Every year, Texas author Russ Hall rents a booth at the Texas Book Festival, a downtown event that draws more than 40,000 readers from all over Central Texas. This year, Russ shared his booth with my romance-writer friend Claire Ashby and me.
Nowadays, whether you are traditionally, indie or self-published, you have to sell your own books. Claire and I learned a lot about that from Russ over the weekend.
The three of us all have books out with Red Adept Publishing—Claire’s and my first books and Russ’s most recent. We all prepared for the book festival by having posters made of our cover images. The posters are good to have; they’ll come in handy at nearly any local event.
A good cover can play a major role in the success of your book. The three of us are happy with ours by Streetlight Graphics, cover designers who subcontract with Red Adept. Consider using them if you are choosing your own cover. And just for laughs, check out these Nine Cover Mistakes to Avoid from Book Bub Unbound.
Hawking to the Crowd
At the book festival every year, Russ shifts into what he calls his extrovert-for-a-day mode. It’s not the most natural state for the average writer, but it’s not that hard to cultivate, either. Russ taught us to greet people and make friendly conversation about the weather (it was HOT in that tent!), the crowds (BIG!), and the festival in general (so much to see).
Be ready with a quick, catchy description of your book—its genre and its hook. Claire and I struggled on this learning curve. Ask yourself: how would you describe your book in one or two sentences to make it sound like a great read? Practice your pitch!
- Russ often quoted a line from the Kirkus review when selling his mystery, Goodbye, She Lied: “Cartloads of down-home humor, amusing characters and a hint of romance.”
- Claire’s book is a “love story about a pregnant woman and a man who lost his leg in Afghanistan.”
- I learned to throw out the fact that I used to work at the Attorney General’s Office. It gave me and my mystery credibility.
Russ also taught us to make sure people realized we were the authors, not just vendors. It made a difference! We ended up signing every book we sold.
Cover to Title to Blurb
It was fascinating to see the cover-title-blurb progression in action. The cover is the first thing that sells your book to a casually browsing shopper. We could see people’s eyes get caught by a cover, then they would read the title, then pick up the book and turn it over to read the back cover.
Be sure to take bookmarks! Mine included the graphics from the cover, the title and the hook paragraph from my back cover. I found I could easily pull people over by reaching out and offering a bookmark.
One woman took the bookmark from me without pausing or even really looking at me. We watched her walk past us, glance down, then slow down, reading. Then she stopped and stood there. She turned around, came back, picked up the book, and read the back cover. Sold!
I went through 200 bookmarks and could have used more. Who knows? Maybe some people went home and read the bookmark later. If they like mysteries, maybe they’ll look it up on Amazon.
Will you have a book out next year? Get your poster and bookmarks and sign up to hawk your wares at next year’s Texas Book Festival! Where a good time is had by all.