarantee. If your books are about a police detective (as mine are) the "experts" might advise you to go to your local police station and ask them about celebrations, events or planned formal affairs they have on the calendar. Ask if you can set up a table and sell your books. It's not a horrible idea by any means. All they can say is no.

Now, let me be clear. By no means am I telling you to ignore the advice of the supposed experts. What I am telling you is that I've been on the road. Many of these supposed "experts" have not. I've seen what works for me and I've seen what works for authors with which I've toured.

I've been at music festivals. I've been at festivals celebrating the deliciousness of peaches, yams, pecans, syrup and watermelon. I've been to holiday-themed events, patriotic events, balloon races, even a KITE FEST! (That was fun, but it sure was a windy day!) I've been to festivals where 500 people showed up all day and I've been to BIG events in the Dallas area where I never say the same person twice because 80,000 people lends itself to quite the sea of faces.

Over the course of about 4 years traveling, this is what I've learned. I've learned I'm a serious nerd, but I know nothing about Indy music. I may be a geek master supreme but I can't knit, sew and know zip about delicious jams and jellies. Too, I've learned my genuine love of Christmas seems to be infectious to others.

What works for me are comic cons, Anime fests, Geeky fairs, Christmas festivals, holiday in the park, and cultural events such as theatrical plays. Occasionally, Library events work well for me. I love libraries. It just depends on how well (and widely) they've been advertised and the community involvement as a whole. The more your community loves its library, the more likely people are to turn out. (EDDIETOR's Note: Libraries need people... VISIT YOUR LIBRARY OFTEN!)

These things work for me because I'm passionate about the tie in to those things. I'm a geek. I love Christmas. They often occur in-doors or during a time of year when it's not too hot outside.

Want to have a writing career you can enjoy? Choose events you enjoy. Even if you write detective stories, as I do, you may not enjoy the formality of a Policeman's Ball. You might prefer something more informal like a City-sponsored fun day benefit, celebrating the police. Even if your books aren't about delicious jams and jellies, if you are into canning and the likes, who's to say you wouldn't do well there? You're talking to your people. You're talking to people who share your interests. No, they're not going there for books. But you have a common interest. There's always a chance they'll buy your book simply because they enjoyed the conversation about Elderberry Jam.

Maybe you're into sewing. Do you have a sewing club? Ask the leadership if you can come talk about your book at the next gathering. Or just invite folks over to your house for a book party.

That's another thing. Don't be afraid to get a friend to host a book launch party for you. Invite your friends, sure. Maybe offer a special deal like "Bring a friend and each of you get the second book free when you buy the first one." Yanno, whatever floats your boat there.

Now, maybe you're not comfortable doing that. To be honest, it doesn't appeal to me, really. It's a lot of books to  buy ahead of time. People have family emergencies or get sick. You just can't guarantee that every book you purchase is going to find a home that night, so it runs a risk of leaving you with a lot of books to tote home at the end of the night!

That's a good time to mention this very important fact. No event is a guarantee. I've had events where I completely sold out of books and the next year I had another book out but only sold two the entire weekend. On the other hand, I've seen an event I expected to go poorly be one of the hottest events of my year.

That's why it's important to go places you're going to enjoy. If you're having a good time, sure it'll still suck if you don't sell books. That's why you're there afterall. But you'll make good friends and, all too often, you might just get a contact for the next pecan festival or Catfish Eating Contest or Comic Con. I can't tell you how often that has happened to me. I've been at an event where the books just were not selling, but I'd get leads on two events that just about singlehandedly saved my year!

Like I said when I began this particular writing, I wasn't exactly sure where I was going to go with it. I know I've been a bit scattered and all over the place, but I hope that the main point has not been lost. You need to not just go to places that "tie in" to your books. Sure, try it. See if it works. See if that appeals to you as something you'd like to continue. THEN go to places that you enjoy. Maybe you're an outdoor girl that enjoys fishing and hunting. Even if you write romance, you might do well at a gun and knife show. Why? If you write romance but enjoy guns and knives, what are the chances that you're the only person in the universe that writes or reads romance but likes guns and knives? Chances aren't very good. You just physically can't be the only person. Think outside the box!

Now, something else to consider are booth fees. You have to look at fyour available books. How many books have you written? Have you written one book or ten? Maybe twenty? Okay good if it's ten or twenty. Maybe you can afford to pay the $300 to $500 booth fee of some of the bigger comic cons and events. If you're looking at maybe 1 or 2 books to your credit, you have to ask yourself can you make enough sales to get that money back, plus gas, hotel fees and any food for multi-night stays? By the time you pay for all that AND buy the books to stock up, you're starting out maybe $1,000 to $1,500 in the hole. Can you sell enough books to climb out of that hole? Do you have other supporting merch like shirts, mugs, keychains, etc? Can you move enough product to make up for the hole you've dug yourself into? Enjoying the event is great, but you do still have to pay the bills. So don't let your excitement for a certain event pull you down into the poor house.

I didn't mean to get off topic there, but it's important to mention and, at the end of the day, very related. Because I've been advising you to go places you enjoy, but I also want you to be smart about it. Ultimately, your goal should be making money. Making your career viable. Don't be afraid to build your audience slowly. Trust me when I say it's better to be a big fish in 7 small ponds than be a small fish that gets overlooked in the ocean of a larger event.

In short, go where you enjoy, but be smart about it. build your audience. After a number of years doing event after event, going places I would never have thought to go if Patty Wiseman or some other author hadn't suggested them to me, I've found where my best audience is. I no longer need to go every weekend. I probably should go more than I do. Maybe 2019 will have me busier than I am now. We'll see. For now, I'm good. For now, I have a good, loyal following and a structured schedule that allows for slow, steady growth and discovery by new fans. It works for me. As with anything, you need to find what works for you. The first year I set out with a group of authors, we were on the road 50 of 52 weeks that year. We were literally somewhere every weekend except a birthday weekend and once when I frankly just needed a rest. Every year since, we slowed down a bit more.

Eventually, we all separated, as our writing libraries got too much to allow 3 and 4 authors to crowd into one booth. I miss them but the freedom of being allowed to go and do as I please has increased my sales tremendously, as it has theirs, it seems.

As with a number of things I write about here, I think Bruce Lee deserves the final say when he advises, "Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is uniquely your own."

I hope my advice has been useful. I want you all to do well with your chosen career, and part of doing well is feeling good about the career choice to become an author.

Til next time this blog is brought to you by the letters W, E and H and by the number 2.

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